Blog Archives

It’s time to come home: A sermon on Luke 15

It’s Time to Come Home

Luke 15:1-10

In Jesus Name

 May the grace, the incredible love, mercy, and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, give you confidence and desire to let Him joyfully carry you home!


You are the One:

When you compare the epistle and the gospel lessons this morning, there is a conclusion you can draw that is pretty simple.

Paul didn’t see himself as one of the 99.

He saw himself as the one, the one who wasn’t just lost, but in the process of being destroyed.

He saw himself as the one who was as notorious a sinner as any, yet he realized the incredible patience of God, who searched for him, and found him.

The challenge isn’t thinking we are the ones who get to celebrate Paul’s return, but the fact that we, like Paul, needed to be rescued.  For we like Paul, find ourselves broken, lost and in need of a savior.

And when we trust Jesus, and He joyfully carries us home… then there is a party like none we’ve ever seen.

To get there – there are a few challenges

It’s not “them.”

The first challenge is realizing who we are.  There are two groups mentioned in the gospel.  The first group who work and sincerely dedicate their entire lives to following God’s law – to living as He commanded.  The second group is our group – the group that is notorious sinners.

Now I need to let you know what a notorious sinner is.  It’s not as bad as it sounds…

It’s actually kind of worse.

One of the ways the word is defined in Greek is one who falls off the path, one who can’t stay on it.  We understand that the path is narrow, but I don’t think we realize it is a bridge like this one, with ditches that are about 1000 feet deep to each side.

Sort of like this path in China that they call the glass path.

Here’s another view.

Sin is simply deviating from the path.  It doesn’t matter whether it is using God’s name in the wrong way, murder, adultery or gossip.  It is sin, and you and I fall into it, far too often.

Even as the Pharisees stand there, judging the tax collectors and notorious sinners, they are sinning, denying the very grace of God, the grace they were entrusted with, the grace that should have inspired them to help others come to hear Jesus.

Jesus realizes this, and there is a gentle jab at the Pharisees when he says the shepherd leaves the 99 in the wilderness – for he identifies that all are in the wilderness,

The wilderness – the place of nothingness, the place without any blessing from God.

The ones who determined they are holy enough, that they are truly dedicated to God, find themselves outside… while the sheep who lay dying, is brought home…

And brought home Scripture says – joyfully.

Guess it pays off to admit we need His mercy, that we need God to find us. Doesn’t that sound strange?  That those who depend on their strength are left behind, while those needy are brought to safety and celebration?

There is joy in your transformation

This is the second challenge.  We need to recognize the joy that Jesus has bringing us home and the fact that the work brings more joy to God than the 99 who are righteous. Of course, we know that none are righteous, but even so, the picture of Jesus is one with a grin on his face!

Dad, I’ve brought another one home!

Now imagine him saying it on the cross – it’s finished – Tom’s home, Al’s home, you’ve been brought home.

Remember, the letter to the Hebrews tells us that it was this very joy of getting us into the kingdom of God, bringing us to where we should be, that Jesus endured the cross.

What an amazing thing!

To think that what brings God the greatest joy – and all of heaven with Him is when we trust Him enough to cleanse us, heal us, and bring us into the presence of the Father.

That is what brings God joy, for us to become His children, for us to become His people, for us to realize, and trust the fact that He is our God, our heavenly father.

I don’t know if we understand that all too well.  That when we realize God’s grace, when we have an aha moment when His grace transforms our lives and that is seen, the joy it brings Him and all heaven is greater than our awe, and our joy!

The Feast.

It is so great – that Jesus’s parable mentions a great feast – a great party full of joy, inviting everyone to rejoice with Him.  The same for the lady who finds the reward for her work, that was for a moment – thought lost. They both throw a feast – as they recover something quite precious to them.

I often wondered- for the man who owned the sheep – what did they feast on?  What was the main course?

I mean, it would be a little odd to throw a feast like that and serve lamb chops!

I bring the sermon to a close with this; the man gave his life to bring us home, to carry us with him in His death and resurrection,

and so for this feast- celebrating our homecoming, celebrating our repentant, transformed life, is a feast where the host serves the very best – where He gives His all to us.

His broken body, the blood poured out so that we could be brought home… and this feast is on of great joy, as it celebrates this,

Alleluia! He is Risen indeed
He is Risen!  Indeed!  Alleluia

And therefore,

We are risen alleluia indeed!
And He has brought us home….

Backseat Conversations on the Way to Heaven; V. Where Are We Going?

Backseat Conversations on the Way to Heaven:Concordia Lutheran Church

Where are We Going?
Matthew 22:1-14

 IHS

 

As we journey through this life, may we keep in sight the destination, the place where we realize completely the love and mercy of God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ!

Other Destination Options:

Have you ever been tempted to play hookey from a family gathering?  You’re on your way to your grandparent’s house, and you see how beautiful a day it is, and you think, we could just spend a little while at the park, or maybe the beach?

Or maybe you are working on a project, sewing that new whatever it is people sew and just another twenty minutes and you will finish it!  Or the ball game is on, and you will leave a little later…and make up for it by driving a little faster?

Back when we were kids, and we were about to be stuffed in the back seat together, I bet many of us had a way to stall.  Maybe we didn’t want to get dressed up, Or we blamed our sister for taking too much time in the bathroom.  For me, it usually was – just let me finish the book I am reading!

It’s not that we didn’t know about the feast that awaited us, Grampy’s sausage, or Uncle Wally’s fireworks, or the French Onion Dip and carved turkey?   There were just other things….that seemed important for that moment.

If you did this, and arrived two hours late, were you upset when they didn’t keep everyone waiting for dinner?

Do we play the same game with God?

Do we miss His invitations to spend time with Him, to share the feasts He has prepared, because we have other things to do before we continue on our journey to heaven?

Why Didn’t God wait for Us?

Patient, we hear God is patient.

Abraham and Moses count on it for their people.  Joseph comforts his brothers with the thought of God’s patience.  David praises God for God’s patience with him.  Job depends on it, even when he doesn’t have the answers.  Peter tells us why God is so patient, because God doesn’t want anyone to perish, but all to be transformed and made holy.  Set apart to a relationship with God.

An interesting thought, this patience of God.

Curious, has anyone here ever had someone take advantage of their patience?

How did it feel?

Ever plan and cook a dinner, like the king in the parable, only to have the people choose to do something else?

What if their excuse, like the excuses in the parable, is somewhat weak?  I heard one yesterday, for example, that was that we miss church sometimes because we know church and Bible studies will be here next week, but that other thing, that game, is today.  I need to make this abundantly clear: this parable isn’t just about our church life.

How often do we fail to talk to God, to put our trust in Him for the things we are struggling with? How often do we think we have to find another solution for our problems, a different road to take?  How often will we pass by the opportunity to think and meditate on His love.   Do we find something else, rather than being still, and knowing He is God?

Does being patient cost you something?  Does it ever tear at you, frustrate you, even sadden you?

Have we ever wondered what God’s patience costs Him?

We know being patient costs us, we know the levels of frustration, even pain, as we see people we love do the wrong things.

Things that would so concern God, that He sent Jesus, to live life, to suffer and die on the cross, to make it right…

To bring all who would come, to His feast, to be His family.

The good and bad alike…..all are welcome, all are offered the opportunity to be made ready. Matter of fact, we are sent out to bring them here; to celebrate, to enjoy, to know His peace.

But what are we missing?

If I can go back to the original illustration, we know that there are some things that we miss, when we divert from the original journey, we realize we are going to miss some things.
if we were diverted on our way to Grampy DeLuca’s house, it would mean we would miss Grampy’s incredible Italian sausages.  Even some 34 years later, I can remember walking down the stairs into his basement, where they would be in the oven.  We’d miss Grampy and Uncle Bill, Uncle Butchie and my dad singing. (I’ll actually get to play the piano that I played for them this week. )  we’d miss everyone at peace, the one day when all family fights were given a reprieve, a truce.

I would have us ask what we miss, when we forgo our times with God, whether here at church, or whether it is the time we could set aside for prayer, for spending time meditating on His word, and on the gifts He gives us?  What do we give up?

You see my friends, this is about doing things because we have to do them or we won’t be good.  It’s about doing them for the same reason we go to our family gatherings, a friend’s birthday party, or make time to go to a wedding.  No, Don, it’s not because of the food, its’ because of the love of family, and there is no family closer to us than God.

What we are missing is our time with Him, our time realizing the depth of His love.  Our time where He assures us that it will all be okay, that He has forgiven us and made everything right.  We’d miss the people He surrounds us with to bless us, to help us grow, to give us a hug because they are glad to see us, or to bring us comfort.

When we forgo our time with Him, we miss Him, and all He brings to our life.

These things Paul called the fruit of the Spirit,

22  But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23  gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Galatians 5:22-23 (NLT)

These things aren’t the reason to feast with God, but they are what happens when we do.  The reason is simple… to be in the presence of the One who loves us, who gives us life, who gives us Himself, who makes our lives right…..who feeds and nourishes our Spirit, who lifts us up like no other.

Enough so our souls shout His praises, our hearts trust and depend on His healing and restoration, our minds are transformed, and we begin to see reality differently, His way.  And we hear his voice calling to us, encouraging more people to come to the feast, for it is ready!

Amen!

A Most Precious Gift….to receive often..

 15  I assume I’m addressing believers now who are mature. Draw your own conclusions: 16  When we drink the cup of blessing, aren’t we taking into ourselves the blood, the very life, of Christ? And isn’t it the same with the loaf of bread we break and eat? Don’t we take into ourselves the body, the very life, of Christ? 17  Because there is one loaf, our many-ness becomes one-ness—Christ doesn’t become fragmented in us. Rather, we become unified in him. We don’t reduce Christ to what we are; he raises us to what he is. 1 Corinthians 10:15-17 (MSG)

828      Have you ever thought how you would prepare yourself to receive Our Lord if you could go to Communion only once in your life? We must be thankful to God that he makes it so easy for us to come to him: but we should show our gratitude by preparing ourselves very well to receive him.  (1)

Question:    Who, then, receives such a sacrament in a worthy way?   Answer: Of course, fasting and other physical preparations are excellent disciplines for the body. But anyone who believes these words, “Given for you,” and “Shed for you to forgive sins,” is really worthy and well prepared. But whoever doubts or does not believe these words is not worthy and is unprepared, because the words, “for you” demand a heart that fully believes.  (2)

For it is just this incomprehensible overflowing of God’s goodness, showered upon us through Christ, that moves us above all to love him most ardently in return, to be drawn to him with fullest confidence, and, despising all else, be ready to suffer all things for him. Wherefore this sacrament is rightly called “a fountain of love.(3)

I once was told that if we celebrated the Lord’s Supper to frequently, we would run the risk of it becom

English: The Lord's Supper. Christ standing at...

English: The Lord’s Supper. Christ standing at an Orthodox altar, giving the Eucharist to the Twelve Apostles. Frescoes in the upper church of Spaso-Preobrazhenski cathedral. Valaam Monastery Русский: Алтарная апсида верхнего храма Спасо-Преображенского собора Валаамского монастыря. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

ing normal, not special, reduced in its meaning.  And so we celebrated it once a month, or even worse, once a quarter.

I would later be told that it was the devotion given prior to celebrating the Lord’s Supper that would stop this from happening.  THe weight of preparing those devotions then became crushing, as we believed that what we said could diminish this precious gift of God.

Luther and Escriva both knew well the miraculous nature of the Lord’s Supper, the incredible blessing of communing with Christ, of His giving Himself to us. The treasure of that moment, stilled in time, where life gets its proper perspective, where our eating and drinking aren’t just about our physical bodies needing nourishment, and its not about just our spiritual nature getting a ” holiness booster shot.”  It is about us, and Him, every part of us, all of Him, being united in a way that has been planned from before the foundation of the world.   It is the feast that is now – and not yet, – a full sampling of our eternity, a full revelation of the relationship of God and His people.

We see it even in the Old Testament, this feast of the covenant, this meal of God’s love and mercy;

 9  Then Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel climbed up the mountain again. 10  There they saw the God of Israel. Under his feet there seemed to be a surface of brilliant blue lapis lazuli, as clear as the sky itself. 11  And though these nobles of Israel gazed upon God, he did not destroy them. In fact, they ate a covenant meal, eating and drinking in his presence!   Exodus 24:9-11 (NLT)

God’s plan, a most precious gift, that isn’t about the strength that we do draw from it, nor is it about the transformation that occurs to us, as we live in the presence of God.  it is about the relationship that He has created, the blessing that He wants us at His table.  Though we do not deserve it in our eyes, or in the world’s.  Yet it is for this reason that Christ dwelt among us and died, and rose, and gave us this way to know Him and His love.

So do not fail to gather together with others who know and trust in God’s love, feast together, know He is with you… as you take and eat His body, as you drink His blood.  Taste and see the goodness of God.

AMEN

 

(1)    Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2940-2942). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

(2)    Luther’s Small Catechism: Developed and Explained.

(3)     Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 36: Word and Sacrament II. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, & H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 36, p. 46). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.

The Eucharist: the Strength to Reveal Christ to Others…

English: The Lord's Supper. Christ standing at...

English: The Lord’s Supper. Christ standing at an Orthodox altar, giving the Eucharist to the Twelve Apostles. Frescoes in the upper church of Spaso-Preobrazhenski cathedral. Valaam Monastery Русский: Алтарная апсида верхнего храма Спасо-Преображенского собора Валаамского монастыря. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day:

This can only mean that whenever you eat this bread or drink of this cup, you are proclaiming that the Lord has died for you, and you will do that until he comes again. So that, whoever eats the bread or drinks the wine without due thought is making himself like one of those who allowed the Lord to be put to death without discerning who he was1 Corinthians 11:26 (Phillips NT)

If you don’t keep in touch with Christ in prayer and in the bread, how can you make him known to others? (1)

Though I have been in churches of many denominations and brotherhoods, the three I have spent the most time in, have had something in Common.  The weekly celebration of the Lord’s Supper, also known as Communion, or my preference, the Eucharist.

To be honest, it is something that I took for granted far too often.  The Eucharist was something that when I was younger I thought was a spiritual “fill-up”, an opportunity to refocus, a chance to be reminded of God’s promises, a chance to remember His grace covering my sin, as surely as His blood was poured out on the ground.

You might be saying, well Pastor Dt, that’ what it is all about – isn’t it?  That moment of refreshing, a weekly “mountain top” experience, a break and rest from the norm, and a break from the sin which haunts them.  A chance to really realize what holiness is about…

As we think about what the Eucharist results in, we slowly lose sight about it is…  the Body of Christ, given for us; the Blood of Christ, shed for us…

It is  not just about knowing God’s love – it is time with Him.  A time for His to comfort and cleanse and help us explore with Him the height and depth, breadth and width of  His love, and the Father’s love. A time not just where we are reminded of His covenant and its promises, but where He, Himself, reminds us of that promise – most specifically His loving presence.  That we are His family, called to dinner with Him as the Host…

That is why Paul can say we proclaim His death – it is ours, we who are untied to Him in His death and resurrection (our re-birth)  It is time with Him in that moment beyond time, that foretaste of the feast that will be thrown when we all have come home.   We proclaim it – not just for our benefit – but that others would join us at this incredible moment, in this incredible time with Him…celebrating out union…our being the beloved. It is from there, from that depth of intimacy with Christ, that knowing Him and being known by Him, that the kerygma – the desire to introduce others to Him springs forth.

Not from duty…

But from the passion He has for us, the unbelievable love He has for us….

And we know who we are introducing people to, not just a way to “be saved”, but the God, the incredible, majestic, glorious God who loves them, Who gives them life… and brings them into His glory.

It is where we find the answer to our plea… Lord have mercy….  and know He does that in a way beyond expression… and it is He, even more than us, the is joyous in the reunion.

Godspeed us all to this realization.

Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 396-397). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition

%d bloggers like this: