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.
What I Need You To Hear…
A sermon based on Phil. 2:1-10
By Chuck Zetzman
Dear Friends in Christ, the Lord is with You!
I am making a step of faith to speak of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to tell you of the love I have found in believing and trusting in Jesus Christ.
While I have a great desire to do this, the process of writing a sermon isn’t easy or natural for me. Matter of fact, some people wondered if I could do it.
But I so long for you to know the God who loves us all, I have struggled through it, I learned a lot, and I so want to share it with you.
I have a new heart of compassion and trust in Jesus Christ for His help and forgiveness and mercy. New because it wasn’t always that way.
It is like when I taught softball, sometimes you have to unlearn things you are doing wrong, in order to do things “naturally” And God had to teach me, like he teaches you, what not to do.
That’s why Paul wrote
Philippians 2:1-6 NLT
Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? 2 Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.
3 Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. 4 Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.
5 You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.
But the problem is, we didn’t, and we don’t always share God’s comfort with each other, we don’t always agree with each other, we don’t always work together well, and we are often more interested in what benefits us, than what benefits each other.
Even when we know it is wrong.
We have to break those bad behaviors, just like a pitcher has to break their bad behaviors.
The problem is, we can’t.
We need someone to coach us, to call us on our self-centeredness. We call that it, in the church, calling someone to repent.
it’s not easy, but it is necessary.
We have to be called to repentance, if we are going to get life right.
Which means we have to realize we sin. You sin, I sin, Pastor Parker sins, my fellow deacons sin. We all sin.
But God, can fix it, and He really wants to.
That is why He came, as the Apostle Paul tells us,
5 You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. 6 Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. 7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, 8 he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Philippians 2:5-8 (NLT)
This attitude we are supposed to have, Jesus came to help us have.
We must remember Christ took on the position of a slave for us and gave us His divine privileges. He humbled himself in obedience to God and died on the cross for us.
That does two things…
One it takes care of the bad habits, as He died to pay for those sins. He removes them Himself, as we are made one with Him in baptism. It isn’t always easy, but it always good.
The other thing He does, is show us how to do it right, and He gives us the Holy Spirit to do it right.
I’ve seen it happen, and I remember it, so I know you all can!
It may be the only the thing I can remember, but remember it I do.
God loves us,
He sent Christ to save us
He doesn’t leave us alone, but walks with us, coaching us, loving us, forgiving us when we need it. And inspiring us to love others, sometimes in ways others think are crazy… or silly.
But those crazy things, those silly things, are what matters, as God loves us through others, as He gives us the mind of Jesus, and encourages us to live for others.
Again, I’ve seen it.
I have found love and compassion and help at Concordia from all of you here. You will find love and encouragement by belonging to Christ, by being part of His family, for they will love and encourage you as well!
And then you will know a peace you cannot find anywhere else… the peace of God, which we can’t understand, but we can find rest and hope in, a peace that Jesus keeps us in, our hearts and our minds safe… in Him.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
11 It was He (Jesus ) who “gave gifts to people“; he appointed some to be apostles, others to be prophets, others to be evangelists, others to be pastors and teachers. 12 He did this to prepare all God’s people for the work of Christian service, in order to build up the body of Christ. 13 And so we shall all come together to that oneness in our faith and in our knowledge of the Son of God; we shall become mature people, reaching to the very height of Christ’s full stature. Ephesians 4:11-13 (TEV)
1 Does this sound as if we were again boasting about ourselves? Could it be that, like some other people, we need letters of recommendation to you or from you? 2 You yourselves are the letter we have, written on our hearts for everyone to know and read. 3 It is clear that Christ himself wrote this letter and sent it by us. It is written, not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, and not on stone tablets but on human hearts. 2 Corinthians 3:1-3 (TEV)
195 When there is zeal for souls, good people can always be found, fertile soil can always be discovered. There is no excuse! (1)
This weekend was one of those lessons in ministry that had to be driven home with an exclamation point. I listened to 6 sermons, all by men who desired to serve God, who knew HIs love. One was during our church service when a deacon preached about a widow who would give all because she God could care for her. Then five deacon candidates preached a sermon on Philippians 2 as part of their homiletics course.
There were other sermons, not prepared, but sermons like the letters Paul mentions to the church in Corinth. The letters testifying to ministry being done, of the word being preached, of the Holy Spirit at work
One lady, who very rarely comes to church (like 3 times 7 years!) who was telling another guest about how great the church was, and that she should come here regularly. (And her laugh as I looked at her, and she realized she was talking to herself) Another man who was taken aback by several telling him he should be in the next class, and seeing his heart consider it, as He was speechless at the thought. Another man talked to me about how much these friends of his matured, how God had caused them to grow. Most impacting were the tears of one lady, as she watched her husband of forty-plus years come alive as he preached, and as she encountered the power of God at work in their lives. I could go on, to tell the stories I witnessed, as people were impacted by those messages, by those messengers.
None of the men who I heard yesterday would most consider “Minister material.” But the people they ministered too could not deny God’s work through them. Like the small shepherd who would be king, or the terrorist who would become an apostle, or the coward who would lead God’s people to freedom. They have some rough edges; each has significant struggles in life that would make most hesitate to put them in a pulpit. But this is undeniable, God used them. The proof was seen in the lives and conversations they touched. They worked their tails off, and God blessed others through them.
We are all called to ministry, and it is a wondrous thing to watch the church growing and serving each other. Even those we don’t anticipate God use so dramatically.
So how are you going to become the messenger whom God will write on others hearts this day? Or how will someone else by used by the Holy Spirit to imprint on your heart the message of God’s love? For we need both, we are fertile fields, and workers set apart to work in the fields ready for harvest.
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1026-1027). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
34 I give you a new commandment: love one another; you must love one another just as I have loved you. 35 It is by your love for one another, that everyone will recognise you as my disciples.John 13:34-35 (NJB)
I spent five days this week with other servants of God at a deacons conference and then at a pastor’s conference.
Saw a lot of old friends, many of who showed interest in how I was doing with my father’s death two weeks ago.
I came home to folks in crisis… not my family but those in my church family. It’s been a hard morning – a very hard morning.
But for 5 friends – my wife, a young pastor, a vicar, a deacon, and a friend who gave to me the most precious gift you can give a pastor. A friend who let me be her pastor… who let me speak to her of God’s grace. That takes a sense of God’s love and trust that is incredible and is a blessing.
You see, loving each other isn’t just about the kind words and deeds whcih we usually count as showing love. It is equally loving, even more loving, to let someoen in close enough to see your hurts, your pains, your embarassment and ask – is God still with me? Not that we don’t know this in our heads, but our hearts so deperately need to hear this as well. It takes great amounts of love to let people in, to let them care about you, to let a pastor, pastor you.
And to do so, letting me in, trusting God to work thorugh me… is one of the greatest ways to show love.
So in these days… I am thanking God for many… but especially for the friends who not only call me pastor… but let me…
a very precious gift you give me…
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!
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
Here is my Brother and Sister…
2 Corinthians 4:13–5:1 & Mark 3:20–35
† In Jesus Name †
May we, with all God’s holy people have the strength to grasp the breadth and the length, the height and the depth of the love of Christ, which is beyond knowledge, as we are filled with the utter fullness of God. Ephesians 3:17-19 (adapted)
Blood isn’t thicker than water…baptismal water…
Today’s gospel challenges an old German proverb about family relationships being stronger than any other relationships we have. To those who know German, I apologize for my pronunciation – the old proverb went like this, “Blut ist dicker als Wasser”
I would think that the family of Jesus would agree with the German proverb. In verse 21, after they determined that he was out of his mind, they set off to save Jesus, to save Him from Himself and the uncontrollable crowd.
As they call for Him to come out – as the message is relayed inside, the answer seems almost insolent in response to their pleas. For Jesus says, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”
Some people think that Jesus’ words border on rudeness, on dishonoring His mother.
Yet I think it is just the opposite, for here, once and for all, Jesus doesn’t limit His family, he expands it… to include us!
We, who trust in His faithfulness – who accept and find hope in the promises He makes to us, He was thinking of us, as well as the millions of others in “our family”….
Genetics doesn’t create the closest bonds that a human can know – though perhaps blood does and water…
Not our blood, but the blood of Christ spilled on the cross,
And the water of our baptism – where God promises to unite us to Christ’s death, that we may be united all united with Him as One, in His resurrection!
In uniting us together, in making each of us the place where the Holy Spirit dwells – the Father creates the new temple – place where He will abide forever, a temple not made of human hands, but of His people.
How strong is this bond? What makes it different? That is what we talk of… today!
A Different “Out Look”
When we talk of the relationships we have, as the body of Christ, and how close they are, it is not to mean that we have some romantic idealism that there will never be strains and stresses in our relationships.
I know that I can get on people’s nerves at times, and there are one or two… million people that cause me to struggle. We are people who struggle with sin, and with self-deception and self-centeredness, after all! While we strive to be holy, it is not within our lives, apart from that which is united with Christ!
But that is the point – our bonds are so tight – because in Christ – we have been given a different outlook, a different way to see what is important as Paul states in our reading this morning from 2 Corinthians,
are unseen are eternal
16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal!
Our family, those found in Christ, those who know His incredible love and mercy.. we look at different things that the world that has, as yet, to realize that love.
The more time we spend realizing that we are in the presence of God, not just here on Sundays, but every moment of our lives.. ohhhh how that changes things! First eternally, as we consider promises like 1 Corinthians 2:9
2:9 but it is as scripture says: What no eye has seen and no ear has heard, what the mind of man cannot visualise; all that God has prepared for those who love him;
Given that – our temporary struggles, are simply that, light and momentary afflictions! Yet it is more than knowing that eternity is forever, and that comparing this life to that is not even possible…
This isn’t minimizing the pains of life, but putting them into perspective – it is hard to be mad at someone for being a pain in the neck, when we realize what Christ went through, in order that they know His love, and we can take on the fact that we are getting old – and our bodies don’t work as good as they did when we were in our twenties and thirties,
but our focus, our hopes, what causes us to tick and live and work in God’s kingdom is that we look to that we cannot see – but that we know – the presence of God, which is as real for us now, right now – and every moment of our lives…
Because we have been given the Holy Spirit – promised all over the Old Testament – especially clear in books like Ezekiel, and in the Psalms… made true for us, as Christ promised – the Spirit has come! Again, I love Paul’s way of describing it!
3:3 Once we, too, were foolish and disobedient. We were misled and became slaves to many lusts and pleasures. Our lives were full of evil and envy, and we hated each other. 4 But—“When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, 5 he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. 6 He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. 7 Because of his grace he declared us righteous and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life.” Titus 3:3-7 (NLT)
And even as we share this wisdom, as we share in the gift of the Holy Spirit – we share in it together – for we all dwell together with Him, and the love of God binds us together!
We believe, and We speak…
Knowing this – we begin to understand the start of the Epistle reading:
13 Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, 14 knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. 15 For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.
Paul’s quote comes from a psalm that praises God in the midst of a struggle, in the midst of life, when if we look at life without the lends of eternity, we would nearly give up. It’s not worth the struggle, its not worth trusting God in the midst of temptation, its not worth the pain and anguish of dealing with people that are stubborn, or stupid, or irritating or corrupt…
Yet we know what God can do with such people, as we look at Moses, and David and young Jeremiah and Daniel. As we see what God has done with Peter and Paul, and the visions he gave to a man who was called a son of thunder… and yet… wrote the gospel of John, the gospel of live. In the same way we see it in men who have sinned like Will and Stephen and Chris and I, yet who God has cleansed and called to proclaim His love, His mercy, and His grace…. And to guide people, as they hear of that love, and as we bring you closer and closer to Him! For we trust in Him, and know what He has done in our lives.
He changes us, He causes us to trust in Him, and then He calls us to speak – to assure you, to help you be confident that the very power that raises Christ from the dead – will bring us with Jesus, into the very holy, awesome, presence of God…
both then – face to face- and now, as we serve together – as His grace and mercy extend to more and more people – and as we see them embraced by His love, as we do His will, as the ones we reach out to and we are shown to be the brothers and sisters of the Lord Jesus Christ – His praises arise within us, His glory grows, and we continually thank the God, who has made us us… and causes us to dwell in peace.
And because of that – …our “tradition”
One of the parts of our traditional service – that has grown to be a major focus of our multicultural service in English, is when we realize we are in the presence of God, and I get to declare – as I will in a moment – that the Peace of God is with you always – and the people exclaim “amen”!
The moment then comes – when we take some time – and share with each other –
shén de píng’ān yǔ nǐ tóngzài – the peace of Christ is with you – as we greet each other with this blessing!
This day… it is very appropriate… to end the sermon in this way – as we realize that because we are the brothers and sisters of Christ – as we realize that means we are bonded by Him to each other, in His presence… as we dwell – now and forever In the peace of God which passes all understanding, …
P The peace of the T Lord is with you always!