Category Archives: Deacon’s Ministry
I have the blessed opportunity to work with deacons, to teach them, to mentor them, to observe them as they serve God by serving pastors – extending the ministry of their pastors.
Among them are some entrusted to preach, at the request of their congregations, under the supervision of their pastors, and with their sermons approved by their supervising pastors, often by me. They study the passage to be preached with me, and experience, I thoroughly enjoy.
Some of the sermons are exemplary, and as I come across them, I post them – now to the special category.
So come, enjoy, see the devotion to God, which is founded in God’s work in their lives.
A devotional thought for our seemingly broken days…
14 “Return home, you wayward children,” says the LORD, “for I am your master. I will bring you back to the land of Israel— one from this town and two from that family— from wherever you are scattered. 15 And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will guide you with knowledge and understanding. Jeremiah 3:14-15 (NLT)
To serve the people of God is to accompany them day after day, announcing God’s salvation and not get lost in pursuing an unreachable dream.
“We tell people the same exact thing, week after week, using different words,” Words from Pastor Mark Jennings while discussing the art of preaching, and ministry.
The older I get, the more I observe pastors and those training to be pastors, the more I am convinced of this.
Being a pastor is an art, not a science.
It doesn’t matter whether we are talking about writing a sermon, or celebrating the Lord’s Supper and savoring every word of the liturgy, or holding the hand of a dear shut-in, who health has separated from her church family and friends. It doesn’t matter whether it is shepherding the leadership of the church or dealing with a pre-school chapel (which I still think is the most challenging of ministerial roles!)
This is an art, an ever-changing masterpiece with the constant of diversity. Every situation, every step alongside those we care for will be different.
This is not a science, with simple rules and formulas and patterns to follow. This is art, requiring a sense of vision requiring a sense of seeing the final picture before the brush strokes are applied before the notes are heard before words are attached to the page.
That makes it a challenge far greater than most of us who serve as pastors and priests, deacons and others in ministry. A challenge that I believe is a necessity, a challenge that is our greatest blessing.
For then, we can’t depend just on our mind, for it will lock down on the Greek and Hebrew, or it will turn the experiences of those who have gone before us into rules and man-made traditions that are inviolate. Just because John Chrysostom, or Franz Pieper Robert Schuler or Rick Warren did something, that doesn’t mean it can or should be repeated in our place, in our situation.
We have to consider who we are walking beside, whom it is God is putting into the masterpiece that is His kingdom, that is His church. As a mentor used to say, we need as much time studying and exegeting them as we do the text in preparing a sermon. We need to know them, to know their stories, we need to see how God uses their hurts to give them halos, their scars to be the stars that guide them to the Jesus, and the Father.
This is why ministering to people is an art, helping them realize the same thing, over and over, to reveal to them the presence of God in their lives. helping them realize that HIs presence is drawing them closer so that they can experience His mercy, His love, His peace. That’s why my friend and fellow pastor said, we give them the same message, the same sermons, the same lessons, the same counsel, just using different words. He was an incredible artist and a pastor who realized his role was that of an artist.
We aren’t even the artists, we are just the ones who get to see Him at work, we are the servants whom He has shared His vision with, the vision of the redemption of mankind.
This is what we do,…walking beside them, focusing on God’s work in their lives. and realizing he is doing the same in ours.
My friends, when you cry, “Lord, have mercy,” do so, knowing that the Lord is with you!
Pope Francis. A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. Ed. Alberto Rossa. New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013. Print.
Of the men I have taught and trained to be deacons, few have worked harder than Chuck, and few thought he could handle the work. Yet he is a natural, enthusiastic evangelist, one who is always sharing the love of Christ in very down home simple ways people remember. As part of his training, he delivered this sermon. ( All deacon sermons preached at Concordia are written with my oversight, assistance, and approval.) He aced this one, as people responded to its simple message, praising God for the grace, the love and mercy we’ve received. – pr. dtp
Pastor, Bob and I are Speedbumps, that you Need!
† In Jesus Name †
(Take a deep breath, and silently pray, “Jesus, may the words of my heart and the thoughts of my mind be acceptable to you, and may the words reveal to these people your love” )
My prayer for you this day is that the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ draws you to them, as the Holy Spirit fills you with love and mercy. AMEN!
Introduction – Meet your speedbumps!
Part of what I learned this week has to do with verse 20 in the Old Testament. It says there,
20 “If righteous people turn away from their righteous behavior and ignore the obstacles I put in their way, they will die. And if you do not warn them, they will die in their sins.
As pastor and I talked about these “obstacles”, I thought they were like big speedbumps. Things God puts in your way to cause you to slow down so that you stay alive. In this case, staying alive spiritually.
The pastor asked me what those obstacles, those speedbumps were.
And after a few moments, it came to me.
Pastor, and Deacon Bob and I are the speedbumps!
I kinda like that.
That’s my story, my parable today. Pastor, Bob and I are speedbumps, speedbumps you need!
We have to be pretty big speedbumps as well, for we need to slow you down enough for you to be still, and know God is God. Which means you need us to be speed bumps.
That has two parts,
and Part 2.
So let me tell you about part 1.
part 1 – slow down, so you don’t die in your sins
The first reason I am a speed bump is to help you is to warn you about sin, and the consequences of it. That isn’t easy, or pleasant, so God helps us keep focused on it, He tells us,
17 “Son of man, I have appointed you as a watchman for Israel. Whenever you receive a message from me, warn people immediately. 18 If I warn the wicked, saying, ‘You are under the penalty of death,’ but you fail to deliver the warning, they will die in their sins. And I will hold you responsible for their deaths.
That sounds pretty serious. If I don’t remind you that the wages of sin are death, then I would be responsible for you spiritual death – not just physical death, but spiritual, eternal death.
I don’t really think I need that threat – I want you all to be in heaven because I love you. But that is what it says, maybe in case I get annoyed at you someday. (SMILE)
And if you get annoyed at me, well, I might have annoyed you about something less important before. This is important.
You need to know God takes sin seriously. We weren’t meant to live life following other Gods, or not using His name right. We aren’t supposed to murder each other or be unfaithful to our wives, or gossip about each other.
We are to love each other. And if we don’t, that is sin.
The second reason that Pastor, Bob and I are speedbumps in your life is to get you to slow down enough to become repentant. Repentant is not just being sorry, it means to be transformed, to be made new in our heart and mind.
That isn’t easy.
Imagine my garage is like your soul, and everything in it is your sin and unbelief.
You need to slow down, to put less and less into it, or you will not be able to walk in it. And the first reason, speedbumps slow you down. In the second reason, the speedbump gives time for the garage to be transformed. That’s a nice way of saying that God has to clean out all the stuff in our spiritual garages. He must clean out the garage so well that it is as clean as Carol’s kitchen.
That’s what we call a miracle.
Come to think of it, anyone needs a corner cabinet? Talk to me later if you do.
Oh yeah – we need to become repentant. That’s God’s work, that happens as we hear the gospel proclaimed, whether it is heard at church, or over lunch, or even in my doctor’s office.
That cleaning out is repentance, it is the change our-our heart, soul, and mind that happens because Jesus died on the cross to make it happen. He took that penalty of death that each of us deserved….
He died so that we might live eternally.
He died because the Father poured out all of his wrath, all of his anger, all of the punishment we deserve on Jesus.
So we can be cleansed, so we become not just sorry for our sins, but so we become repentant.
I am up here, to be your speedbump, to get you to slow down enough so that you know God’s love, to help you to slow down enough when you walk up here and kneel down, so that you are still, and as you eat the body and drink the blood of Christ you know He is God.
And I pray that Pastor, Bob and I are good speedbumps and that God will work through our preaching, our teaching and our giving you the body of Christ. Because God is working in your lives, you will know His peace, the peace of God that passes all understanding.
JANUARY 25th, 2015
Mark 1: 14-20
YAHWEH’s most perfect grace and peace to you, in the name of Jesus Christ who calls and chooses you and keeps you forever.
One of the things I have noticed that is changing or has changed in this great country we live in is careers.
What I mean by this is that it seems that people change careers these day faster than you can shake a stick at.
I remember back in the day that people seemed to find a career or job and they stuck with it, it seemed for their whole careers until they retired, even if they didn’t like it! My grandfather was a gardener for 45 years and my father in law was a teacher his whole career.
You got a job and stayed with it.
But now? That doesn’t seem to happen as much anymore. With corporations downsizing and the economy so fluid, these days you may have to choose another career whether you want to or not. It may be out of your control as outside influences seek to change what you think you want to do.
I speak from experience. If you would have said that I was going to be the pastor at OSLC to me 25 or 15 or 5 years ago I would have looked at you like a bull at a new gate! I didn’t want to work Sundays!
I was trying to climb the ladder as a professional artist and designer with the goal of my name up on the screen with a credit on the next Star Wars or Star Trek movie!
But God had other ideas and it’s just not me. There are guys in the SMP program who came from other backgrounds and careers also. One guy worked in the fashion industry and another owned his own beverage company. Another was a children’s book editor while another ran a very lucrative upholstery business.
My brother was a teacher before a pastor.
All these men giving up their careers to start a second career serving God in a new and unique capacity.
An outside influence affected these men just as an outside influence affected those men in our Gospel reading from Mark today.
These fishermen are doing what they do for a living, they are fishing and they are repairing their nets and probably the boats and whatever else it takes to be successful in their careers.
This is the career they have chosen and they had planned to do this til they retire.
Did they retire back then? Maybe move to Arizona or Miami? Did they have a 401k?
So here comes this rabbi who is proclaiming a message of repentance and a belief in some good news that the promises of God are happening right now!
They probably heard the rumblings and talk of this rabbi but then He sees them and makes like a laser beam to them where He says to them, “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men!”
This is the outside influence that changes their career path.
What was their response? Did they look at him and say ohh kayyy and dismiss Him? No, They left their nets at once and followed Him. They repented of their sins and believed the Good News.
This all sounds like they had a choice and chose to accept Jesus.
But listen to what Jesus says in John 15:16 says,” You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.”
Of course, they could choose like Jonah tried to do in our OT reading and you saw how that worked out for him!
He became fish bait!
You could say that we have a choice to reject but really we have no choice as that is our standard human default mode. On our own we can’t accept Christ nor do we want to.
So an outside source made these fishers of….fish now start a second career and become fishers of …men!
This was Jesus calling them and choosing them just as He does to us. This was and is Jesus saying,” Consider a new career!”
“Come to me and I’ll do all the heavy lifting. I will make you a trade and a promise, my blood for yours!”
In this promise or covenant is repentance of sins that calls us and changes us and gives all of God’s people a second career, a new start.
Before this we were slaves to our jobs and if we are honest with ourselves, our jobs were sin and we were and are extremely proficient at it even making it our career.
Job and career are the same but different. You work at a job but a career is something usually planned and prepared for. It might include some kind of schooling and training.
Jesus calls these fishermen to leave their jobs and begin a new career with Him just as He does with you and i.
Leave your jobs of sin and begin a new career with our Savior.
Before this new career offer that you can’t refuse, we had settled in to retire in this life. We had no purpose and the products we made was the results of sin. We worked in the dark and on our own trying to control and run our lives and ways..
But the outside interference of Christ changes that.
You’ve been let go of your position and your services are no longer needed or wanted because you now are employed by the Sovereign King of the Universe who sends His Son to bleed and die for you.
The benefits are perfect and the retirement is top notch!
This repentance of sins is yours and it’s freeee!
This repentance of sins though is more than just saying your sorry for your actions, that is a result and response to what God has done and continues to do. If you look at the Law you realize that you can’t keep the Commandments in thought, word and deed. It really appears hopeless and that is when we hear the good news about the promises of Christ as the Law drives us to the cross.
It is a holistic change and what I mean is that it affects all of you not just a part or section of you but all of you. It is who you become through Christ calling you in baptism. You repent because the Holy Spirit comes to you and you, through the waters of baptism are cleansed and transformed. You have Breen changed and are able to start your second career in service to God through Christ. You are made new.
Remember how it feels when you start a new job? There may be a little apprehension but there is also the fact that you are starting over and starting fresh and new. You have that new car smell not the old fishing trawler smell.
I began the sermon talking about God calling men into a second career as pastors but this calling applies to the entire priesthood of all believers. You all have been called into second careers as you have been repented and transformed by divine love and you now through His work believe the good news.
The good news of Jesus Christ. The very Son of God who came to us and became one of us and died and rose for each one of us and everyone else so that all may live and begin anew!
So consider a new career or better yet, don’t consider or contemplate it, know it through the promises of Christ that you have been called to it and into it.
You have a new career, a second career and what does that mean?
The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few and there are lots and lots of fish to catch.
In your new career you get to fish! My kind of career!
But God has called us to fish for something different and work the harvest for something rather than corn or wheat or grapes.
Our work fishing and harvesting is the sharing of the Word.
Through Christ calling and choosing us which brings the repentance of sins, we can go out and proclaim this same repentance given to us to each other, to family, to friends and co-workers, to our neighborhoods, this neighborhood, to our cities and country.
As we follow Christ in our new and second career, people can see that by our acts of service in response, the repentance and transformation that can be theirs as our Lord calls to us, “Come and follow me and I will make you fishers of men!”
Consider a new career? Instead know that you have one through Christ choosing you like He chose those fishermen!
What’s So Special About the Gospel?
August 3rd, 2014
Romans 9: 1-5
Greetings to you in the name of our risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, our author and perfecter of our faith! Alleluia, amen!
What is so special about the Gospel?
What is so important about the Gospel that Paul says in verse 2 from our Epistle on Romans today that he would be willing to give up everything he has including his salvation and be willing to be forever cursed, that is cut off from Christ, if that would save them?
What is so important and who are the “them” that Paul is talking about?
His people; or who he calls his Jewish brothers and sisters. Jews, Hebrews, Israelites!
His people, the people of Israel chosen by God to be the Father’s adopted children.
But aren’t these Jews the same people who have flogged Paul with forty lashes minus one? Didn’t they beat him with rods? Didn’t they stone him and treat him like garbage?
With friends like that who needs enemies?
Well it was probably for good reason I’m sure. I’m sure Paul deserved what he got!
So what did he do that was so heinous?
Was he a drug dealer or a terrorist? Maybe he was a gang banger or a thug or thief or a burglar. One thing for sure is that he had gone from a prosecutor of Christians in the name of the Jews to an enemy of the Jews.
No, this all happened to Paul at the hands of the Jews because of his mouth.
He had gone from prosecuting to proclaiming.
Paul had these things happen because of the Gospel that he was proclaiming.
What is so important and so incredibly powerful to Paul that he would give up his own salvation so that his enemies who hated him and persecuted him would know and be saved?
What is so important to you?
Is it the Gospel of Christ? The Gospel which witnesses to Christ descending in the Incarnation and being born the savior of the world in a feeding trough? Is the Gospel of Jesus Christ that through Him sacrificing His own life atones for our sin on that old rugged cross?
Is it the witness of that blessed Easter Sunday of the true and living resurrection of our God?
Is it the power of the Gospel that frees us through Christ from our sin and calls us to baptism and where we die with Christ only to live in the resurrection eternally with Him?
Is it the Gospel of Christ given, witnessed and heard for all people even your enemies or people that you just don’t care for?
Like Paul are you willing to give up everything including your own salvation so that another might come to Christ and hear the call?
Or is only for you?
The Gospel is great as long as it meets in my wheelhouse or comfort zone. I believe in Jesus but I don’t want a messy Gospel or ministry!
Maybe your sincere intention is that you really want all people to believe and know Christ; but in a convenient, leave me alone sort of way. Let’s put up signs and keep it chained up and locked up and keep those in our lives we deem undesirable out of the way. Jesus would say and do this but I am no Jesus, yet we are called to be little Christs are we not?
All these ideas may That may seem logical and valid until you read what Paul wrote in verse 2 about his Jewish brothers and sisters when he wrote, “My heart is filled with bitter sorrow and unending grief.”
How do you render that? Paul ached for these people, his people to know the freedom of the Gospel and the relationship repaired that all God’s children share in that adoption into Him.
He was torn apart that even his very enemies who scorned and despised him and more importantly Jesus, didn’t know Christ and His free gift of reconciliation.
How did they not get it? These were the people of Israel, remember Israel? His name was Jacob but it was changed because he struggled with God. They were God’s people, descendents of Jacob or Israel. God had chosen them like He has chosen us to be His people. Israel, His adopted children and He has revealed His glory to them and us in the risen Christ.
He had and has given them and us the privilege of worshipping Him and living and living in and receiving His wonderful promises.
These enemies of Paul had it right there in front of them and they rejected it and even despised it. Isn’t that our M.O. every time we sin? Isn’t it right there in front of us? Yet we reject God all the time but still His heart desires us and His heart is filled with bitter grief and sorrow whenever someone rejects Him.
These enemies had it right there in front of them as Jesus walked among them but yet they rejected the cornerstone. As I hear Paul cry and suffer for these people I am reminded of Jesus doing the same. Jesus wanted nothing more than to gather these people and die and suffer for them and live for them so that they would live but no…yet even on the cross he forgave them.
But weren’t they his enemies? Weren’t they enemies of God who rejected Christ.
Wait a minute, weren’t we enemies of God? Do we really deserve to be saved and adopted into Him? If God does this saving work through His Son and willingly gives Him up to die for His enemies, what does that say to you and I and our enemies or those we struggle and have difficult times with?
In the eyes of the world, Paul should just cut his losses and run, shake off his sandals and go.
But the power of the Gospel wouldn’t and won’t do that. The promises that God gives to Paul and to us through the Holy Spirit will not give up on us or anybody else even to people who are trying to do us harm whether it is by thought, word and deed and even people we want to harm in thought, word and deed.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ transcends our human feebleness and frailty and our sinfulness and like last week’s parable seeks to catch us like a net.
What is so important about the Gospel that it crosses lines and dividers and smashes down walls, breaking chains and unlocking doors and ripping signs down? How does it make enemies become brothers in Christ? Not by anything or the work of you and i! It is the message of Christ Himself, the very Son of God who takes our sin and God’s wrath and heaps it all upon His shoulders so that you and I through the Holy Spirit may share in His joy and His peace as brothers in sisters of the cross.
It is the Gospel of Christ that wades through all the garbage and all the junk that Satan tries to use to pull us from God in our lives outside of church and even in the church. Boil it all down and what does it come out to? It has to be about Christ.
If it is about Christ then it is about life not death, life in Him for eternity, even eternal life with people that we may not enjoy or get along with so much. You have been called by God to be His. Through the Gospel we have been given a relationship with the Father of confidence in hope as we trust in faith, a faith given freely through Christ to all those who proclaim Him.
Paul knew why the Gospel was and is so important and what they were missing. It was so crucial that he would even give up his salvation so they would know it in every fiber of their being.
So that it would affect and circumcise their very hearts and they would be washed and made new creations. So that they could live in the perfect promises of the Trinity.
He was so sure of the Gospel that he would stake his salvation so that others would have the same thing on it.
Would God take his salvation from him? No. God will never take our salvation away. He will never deny us the forgiveness of sins and our faith.
Your salvation has been freely given through Christ and for God to take it away would make His promises deceitful and untrue and not faithful to His people.
The point is Paul through being convicted and called by the Holy Spirit knew how important the Gospel of Christ was and is. He knew that it is a life restorer and saver and he knew tht this free gift of mercy, love and grace was given through Christ on the cross.
Do we? Do we really understand not from our heads, but from our hearts and would that change us and would it change how we see the world, our lives and our church?
Would we be filled with bitter grief and sorrow over those who don’t know the life saving Gospel of Christ and complete joy when ones proclaims and confesses Christ?
It might get messy and yucky. It might even get uncomfortable. It may cause us to suffer and It may even cost us our lives.
But that’s ok because we live through Christ in the power and the glory of the Gospel and through that we are the body of Christ called in baptism and united in Him who suffered and gave His life. It was messy and it was uncomfortable and it was God’s love for you and I.
What is so important and special that the Gospel would unite enemies together?
Jesus Christ given and shed for you and for all.
Romans 8: 12-17
Greetings brothers and sisters in the name of the Father who created you, the Son who redeemed you and the Holy Spirit who continues to sanctify you.
Have you ever heard a child when they get into trouble or are told they are not allowed to do something say this?
“I can’t wait until I become an adult so no one can tell me what to do and I can do whatever I want!”
Perhaps if you can remember that far back, maybe you even said it yourself. Maybe you are still saying it!
I chuckle and laugh a little bit when I hear that said and I wonder , when is that going to happen?
The reality is that at no matter what time of life you are in from infancy to retirement and beyond there are obligations, responsibilities and duties that you must perform in order to live in relative complacency in society.
Choose not to make your car payment and what happens? Your car go bye-bye!
Don’t pay your electric bill and you will live in the dark!
Homework, jobs, bills, parenting, blah, blah, blah.
Life is full of obligations, responsibility, requirements and duties unless you want to live in a cave and even then you still have to have food, water, clothing and shelter. I guess clothing could be optional…
That childhood statement of doing whatever you want as an adult is the immaturity of childhood and is not based in the reality of wisdom and the maturity of adulthood.
In order to live in the world of man and get along in modern society and be a productive member and citizen of it, you are obligated and required to do certain things.
Wouldn’t it be nice to be a kid again with none of the obligations and requirements of adulthood? Sometimes….
Well don’t worry because Paul has good news for you in our Epistle from Romans today.
“Therefore dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do.”
Maybe the kids were kinda right.
When I grow up I can do whatever I want!
You see you do not have to be obligated and required to do what your sinful nature urges you to do!
So why do we? Why do we give in and look to the sinful nature?
We pride ourselves on being independent and the whole idea of no one is going to tell me what to do idea but when we give in to the sinful nature, isn’t sin doing just that? Isn’t it telling us what to do? That doesn’t sound too independent to me. In fact it starts to sound like a slave/master relationship. If only the children could see us now being told what to do!
Paul warns in verse 13, “ For if you live by its dictates, you will die.”
If this is the path you depend on to go down, you will be trapped and caught up in these sinful obligations and you will die eternally.
“But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.”
Your obligations and responsibilities are not to this sinful world. You re not required to and are under no obligation to do what your sinful nature nature tries to entice and invite and plead for you to do.
That sinful nature was put to death, though no thanks to you! God killed it and you!
And His method of killing was to drown it. “You have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves but instead you received God’s spirit when He adopted you as His own children.”
God killed you in the waters of your baptism as you were called to faith by the sacrifice of Christ crucified. The Spirit brought you to the font of salvation and you and your sinful nature was drowned.
Chapter six, verse 3 says, “ Don’t you know that all who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?”
It doesn’t stop there, Paul goes on to say that if we share death with Christ than we also share in His life. As He was raised from the dead so we are also through the glory of the Father.
And now through Christ live a new life in which we have been adopted as His own children. We through Christ can put these sinful and evil deeds to death.
There was an obligation and responsibility that had to be paid and it demanded blood. The requirement was death. Our sin caused this and it was what we deserved but the Lamb of God took that obligation in our stead. He took the wrath of the Father so that we would and could be made His children, heirs of Heaven.
You don’t have to do anything for what has been freely given to you through His grace.
Sin can no longer tell you what to do. Thanks be to God!
You who are baptized and called in the name of the Triune God share something so incredibly special, you are His. You are His most precious children and our Heavenly Father takes great joy in that newly restored relationship.
So much so, that He says my kids, call me Abba!
This is not a proper title like Father or parental unit but a name that resonates deeper and with great love and intimacy.
He wants your relationship to be so close and familiar that you can call Him, Abba or daddy or papa or as I call my dad, Pop or whatever your custom is for calling your father with affection as a child and maybe even now.
You see He is obligated to you and through your baptism you are obligated to Him, not out of fear and requirement and some kind of duty but out of love and faith and trust given to you by the Holy Spirit in Christ. It is not about fear but confidence in Him knowing that since He has called you to Him and made you His children that you are now heirs to eternal glory just like Jesus. Verse 17 says that just like Jesus and together with Him we are heirs of God’s glory.
It also means that if we are to share in His glory, we must also share in His suffering.
After all through our baptism didn’t we share in His death and in resurrection?
Think about it. What kind of suffering did Jesus endure for the world and by the world? I am not just talking about His physical suffering and death but what about when He came to us in the Incarnation? God descending and living as one of us?
To leave cozy, comfortable Heaven and be born in a feeding trough and then deal with us on a daily basis? No thank you! That had to be suffering right there, have you met us?
But He willingly and joyfully suffered for us, even on a cross.
If we are united with Christ then we are obligated and even required together as the body of Christ in the suffering that this world can throw at us.
Christ came to suffer and die for all, so if you are connected and in union with Him then you will suffer. It may mean death. But, not all suffering in the name of Christ results in death. It can be much more subtle. It does and will most certainly mean persecution and sacrifice.
It is a stigma in the world to call yourself Christian and I don’t mean with just strangers either, but even some friends and maybe even family.
The world doesn’t want to hear the Gospel message of Christ died for all. It is obligated to its sinful nature. It will be and it is suggested that for confessing the name of Christ that you are ignorant or superstitious. You will be made fun of and prejudiced against. You will b called weak.
I am weak and in my weakness God is made stronger!
And if they can get away with it, the world will maybe even try to kill you. We see it happening all over the world and even here. Christians are dying around the world for their confession of faith.
But you see like Jesus who came and suffered and died and then rose again we will do the same. We share in His suffering but again as redeemed children called through baptism we are obligated to suffer with Him. As we suffer with Christ we also like Jesus, through the Father are obligated to share in glory.
As Jesus suffered here what did He do? Did He fight back? Did He assemble a spec ops team of Israeli commandos to take these people out? No, what Jesus did was love them. He did this through depending on His Father in Heaven.
We are called to do the same. That is our obligation
This happens through your baptism. You are obligated to do the same and you can through the Holy Spirit.
You can rest and depend knowing your Father is with you always calling you his children, His heirs.
When suffering comes we can bear it faithfully because we are baptized, we are called now and obligated through the Holy Spirit to be children of God living forever in that relationship of Trinity love.
Fear not little flock.
We got our daddy backin’ us up!
I remember as a kid we would always argue saying that my dad is stronger than your dad. I depended on Him confident that no matter what, my dad was stronger than any other dad in the neighborhood. Maybe it was true and maybe it wasn’t but I believed it was!
Well our Abba, Father is the strongest. He is our Almighty Heavenly Father.
Your faith depends on it. He is so strong that He gives up His only Son without pause so that we can be made sons and daughters, His kids of the kingdom.
He is obligated and responsible for us because He is always faithful.
So go and live in your baptisms knowing that your Father is with you and that all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.
We thank you and love you Abba, Father!
(this sermon was written by one of my vicars and good friends, Mark Jennings…. who is also an incredible artist…. check out his work at: http://fineartamerica.com/profiles/mark-jennings.html )
LET’S GET READY TO RUMBLE!!
Welcome one and all to the event of the century! Two men enter and one man will be victorious in this battle, in a wrestling match for the ages!
In this corner hailing from Haran, a farmer and shepherd and ninety plus year old man, the challenger and underdog Jacob.
In the opposite corner coming from Heaven, we have God in the form of a man or in some translations, an angel or as I was always taught the pre-Incarnate Christ.
I wonder what the line in Vegas would have been for this event?
The outcome seems like a done deal doesn’t it? I mean really, a 90 plus year old man is going to wrestle with God. How could he even have a remote chance of winning?
It would appear that God is going to give Jacob a smack down!
So let’s turn to our Old T lesson, ring the bell and get this match started and find out.
We tune in at verse 34 and it says, “This left Jacob alone in the camp, and a man came and wrestled with him until the dawn began to break. When the man saw that he would not win the match, He touched Jacob’s hip and wrenched it out of the socket. Then the man said,” Let me go, for the dawn is breaking!”
A frail, puny human is able to struggle and wrestle with God and beat Him?
A creature that God created was able to wrestle and struggle with the Almighty to at least a tie if not the win?
Impossible? Yes! But yet possible through God!
So let me ask you this. Do you, like Jacob, wrestle and struggle with God?
Do you wrestle and struggle in what would seem like impossible situations or maybe they are possible situations that you don’t concern God with. Maybe like the undercard before the main event? They are not important enough to bother God and besides you can handle can’t you?
Sometimes it may feel like the more impossible a situation may seem the more we can be tempted to pray without hope. Is this prayer really going to do any good or do we just go through the motions.
So again let me ask you, do you struggle and wrestle with God?
Are you ready to step into the ring?
Do you wanna wrassle?
The thought of wrestling with and struggling with God is a scary one. How can we wrestle with God? Doesn’t it sound sinful and rebellious and defiant?
But in answer to that it is God who allows it to happen.
I mean really when you think about it how could Jacob truly wrestle God and win?
First off how could have Jacob done this if faith had not been given to him from God? If you don’t believe in God and are not confident in the certain hope of the relationship forged and crafted for you then who would you pray to or attempt to struggle with. Just in that very idea, you see God working for His children.
We are able to wrestle with God jut like Jacob did because our Father sent His Son to do just that at and on the cross. Jesus took our sin and struggled in pure agony and wrestled the pain of death on the cross and bought victory for all people proven at the empty tomb.
Through the Incarnate Christ you have been given faith.
Jacob wrestling God is an awesome account of God working in us and through us and as we see the struggle of Jacob wrestling God, substitute this word instead of wrestling-substitute the word prayer or praying.
If you go back into Jacob’s life you will see that we living right now have a lot in common with Jacob. He had successes and he had failures. He had a family. He had good times and bad times. He had betrayal and loyalty. He was a sinner and he had faith.
See any similarities to your lives?
Jacob had all these things but he also had faith! So much faith that he was able to wrestle God and prevail.
As he was wrestling with God, something crucial happens. They wrestle until dawn as neither will quit. Finally the man knows that Jacob will not give in or give up and he touches Jacob’s hip and it is wrenched out of the socket. I know one person here today for sure who can empathize with the pain of a broken hip ( Chet).
When this happens all Jacob can now do is hold on for dear life and grasp the man never letting go for fear of falling. Now he needed the man for support! No fancy wrestling moves like the full nelson or the flying elbow. All Jacob can do is hold on and no matter what, Jacob wasn’t going to let go! As the man asks to be let go, Jacob replies,”I will not let go until you bless me!”
Ir almost seems like Jacob’s opponent cheats doesn’t it? He knows He can’t win so he cripples Jacob.
Did God cheat? Quite the contrary, He does this so Jacob having faith now must depend on the man to even stand at this point. Jacob must depend on the man.
Jacob must depend on God.
So do you struggle and wrestle with God, dependent on Him or do you hold on to something else and wrestle with it such as false gods and false idols which wrestle you and win and take the place of God?
Your sin is trying always to defeat you and pin you to the mat like an insect pinned to a board as a specimen.
Our Lord wrestles with us and cripples us in the way that we become fully dependent on Him and that nothing else matters. When God wrestles with us it is not as an adversary trying to pin us and win the match but instead it is to build us up and empower us through His beloved Son so that we will have victory over the adversary who is prowling around trying to consume and devour us in sin.
We have been given victory. We can struggle and wrestle with God in prayer and through Him we can pin Him and hold Him to His promises to us through Christ.
As you wrestle and grapple with God through prayer in the faith given to you in Baptism, God wants you to hold onto Him and pin Him with His promises. These are the promises of forgiveness of sins, salvation and eternal life bought and paid for by the Christ with His blood.
This is the promise come to fruition in the work of our Savior who frees us and calls us to faith in Him. This faith is what allows us to take everything to Him in prayer grapple with God and depend on Him.
Jacob struggled with God and overcame not because he was a superhero or all powerful but because God was and is always faithful to His people with His promises and because he had given Jacob faith.
At the end of their wrestling match, God tells Jacob, ” Your name will no longer be Jacob. From now on you will be called Israel, because you have fought with God and with men and won.”
Jacob, whose name meant heel or button, asks for a blessing and God changes His name to Israel meaning one who contends or struggles with God.
It is no coincidence that the priesthood of all believers is called through Christ, the new Israel. After all is there anyone here today who doesn’t struggle with God?
You see the real meaning is that yes you do struggle and wrestle with God through prayer and the Word not to gain an advantage over Him or but to take advantage of His promises given to you.
You have faith and you can trust in His promises. This wrestling match began at your Baptism.
Our Father in His love, compassion and kindness wrestles with us in order to show us that His promises are complete and ironclad. He needs to show us how all these other things that we put our confidence and trust in are and really just how useless they are.
Hold on to God like Jacob held on. There was nothing that was going to make Him let go of God in their wrestling match not even a crippling injury!
Hold on to His promises. Pin Him with His promises! This is want our Father in Heaven wants! This is great joy for Him when you who are His children pin Him with His promises so that He can call you Israel-he who struggles with God and overcomes through Christ in that life giving faith, certain hope and confidence knowing that you are His forever!
Trust and wrestle with Him who loves us so much that He gave us salvation through the sacrifice of His only Son and whose promises never fail. Wrestle with Him and know our loving Heavenly Father who wrestles with His child expecting to pinned by those perfect promises!
In other words trust and depend on Him as Jacob did!
So, do you wanna wrassle?
September 21, 2013
1 Timothy 2: 1-8
Greetings in the name of our Mediator, Jesus the Christ who reconciled God and humanity through His being lifted up in glory for all to see.
“ I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them.”
Those are powerful words that Paul has written and my question for you is, as a community of believers in this church and in a personal sense, are you ready to hear them?
What is this church about? Is it ready to hear these words and do what God says through Paul? Are you?
Are we an introspective church scared and concerned for the future and feeling sorry for itself? Do you?
Do we see only the shortcomings and the sins of fellow members? Is that what you see?
Is this church full of anger, strife, and quarreling and is it just under the surface ready to boil over and fueled by gossip and slander and false witness? Are you?
Do we only see the condition of the facility, the peeling paint or the stained carpet or all of our little friends in the kitchen? Is God’s Word less effective here because the floors are not waxed every week?
An introspective church, that is to say a church that only looks internally assumes a cowardly, fatalistic and anemic and defensive stand rather than an offensive stand to the world. That church doesn’t evangelize, it doesn’t witness, it doesn’t share the most incredible and perfect gift of the Gospel. It becomes a country club with an exclusive membership rather than an inclusive one.
Now I don’t want you to think I am just picking on Our Savior. These symptoms and problems can effect all churches no matter the size and how big or little of a budget they have. You see when a church starts focusing and looking only inward and focusing on its own problems rather than focusing and looking at God, it gets caught like a fly in molasses.
A church that looks at God is a church that believes in God’s plan formed before the foundation of the world of salvation for all people. It sees it in the cross of Jesus Christ who was, like that bronze serpent lifted up on the pole for all to seek healing, lifted up and glorified on the cross. He was lifted up and glorified so that all would be drawn to Him.
Paul says in verse 5,
”For there is only one God and one mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Jesus Christ. He gave His life to purchase freedom for everyone. This is the message God gave the world at just the right time.”
A church that looks at God rejoices in hearing this because this is what we are about! The church rejoices in the Mediator, Jesus Christ sent by the Father at just the right time to reconcile and save all. Seeing and knowing that, the church worships the God of Abraham and Isaac, the God of Creation, the God of the Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Now I guess before we go any further we have to figure out what the church is. What is the church? Is it just these four walls that surround us that we inhabit a couple of hours a week?
This is where we meet to worship and this is where God calls us to worship as we begin that worship in the name of the Triune God and this is where He serves us in Word and Sacrament. But ultimately the church is the priesthood of all believers. It is the community or church that God has gathered as He calls His people to Him in baptism through His Son. That community like any community it is made up of people and who are those people in that community or church?
You are the church, I am the church, we are the church! The church is made up of you and I and all others who profess and confess the name of Jesus Christ as Lord and Master and Mediator.
So If the church is made up of you and I, that brings it to a personal level doesn’t it? It brings our lives into play and what they are about and Paul urging us to pray for all people. Not just your family and friends or the brothers and sisters who are part of the church but all people. Friends, enemies, strangers, Paul says, “Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity.”
This is a hard teaching isn’t it? Who here wants to pray for an enemy or maybe even a president and congress that they didn’t vote for. What about leaders who subjugate and mistreat their own people? Or maybe closer to home, what about a fellow believer that you have a problem with in the congregational community or members who are not here this morning for whatever reason or excuse?
What about all those people who as we are in worship right now don’t know what that is because they don’t have an intimate relationship with God meaning they don’t believe?
You see the church that looks outward instead of inward sees the world and feels sorry for it, not for itself. It sees people suffering and hurting and disenfranchised because they don’t see or know Christ.
Look around and you can see the brokenness and the guilt and shame that this world offers and does to people. Just drive down the street. You see people substituting and trying to compensate for something that is missing. They are trying to justify themselves and fill in the holes with all sorts of idols and quite often we try to do the same thing. They are searching and floundering and this hurts and saddens God.
God has no desire to see anyone enter into eternal damnation. It breaks His heart to see that. He wants everyone to know the truth and it will set men free-that truth is Christ Jesus who through His dying on the cross justifies us to God and mediates sinners before God. We are free and made righteous in the blood of the Lamb.
The church must never forget this and it must answer this call to arms. The church must answer the call of Christ found in the Great Commission in Matthew 28 to go and make disciples of all nations.
The priesthood of all believers must pray for all people that they would hear the call and believe and see and know the grace, mercy and peace given freely because of the love that our Father has for His children.
We as the church can pray for all people, we can go on the offensive and now look out not because we are so smart and better than others but because the grace of God has been given to us. We have been equipped and are empowered by the Holy Spirit to do just this, to share the Gospel.
The church that looks to God and depends on and has faith is mission minded and knows that it can relay and witness the message that God gave to the world at the right time. We can show and tell about the relationship that God has reconciled with us as we depend on Him, living in faith and trust that God is with us faithfully.
The church that is focused on God is fully dependent upon Him and His mercies and testifies through prayer and the Word that the sinful human race, His very creation from the greatest to the least and in every corner of existence where there is human life desperately needs the Triune God whom we adore and praise.
Through Jesus we can be bold and not worry about making mistakes and messing up because we will, oh trust me, we will! We along the way are going to sin and we are going to err but the truth is that God forgives sin, all sin. What man does for evil or bad, God will use for good. Remember the bumper sticker.’ Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven?’
We can be bold because our faith and trust are in Jesus Christ who serves His children by taking our sin and becoming sin for us.
Through Christ, we are that church, His church, His bride.
We might be small in numbers here at Our Savior right now but that doesn’t diminish us because we are large in the blessings that are bestowed on us from the manger to the empty tomb.
We look to the cross and see Christ lifted up in glory and we know that the cross leads us to the resurrection. We can only through Him, as Paul writes in verse 8, “Pray with Holy hands lifted up to God, free from anger and controversy.”
Through the forgiveness of sins and the redemption bought and paid for by the Christ, God has called you and I to be no less than representatives to a fallen and corrupt world, sharing the ongoing good news of the Gospel and praying for all, asking and depending in His grace and love and knowing it pleases God our Savior.
You are the church, we are the church through Christ!
One of the great blessings I have is to work with deacons and vicars (student pastors) who grow in their ability to share the cross of Christ and what it means to be a follower of Jesus. I love working with them over the Bible text, and helping them develop their sermons.
This sermon is by one of those guys, Deacon Michael Grobelch, a man willing to sacrifice time with family and his home church to serve alongside of me, going out to fill in as needed when pastors are unable to. This one will challenge you, and how you react to the love of God…
May the meditation of our hearts and the words of my mouth be acceptable to you O Lord, My Rock and my Redeemer! Amen!
Think back to your wedding day, the apple of you eye stands across from you and becomes your spouse, and you heart fills with unspeakable joy and happiness. Then one day you find out that the one you love, that you trust; betrays you by sleeping with someone else. Your anger reaches biblical proportions; you want to strike out at the cause of you humiliation and your pain. You feel betrayed, stabbed in the back; the bond of trust is broken; never being able to reach that level ever again.
You and your spouse enter counseling and after a period of time, after much prayer, and after many sessions with your pastor; he says to you: You need at take your spouse back; to forgive them; to love them once more.
Every fiber of your being screams out “No, I’ll never do that!” You tell him that “You don’t know what you are asking me to do; God doesn’t know what He is asking me to do”! He doesn’t understand what it means to be betrayed.
God doesn’t understand what it is like to be betrayed? Really?
What about where Judas betrayed Jesus to the Pharisees for 30 pieces of silver; the man who for the last three years had been his friend; his mentor, his teacher; and for a few paltry dollars gives up the Creator.
Or what about when Peter, St. Peter, denies Jesus three times, before the rooster crows. Peter abandoned Him, and acted as if He was some common criminal.
Or what about you and I, we betray God each and every time we sin; we go against His will. Every day we betray Jesus, we mock him just like the soldiers did; only we do it in more subtle ways or so we think. Every time we have an impure thought, either when we look at a woman on the street (us guys) or when we read those romance novels and let our imagination run wild (you ladies) we betray God and the order that He has set.
We betray God when we gossip about the plans the church leadership has in place or we gossip against the leaders themselves. God has put these leaders in authority over you and over me and we are obligated to follow as long as they do not stray from the Word of God. Yet we still rebel like little children when we don’t get our way; we threaten to go home with our bat and ball and be done with the whole mess. Yet God has called each and every one of us here for a reason a purpose.
So how could God call on us to take back that cheating spouse; to try and rebuild those bonds of trust that were broken with a single act? God does know about betrayal and He certainly know about the intense feelings that are the result of being betrayed for He Himself was betrayed her on earth.
I think God’s purpose in sending Onesimus back to Philemon was twofold. The first was to restore Onesimus to his proper place – Onesimus was a runaway slave who broke the bond of trust with Philemon when we ran away. By going back, Onesimus could be beaten, stoned, or even killed for his actions. Certainly he would be disciplined and not enjoy the freedoms that he had previously enjoyed. It would be a very long time before Philemon would fully trust him again; there would be the lingering doubt, that little cloud that was always there. It may be months, or even years until Philemon fully trusts Onesimus again. I think we all can relate to those feelings and misgivings that after our earlier example.
That is why I think God’s main purpose is sending Onesimus back is so much for Onesimus’ benefit as it was for more for Philemon’s benefit.
Let’s look at this in a little more detail: when you are betrayed the raw emotions that you experience are, in a word intense. They are so intense that we sometimes lose all perspective and this is where crimes of passion are committed. When this occurs, all of the checks and balances God has put in place are in a moment, thrown out – they are no longer part of the equation and we do or say a thing we’d normally not even contemplate and that compounds the problem of the initial betrayal. Know both sides become emotionally distraught and the problem becomes worse.
God wants Philemon and Onesimus to reconcile with one another; to begin the process of forgiveness; to begin the process of healing. Don’t get me wrong, this process is going to take a while. Some of us hold grudges, and allow that bitter poison to consume us and turn us into something we don’t like or even recognize. But if we are confronted with our sin, and we are confronted with those we hurt, and we see the width and breadth of the damage we caused to the one we loved; we can begin the process of healing; we can begin the process of forgiveness. We find ourselves at the foot of the cross, looking up at the damage our sin has caused to Jesus; and He says I did this for you, even though you betrayed Me. I forgive you, I paid your debt, I paid you bill; what I have is yours. That is what Paul is trying to do with Philemon and Onesimus; he is trying to get them to acknowledge their sin and to begin the process of healing and the process of forgiveness for we know that we need to forgive others as God has forgiven us. We are lifted up out of the morass of sin and the bitterness that it causes and God brings us into His presence and He brings us to His Table where our sins are forgiven; and they are removed from us as far as the East is from the West. We have become co-heirs with Jesus; we are made new again; and we are able to experience the peace of God, the peace that surpasses all understanding; the calmness of body, mind, and soul. Where God heals us, and cares for us. This is what Paul want for both Philemon and or Onesimus, we wants them in the fold, working towards a common goal; to work for God’s plan and not their own designs. He wants them to be at peace, to begin to heal, to begin to forgive and ultimately, to place each other in the hand of God, as equals, as workers in the kingdom, as brothers in Christ until the time that God comes again.
In the name of the father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
- A Call to Teach/Preach about Jesus with our hearts as well as our minds… (justifiedandsinner.com)
Six months ago, I started this blog – now 190 posts longs, with sermons and devotions. I would really appreciate your input – and you should be able to put in other answers.
I am hoping the feedback will help this blog benefit you – and others, rather than just being a place for me to store my odd and different ideas.
Thanks for the input!
On Sunday, three of the men I get to work with, two vicars and a deacon served people by proclaiming the Gospel. All three wrote solid sermons, and I couldn’t pick one over the other two, so here are all three. Enjoy and be blessed!
From Vicar Mark:
Mark 10: 17-22
Greetings brothers and sisters in the name of Christ who considered it pure joy to go to the cross for our sin and in whom we now live forever!
You ever have one of those days that seem like a perfect day and nothing can go wrong?
You think you’ve got it all figured out. Everything is firing on all eight cylinders, the coast is clear. All systems are go!
In the words of Marsha Brady, “The birds are blooming and the daffodils are singing!”
Then things hit the fan and you realize you have locked your keys in the car and your not in it or that perfect dessert you made for the church potluck and are so proud of is now face down on a street somewhere because you left it on the roof of the car and forgot to load it.
Maybe you crammed and studied like crazy for that test and you know that you are going to ace it until you realized when you get to class that you studied the wrong chapters.
You sound like that young, wealthy ruler who thought he had everything in his pocket and under control and then meets Jesus on the road and asks Him,” Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
What must I do?
You, you, you. Me, me, me. I.I I.
Between this account in the Gospel and you and I it appears to be all about us! Tell me what to do and I’ll make it happen, I think. Did he really want to know or did he want confirmation that he had already done it by his own accord?
Jesus answers this self-confident young wealthy ruler by saying, “ Why do you call me good? No one is good but One-God.”
Right away Jesus keys in and tells this guy that no one is good except for God! Only God is righteous and Holy. No matter what this guy says or thinks he falls short in his ‘goodness’.
Jesus tells him, “ You know the commandments: do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not bear false witness, don’t defraud and honor your father and mother.”
I’m sure at hearing this; the wealthy, powerful young man had to be thinking, “Not a problem, I got this. It’s a homerun!”
He answers Jesus, “ Teacher, I have kept all these from my youth.”
Well this is where things go bad for the rich guy in his way of thinking. After what Jesus says next, our boy’s day is going to be a dreary dismal day for sure in his eyes!
As Jesus looks at him, Mark tells us something else that is incredible. We learn that not only did Jesus look at him but Jesus loved him as He says, “ You lack one thing, Go and sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have your treasure in Heaven. Then come, follow me!”
Jesus didn’t look at him with scorn and ridicule or sarcasm but instead looks at him with love in the same way that He looked at those who hung Him on that cross and said, “ Father forgive them.” He looks at him the same way he looks at us when He says, “Follow me!”
Upon hearing this Mark records that He was disheartened, he was stunned by what Jesus tells him and he went away grieving because he had many possessions.
So in order for you to follow Christ, you must sell everything and give it to the poor.
Is that what Jesus is saying here?
Yes and no.
Three things really come to the forefront in this account.
- A. Goodness. As the man raced to ask Jesus, he called him Good Teacher and Jesus responded that only God is good.
Only God is perfect, righteous, holy and good. No matter how good and how hard we try to be good by what we think we do and by trying to keep the commandments, we are not righteous, holy and good by and on our own.
Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
Thus young ruler thought that he had kept the commandments since he was a youth and maybe he did in deed or action but throw in thought and word and he like us was not able to keep those commandments. He wasn’t good and neither are we.
So that brings us to the second thing.
An idol is anything that becomes your god, a false god and takes the place of and prevents you form seeing God. It can be anything from football or your job or your kids or pride in yourself and your accomplishments. It can be things even at church.
For the young man it was his possessions and his wealth. Basically it boils down to Jesus telling him and us that if anything gets in the way of your view and focus of God, dump it, get rid of it. It’s garbage! For the real treasure, follow Christ.
Matthew 6: 20 says, “But lay up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.”
This brings us to the third point and the most important part.
Did you notice in our Gospel today that something was missing? When the young man asked Jesus and Jesus quoted the commandments back to him, he left the first three out. Jesus quoted what is commonly referred to as the Second Table or the Commandments for living and dealing with your fellow man. Why would he do that being God and all, did He forget them?
No, not at all!
You see the first three Commandments or the First Table tell of our relationship with God. They confront our basic belief and structure about God. They talk about the perfect relationship that God created for His children. It’s an invitation to a give and take relationship. Don’t we see that in the Sacraments? “Take and eat and take and drink.” He willingly gives us forgiveness of sins, salvation and eternal life through this gift given to us through His Son as we gatheris SonH and we as His called and redeemed children thank, praise and glorify His name calling on Him for everything because He is our loving Father and because He is God.
This rich man’s relationship was lacking in this because he was focused on the idol of himself and his idol of wealth and fortune. So Jesus told him to dump it and follow Him in that perfect relationship of grace, peace and love bought and paid for with His holy blood. Jesus tells us that exact same thing and we hear it and read it in His Holy Word. Our relationship with God has been rewon and regained and taken back from the sin that we caused to break it in the first place. Through our High Priest who is the Christ, perfect atonement and fulfillment of that priestly sacrifice we are now made His. It is only through Christ that we can ask Him to smash those evil and unholy idols that prevent us from the very relationship with Him. It is only through Jesus that we have the strength given to us in our Baptisms and shared with us in the foretaste of the feast to come found in that meal of Holy Communion.
It is only through the glory found at the cross that any of this is possible and that we are now counted as righteous and holy and good enough to be in the sight and presence of God.
Think about what’s been done for you. God says call him by His name, YAHWEH, then we Have Jesus tell us and His Father that he is not ashamed to call us brothers and we because of YAHWEH’s plan of redemption through Jesus are now heirs of Heaven.
The rich young man didn’t get it that when Jesus called him to follow, He ws calling him to inherit gifts far beyond the measure of a mortal man.
Instead he went away dejected, stunned and disheartened because he couldn’t let go of his idol while the Good Teacher set His face like flint and proceeded to walk that path to the cross, “ Who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2.
He walked that path in complete obedience knowing what was waiting for Him.
Was it death and destruction? Yes, through Jesus dying for our sin and idol worship it was the destruction of death and the grave and through Jesus dying for all it was the death of the power that sin had on us. We now have abundant life that no idol could ever give us but only through what God can give us and keeps on giving to us.
So I guess the final question again comes down to this. Do you have to get rid of everything you have to follow God?
Quite simply yes, if it has become an idol to you and prevents you from seeing God and His goodness, grace and love for you.
We can only truly trust and have faith in He who claims us as His knowing with certain hope and confidence that we who confess Christ as King and Savior will all gather at the throne with Him for eternity and that will be the perfect day where only things go perfectly right!
“Come and follow me!”
From Vicar Eddie
Mark 10:17-22 (using HCSB)
The story of the rich young ruler causes some to pity the man…he was so close…if only he had trusted Jesus more…if only he knew. But perhaps there is more to this story if we scratch the surface…if we scratch the surface we might see that we are more like the rich young man than we would like to admit.
Right from the start this story is different than most accounts in the Bible of people coming to Jesus…usually those that approached Jesus were looking for healing either for themselves or a loved one…or they were trying to find fault with the teachings of Jesus. But this man asks a completely different question…maybe one you yourself have contemplated during your life…he approaches Christ, calls him “good teacher” and then asks how he might attain eternal life…AND, he is not asking what he has to do…he is not asking where he can buy it…but how should he align his life, what should his purpose in life be so that he might inherit eternal life…inherit eternal life. How do I get this gift that can only come from God? How do I get eternal life? Jesus knew this young man was on to something, so He asks him, “Why do you say I am good?” Only God is good…are you saying I am God? Are you saying I can give you the gift of eternal life? And then Jesus skips the commandments that have to do with God and lists the commandments that have to do with other people, and the young man says he has kept all of them close to his heart. Jesus accepts this… He does not call him a liar but instead hits him right between the eyes…very well then… sell everything, give the money to the poor and follow me. Stunned…shocked…flabbergasted… he realizes Jesus is asking him to give up the one thing he knows he cannot give up… his treasures! Why did it have to be that? Why couldn’t it be spending more time at the synagogue? Why couldn’t it be helping out those less fortunate? Why couldn’t it be spending more time in scripture? No… he asked the young man for his wealth…a dark cloud comes over the man and he went away dejected, sorrowful, he went away grieving. It is indeed sad…some might say that the young man rejects Jesus, that he turns his back on Jesus, but the young man was seeking God, the young man was looking for a closer walk with God, and yet there was a barrier…a barrier so large that it kept him from fully experiencing the grace and mercy of Christ. A barrier so large that it kept him from the inheritance he so desperately sought… and so that begs the question…What barrier have we created? What keeps us from fully experiencing the grace and mercy of Christ?
You see this story is not just about a rich young man… this story is about us…each one of us has put up barriers that keep us from fully experiencing the love and grace of Christ; we have all created barriers that keep us from having a closer walk with God and maybe that is why Jesus skipped the 1st commandment when He spoke to the young man. Jesus knew that this young man had other gods…as Luther explained the first commandment in the Large Catechism; a god is something on which we set our whole heart. Jesus knew that this man had placed his wealth ahead of God, he trusted in his wealth above trusting God…and so what have we placed before God? You see it doesn’t always have to be wealth…it can be anything that we treasure in our hearts above God. And it can take a numerous of forms – it can come in a bottle that we desperately need after another rough day; it can be the football games that keep us from worshipping God with our brothers and sisters on Sunday mornings, it can come in the form of a keyboard; a keyboard that logs us into facebook for hours on end instead of spending time in scripture, or it can be staying up late to view adult material and feeling ashamed that we do, so we draw away from others for fear they might discover our dark habit. Really we can fashion anything into a barrier between is and God; even something we would find good, like family, exercise or even work. These things that God has given us to bring us joy, relaxation and a sense of accomplishment can become so important in our lives that they interfere with our relationship with God. They draw us away from God.
I worked for many years with a company that had such an outstanding president of sales. We used to say that she could sell ice to eskimo, and we knew she worked hard, but we didn’t realize to what extent. During a sales meeting in New Jersey, her husband called and told her that he wasn’t feeling good…that he really wanted her to come home. This was very odd behavior on his part – they talked often when she would go away on trips, and as president of sales, she traveled extensively, but he had not once ever asked her to come home. She said, she couldn’t leave…this sales meeting was too important and that she would be home the next day. Well, he didn’t make it the next day and she never forgave herself for not going home. Work had become her god, above family, above her own health and even above God.
Certainly we know we are going to have activities outside of church, certainly we know we will have other interests and certainly we know that we can’t keep all of God’s commands perfectly, but it comes down to priorities. Is God a priority in my life? Or is God an afterthought…a parachute we grasp only when we run into problem; when our life seems to be spiraling out of control? In Luke 9:23 Jesus tells us “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” This is not to say that we need to try to bear the weight of our sins and thus by our own power overcome our sinfulness, but instead we are to daily surrender our sinful and lustful desires to Christ…and follow him.
But our story of the young man does not end there. Yes, the young man goes away dejected, lost and maybe even ashamed, but what about Jesus? We know that Jesus was on His way to the cross of Calvary and we know that in His death and resurrection we find the very thing that young man sought…life everlasting…eternal life. And Jesus did this with JOY! Hebrews 12:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
You see God knows that we cannot of our own accord lift ourselves over the barriers we have created; He knows that we cannot overcome the sin that keeps us from Him. At the cross which is meant for torture and death we find life…at the cross we find the gift of eternal life. And this gift is not just for that young man, it is not just for those of us that showed up this Sunday morning…no this gift of eternal life is a gift God has given to the whole world. Just as Jesus invited the young man to leave behind those things that hindered Him from fully experiencing the love, grace and mercy of God, Jesus extends that offer to the entire world even today. Jesus stands ready to walk with you, each and every day of your life. With joy Jesus went to the cross, knowing He was breaking the bondage of sin that impeded this man from fully experiencing the love, grace and mercy of God. So, we have a choice…we can either walk away with our baggage…those things that bring us shame and draw us away from God, or we can leave them at the foot of the cross and walk with Jesus…Jesus invites you to walk with Him each and every day of your life…will you walk in the JOY of Jesus today?
and from Deacon Don