Blog Archives

Faith in Action is Blessed: Matthew 5. Sermon manuscript and video of service link 11/4/18

Annual All Saints Service – Matt 5:1-12 

Faith in Action….is Blessed!
Matt 5:1-12

† In Jesus Name †

May the grace, mercy and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ open your mind to see how God has, and is, and will bless you!  AMEN!

 

The Shopping List

If you were going to start a new project, part of the process is making sure you have the material you need to complete the project.

Whether it is making a fancy dinner, or building a shed, or, in our case, building the church.

You need to make sure you have everything you need because once you are started, stopping to go get a missing peace slows down the process, and could even require you to start all over.

The reading from the gospel of Matthew this morning provides such a shopping list.

Matthew lays out the kind of people we need to build the Church.

Not just the service in Mandarin, or the service in English, and not even Concordia.

But the Church throughout the world.

These blessed people are the components to the Church, and a church that contains such people very simply grows.

Are we so described?  

So if we are going to look at Concordia, as a part of the church, let’s see how we do.

In the English translation we use, the first item is, “those who are poor and realize their need for God.”  Do we have such people?

Do we have people that continually see their need for God, and desire to dwell in His presence?

What about people who mourn and grieve.

Not just because we have lost someone, but also because of the brokenness in the world, and in our lives?

Are we all humble?  Are we all meek and willing to deal with people in a caring manner, not being competitive or angry?

Do we all hunger and thirst for justice? Real justice, not just justice that favors us?

Do we all show mercy?

And how many of us can say our hearts are pure, that we never ever sin, or even think sinful thoughts? Or who work for peace in every situation?

We could go on and talked about the rest of the checklist, but it looks like we are already falling short of who we need to see the God designed built.

There might be a few people here who meet one of the checkboxes, but none of us meet all of them.

I also am pretty sure that there are some boxes, especially the mercy and pure in heart that has no boxes checked,

Not one.

We are blessed!

But what if we are looking at the wrong thing to check off?  What if, instead of what we are described as, we find the box to check off is the “being blessed”?

As an example, we can find people who are blessed because God has shown them comfort.

We can find people who are blessed because they have been shown mercy,

We can find people who have become pure, because their blessing is having seen, having encountered God.

Now the passage takes on a whole different perspective.

It focuses on the work of God.

It focuses on the blessing.

As we and every person in the church should focus upon.

God’s work, God’s blessing, poured out on us!

Those who are poor and need His presence (all of us!)  are blessed

Those who grieve and mourn…  are blessed

Those who have nothing, but will inherit everything… are blessed

Those who need and desire justice… are blessed

Those who need mercy… are blessed

We are blessed by God, we know His presence, His comfort, his justice.

The Greatest blessing

You see, that is what makes the Church grow,

It is what will make Concordia, both the multi-cultural ministry in English, the ministry in Mandarin thrive and the Tagalog ministry grow.

It isn’t because of how intelligent, charismatic and good-looking your ministers are.

(And that’s probably a good thing! )

The reason a church grows, or the Church grows, is when it realizes how God has blessed every single one of us.

When we realize we have received mercy, and we are satisfied by God’s justice.

When we realize we will inherit the whole earth, and the Kingdom of God.  When we realize we have been comforted, when we realize we shall see God,

These are the blessings poured out on us, even as Jesus was loving us and dying for us on the cross.

Even as our sins were paid for, and cleansed from our souls.

Even as we are given the Holy Spirit and the promise of eternal life in the glory of God.

this is who we are, those who depend on God, and trust in Him, for we know..

We are blessed!

AMEN?

AMEN!

A magnificent song sung by a pregnant, unmarried teenager, that needs to be heard!

Mark Jenning's Madonna

A Painting of Jesus and Mary by my friend Mark Jennings. You can find all his art (and order copies) at http://fineartamerica.com/profiles/mark-jennings.html

Devotional Thought of the Day:

46  And Mary said: My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord 47  and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour; 48  because he has looked upon the humiliation of his servant. Yes, from now onwards all generations will call me blessed, 49  for the Almighty has done great things for me. Holy is his name, 50  and his faithful love extends age after age to those who fear him. 51  He has used the power of his arm, he has routed the arrogant of heart. 52  He has pulled down princes from their thrones and raised high the lowly. 53  He has filled the starving with good things, sent the rich away empty. 54  He has come to the help of Israel his servant, mindful of his faithful love 55  —according to the promise he made to our ancestors— of his mercy to Abraham and to his descendants for ever. Luke 1:46-56 (NJB)

When faith takes hold of Christ, the mediator, the heart is at peace and begins to love God and to keep the law. It knows that now it is pleasing to God for the sake of Christ, the mediator, even though its incipient keeping of the law is impure and far from perfect.

It is called by many in the church, The Magnificat this song by a teenage girl who was pregnant before she was married.  Her name was Miriam, or as we know her, Mary.  Back then, being pregnant would be a serious offense.  Cut off from her family, mocked and scorned by all, sent away from her family to a distant relative. We need to remember what she faced, as we hear her song.

For her song is one we need to hear, it is one that the world needs to hear.  When life is broken, when life seems unfair, when we can’t really understand all that God is doing, we need to hear this song!

Go back and read these words again, hear the voice that is broken, yet whole because the Lord is with her.  Note as well that this song isn’t just about God providing for her, but it includes God providing for those who He raises, who He saves, who He feeds, and helps.  

This song isn’t about a personal relationship with God, it is about God caring for all His people, as He has promised those who came way before Mary.   In the translation I used, not all the italics, those are the words woven in that were the words of others, words of prophets and leaders, words that were interwoven as good, no better than any preacher or theologian could ever do.

This song is about God’s faithful love, His faithful love for Mary, and for us.

And it has an effect on us, an effect that is described in the other quote, the one from the Lutheran Confessions.  When we start to perceive Christ’s faithful love, when know He’s got a hold of us, and is saving us, things change. The peace of Christ envelops us, just as it did Mary.  We learn to love God (and therefore love those He has created)   Our souls can’t help proclaiming the greatness of our Lord…for we see His mercy… and His love!

So sing with Mary, sing your heart out, for God has come to you, to help. because He loves you and is faithful.  AMEN!

 

 

Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.   Apology of the Augsburg Confession: Article IV

 

Agnus Dei! The Reason We Sing! (a sermon based on Rev. 5)

Agnus Dei! The Reason We Sing!
Revelation 5:8-14

In Jesus Name

Agnus Dei

It is one of the critical moments of our service, as Chris starts to play, as everyone, having gotten back to their seats begins to sing…the Agnus Dei, or translated, “the Lamb of God” The Lamb of God praised and glorified in the words of all of the company of heaven.

Singing the Agnus Dei as we shall in a moment, we are called back to this thought.  That the bread and wine are not just bread and wine, but in and under, as our Confessions tell us, it is the body and blood of Christ Jesus.

The precious Lamb of God, who was slain, who now reigns.

The Apostle Paul tells the church this,

16  When we bless the cup at the Lord’s Table, aren’t we sharing in the blood of Christ? And when we break the bread, aren’t we sharing in the body of Christ? 17  And though we are many, we all eat from one loaf of bread, showing that we are one body.
      1 Corinthians 10:16-17 (NLT)

As we move from sharing the peace of Christ because we are one body, we re-focus on the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, on His giving His body and blood for us, as we are taken into that moment, as we share in His body and blood, our prayers are answered,

And we are given peace.

We are given peace!

That is why as those guitar strings are played, it is time to slow down, to contemplate, to pray, and as you come, to let Christ take away all that robs you of peace, letting you know the peace is there.

It is why we rise up from the altar, and as a whole praise God, for we have again realized His presence, and been assured that we have seen our salvation.  Salvation and peace that we see only in part now, but that which the passage from the Revelation shows us occurring, in all of the glory of heaven.

The Slaughter that Ransomed US

As the four living beings and the elders and all of heaven erupt in a song of praise, there is a reason given, as to why they, why we praise this Lamb of God,

You are worthy to take the scroll and break its seals and open it. For you were slaughtered, and your blood has ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. 10  And you have caused them to become a Kingdom of priests for our God. And they will reign on the earth.”

You are worthy the praises sing out, and then it describes why,

Because He was slaughtered, because he was sacrificed to provide for people.  Not just any people, not specific people, but every way you define the differences in people, from within ever demographic possible, there are people God has saved.  From every nationality, from every language group, from every culture and subculture, even from every political group!  God has saved them.

Specifically, salvation is described in this passage as their being ransomed.  We’ve seen other passage where we are delivered, passages where we are reconciled, but this passage is ransomed, or perhaps putting it simply, we were purchased.

Our debt was purchased, those of us who were enslaved to sin.   That is the purchase, the process Paul describes in Romans,

6  We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. 7  For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin.
Romans 6:6-7 (NLT)

And that Jesus himself describes in John

“I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin. 35  A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son is part of the family forever. 36  So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.”    John 8:34-36 (NLT)

It may not be popular or politically correct to talk our propensity to sin with the word slavery, but it is accurate.  Before Christ, sin had such a hold on us; it owned us.  To get what we wanted, what we desired, we agreed and made ourselves its slave.

Yet Christ, in his sacrificial death, as He let them slaughter Him, he purchased our life with His very own.

He gave up His holy life for our lives that can’t be described as holy.  He gave up His perfection, to pay for our brokenness, He ransomed us, He redeemed us.

And that was only the beginning of what His being slaughtered has done for us.   It is only the beginning as to why we sing His praises.

The Slaughter that Nourishes us..

The New Living Translation picked and interesting word for what happened to Jesus, in choosing to translate the word as slaughter. It is a word used for religious sacrifice, but it is also the word used for something being sacrificed to nourish and feed another.  So slaughter works good, and in describing why we worship Jesus, the first part was to ransom us, and then John tells us they sang this,

10  And you have caused them to become a Kingdom of priests for our God. And they will reign on the earth.”

He causes us to be the priests of His Kingdom.  All of us, those He saved, including those from every demographic description you could ever come up with!

When you are in a Kingdom, the King, the High King, is responsible for making sure His people are provided for, that those who serve and govern are taken care of, so they can focus on the task delegated to them.   So it is with Jesus, who makes every one of His people a priest, and tasks them with caring for each other, on His behalf.

Not an easy job at all, for in doing that we have to love and care for people that are, we might say…. Challenging?  People who antagonize us, the very enemies and adversaries Jesus tells us to love, that Paul urges us to pray for, and ask God to bless.

Not an easy job at all, for in doing that we have to love and care for people that are, we might say…. Challenging?  People who antagonize us, the very enemies and adversaries Jesus tells us to love, that Paul urges us to pray for, and ask God to bless.

These are the people we are to be priests for,

And yet that is why Jesus still is our Lamb of God, He still is the one who was slaughtered for us, He is still the one who grants us peace.

For in His nourishing of our souls, in His reminding us of His love, we see His handiwork, we realize that He desires to save that enemy, to reconcile that adversary, to bring comfort and peace to all in His family.

And that too is what we share here, as we bow and kneel, as we praise as sing, as we echo the words sung by angelic choirs,

Blessing and honor and glory and power belong to the one sitting on the throne and to the Lamb forever and ever.”  AMEN!

His Plan His Desire take II

 so here is the revision – well not quite, the revision was revised during delivery, and after I listen to it – I may find a way to post it here – or somewhere else….. but here is take two – with much more focus on the idea of our being adopted….
 

His Plan, His Desire, His People, “in Christ”!

Ephesians 1:3-14

 In Jesus Name


May our lives bless our Father in Heaven, as it is revealed to us that He has blessed us with every spiritual blessing! AMEN!

Too personal?  Yeah… so what

It is one of those things that is hard to explain, but every time I preach on this epistle passage, I overlook the obvious connection I have to it.  Perhaps it is because it is too personal, to talk about what it means to be adopted, or I find a way to gloss over it. Make the connection, and move on.

The emotional overload that comes, when discussing the challenges that face an adopted kid are immense – there are incredible joys, and yet incredible questions,  In my case, having met my birth mom 6 years ago this week – there is knowing the incredible love of two mothers, both of whom were intimately involved in making me, you pastor.  I am truly blessed, but even more so when I realize how different, more incredible God’s adoption of all us is…

Preaching on God adopting us is somewhat challenging then, as describing God making us His children opens levels of stuff I am not used to letting people see.  So, I usually don’t.  I come up with other ways to explain it, but a quick online comment of my high school coach made me change this sermon this morning….

But it is important to grasp the intimacy, the intentionality in God’s choice, in God wanting to make us His children, and in paying the price to process it – the price of Christ’s blood.  For if we understand God’s choice,

So be aware, this sermon may be a little rougher than usual, as I re-wrote the sermon this morning, knowing I had to bring it up this way….

For we need to grasp what it means for God to choose us, to bring us into the Family that is the Trinity, to grasp this incredible blessing

Chose us in Him

On April 1st, 1965, when Thomas and Marie Parker went to Catholic Charities in Lawrence, Massachusetts, they weren’t sure what they were getting themselves into.  They had been waiting to adopt a girl, but they had been called a few days before.  The couple originally slated to get me had panicked, or maybe had a vision, and bailed on the process. Some have said that April 1st date was very appropriate…

My folks came and got me, adopted me as their own, and would eventually get the daughter a few years later.  I used to joke with my friends that while their parents were stuck with them, mine chose me. But they didn’t choose me, they chose to adopt, if they had only known what they were getting themselves into…

God’s a bit different.  He knows all about us, every moment of our lives… and chooses to adopt us.  Paul tells us that the Father has “chose us in him before the foundation of the world.”

It is in choosing us, that we find every spiritual blessing coming upon us, it is there that that we realize that we aren’t just after thoughts in God’s plan, but indeed the focus of His will, and His desire.  From before the foundation of the earth, He has chosen mankind to have a special relationship with Him, and demonstrated that choice by placing us in Christ.

There, we find out what He has chosen us for, to be His children, adopted because of Jesus Christ, for it is in Christ that we are found to be holy and blameless, set apart for something special, with nothing able to mar or change that choice.  To share in the life and love of God, in what sounds amazing – to become part of that relationship that exists between the Father and the Son and the Spirit.  To share in such a relationship, as one of my friends has described it in a song – to join in the Trinity’s dance.

This indeed Paul tells us is no accident, it was a choice made from before the foundation of the world.   It is the very purpose of His will – or as another translation explains it – it is the plan to achieve God’s greatest desire.  Peter phrases it this way,

3:9 The Lord is not being slow in carrying out his promises, as some people think he is; rather is he being patient with you, wanting nobody to be lost and everybody to be brought to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9 (NJB)

The Lord’s choice, to choose you in Him, in Christ…knowing everything about you…

Riches of His gift, lavished upon us

When my parents adopted me, there was little idea of the costs, financial, emotional, the nights sitting with me in the hospital over the years, the shock of finding out I have Marfans and the complications it brings.. the challenges they faced because of the odd person I am, but they didn’t know the cost.  That is where God the Father adopting us is so radically different.  He did know the cost… the cost of adopting us, of making us holy and blameless was very high.  Paul writes in verse 7.

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight
In Christ’s death, we have been paid for, our lives purchased at the price of His sacrifice on the cross.  He did this that because of the great grace, the gift which he lavishes upon us, why?  Even more incredibly, Hebrews tells us it was for joy that Christ embraced that payment – as He, loving each of us, embraced that cross.

Paul calls this the making known of the mystery of His will, this incredible grace lavished upon us, as God picks us up in our brokenness, and instead of throwing us away, carefully repairs and heals us, bringing us into Himself, that we might be one with Him.  Imagine everything perfect, in His presence, a place where doors don’t creak and neither do our bodies, where our relationships are finally the way they should be, including our relationship with our Father, where we finally let God be God, and we rejoice in knowing we are His children, His people, His chosen people.

This is our lot for all eternity, that which God has planned for us!  It is  the life God has given to us, this great mystery of why He would choose us to be His children, that even as He makes this true now, we struggle to realize it, for we struggle to realize we are in Christ, we are in the Beloved son of God, and therefore share in the Father’s love.

How we got there?

We are the children of the king – waiting for that moment when we reach full maturity, when we share in His kingdom.  It is true now, and yet like a child waiting to reach the age of inheritance, we struggle with it. Indeed, we need to be reminded of it often, and how and when this incredible thing happened.

Paul explains it in verse 13

13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

It’s the same story throughout scripture – the way we become His children, according to His plan is when we hear the truth – the truth of His love for us, that is this gospel, this good news.

It is the message of His love that causes us to trust in Him, to believe in Him, to realize that our very lives are in His hands, and that this is a good thing!

That when we were baptized, God marked us, He sealed us as His children, the sign of the cross is what we were marked with, that even as we share in Christ’ death, we too share in His resurrection, for we live in Him.

That has been His plan all along, a plan we have only begun to realize.  We are still children, waiting for our inheritance to become ours.  Waiting to reach the maturity of Christ, when we visibly know we are in His kingdom.
Until that day, we have a guarantee, a down payment if you will.  Something incredibly wonderful, something beyond our comprehension!  The presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives, what Peter describes as the gift of God’s Spirit, which Paul will also describe as our being the temple – the living place of the Spirit of God, the one called the Comforter, the Lord and Giver of life…

Here, in us, even as we dwell in Him….even as we are, right now, His children. His heirs, as we live in the Beloved.  Chosen by Him, chosen to be in Him, adopted as His. With all the knowledge of who we are, what we’ve done…..

He made us His.

So knowing this we can rejoice as Paul does and declare, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places… for we live in Christ.  AMEN?

His Plan His Desire His People in Christ

(this is the sermon wrote for this morning, but it went through drastic revision before it was delivered.  
I will post the other… which is much rougher,  but was well heard.
May you know God’s presence and love… to your very core.. )

His Plan, His Desire, His People, “in Christ”!

Ephesians 1:3-14

 In Jesus Name

May our lives bless our Father in Heaven, as it is revealed to us that He has blessed us with every spiritual blessing! AMEN!


A preposition for you!       

I have a life changing preposition for you!

Two little letters that change everything in life, that change our priorities, our plans, our dreams.  That gives life and meaning to life, even in these days when our world chases after all the things that are vain, that do not satisfy, that cannot make a difference.

I have a preposition for you my friends.. not a proposition – a preposition.

Remember that list you memorized,  about above among around at behind before,  remember those things?  Well in today’s epistle, one keeps showing up – and it makes all the difference in the world,

For it is combined with a pronoun – that word that takes the place of a name?  Two letters for the preposition, and three letters for the pronoun and the world is shaken, and everything made new…so radical a change in life these two simple words, these five letters, that our reaction to them is nothing less than to praise and glorify God, to bless Him, to in awe applaud His work.

The pronoun is Him, the preposition I have for you to consider is…

“In”

And when we realize what it means to be “in Him” we begin to realize how much of our life, our world has changed… even as we wait for the day when we fully understand it.

Chose us in Him

Of the dozen or so times the preposition and pronoun, (or a noun the preposition refers to) appears in this passage, we have to start somewhere to examine this incredible concept.  So let’s look at one first, there in the beginning of verse four, when Paul tells us that the Father has “chose us in him before the foundation of the world.”


It is in choosing us, that we find every spiritual blessing coming upon us, it is there that that we realize that we aren’t just after thoughts in God’s plan, but indeed the focus of His will, and His desire.  From before the foundation of the earth, He has chosen mankind to have a special relationship with Him, and demonstrated that choice by placing us in Christ.

There, we find out what He has chosen us for, to be His children, adopted because of Jesus Christ, for it is in Christ that we are found to be holy and blameless, set apart for something special, with nothing able to mar or change that choice.  To share in the life and love of God, in what sounds amazing – to become part of that relationship that exists between the Father and the Son and the Spirit.  To share in such a relationship, as one of my friends has described it in a song – to join in the Trinity’s dance.

This indeed Paul tells us is no accident, it was a choice made from before the foundation of the world.   It is the very purpose of His will – or as another translation explains it – it is the plan to achieve God’s greatest desire.  Peter phrases it this way,

3:9 The Lord is not being slow in carrying out his promises, as some people think he is; rather is he being patient with you, wanting nobody to be lost and everybody to be brought to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9 (NJB)

The Lord’s choice, to choose you in Him, in Christ…

 Riches of His gift, lavished upon us

The next “in Him” to look at is in verse 7 and 8, as we read,

 

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight
In Christ’s death, we have been paid for, our lives redeemed at the price of His sacrifice on the cross.  He did this that because of the great grace, the gift which he lavishes upon us, why?

Paul calls this the making known of the mystery of His will, this incredible grace lavished upon us, as God picks us up in our brokenness, and instead of throwing us away, carefull repairs and heals us, bringing us into Himself, that we might be one with Him.  Imagine everything perfect, in His presence, a place where doors don’t creak and neither do our bodies, where our relationships are finally the way they should be, including our relationship with our Father, where we finally let God be God, and we rejoice in knowing we are His chosen people.

This is our lot for all eternity, that which God has planned for us, the life God has given to us, this great mystery of why He would choose us to be His children, that even as He makes this true now, we struggle to realize it, for we struggle to realize we are in Christ, we are in the Beloved son of God, and therefore share in the Father’s love.

How we got there?

We are the children of the king – waiting for that moment when we reach full maturity, when we share in His kingdom.  It is true now, and yet like a child waiting to reach the age of inheritance, we struggle with it. Indeed, we need to be reminded of it often, and how and when this incredible thing happened.

Paul explains it in verse 13

13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

It’s the same story throughout scripture – the way we become His children, according to His plan is when we hear the truth – the truth of His love for us, that is this gospel, this good news.

It is the message of His love that causes us to trust in Him, to believe in Him, to realize that our very lives are in His hands, and that this is a good thing!

That when we were baptized, God marked us, He sealed us as His children, the sign of the cross is what we were marked with, that even as we share in Christ’ death, we too share in His resurrection, for we live in Him.

That has been His plan all along, a plan we have only begun to realize…. For we are still children, waiting for our inheritance to become ours, for us to reach the maturity of Christ, when we visibly know we are in His kingdom.
Until that day, we have a guarantee, a down payment if you will.  Something incredibly wonderful, something beyond our comprehension.  The presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives, what Peter describes as the gift of God’s Spirit, which Paul will also describe as our being the temple – the living place of the Spirit of God, the one called the Comforter, the Lord and Giver of life…

Here, in us, even as we dwell in Him….

A preposition for you my friends, a truth that is so incredible..found as we hear that we are “in”….

In Christ!

So knowing this we can rejoice as Paul does and declare, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places… AMEN!

%d bloggers like this: