† I.H.S. †
May the grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ point you out to what is most important in your life!
- The Best Thing in Life – Remain focused on it
In our reading from 1 Corinthians this morning, the Apostle Paul said this:
“3I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me.”
The most important thing.
So for fun, I googled “most important thing” and I came across an article written by Natalya Bannister entitled “What really matters—the 7 most important things in life.”
She has an interesting list.
- Peace!–and she said protect it!
- Health—so much for that one!
- Family and Friendships—not a bad thing to include
- Purpose—so she likes a purpose driven life!
- Time—someone gave me a box of thyme this week… supposed to plant it and wait a while…
- Learning—not education, learning and there is a difference!
About the last one, she said, “I have always said, we were put on this earth simply to love. Love one another, love what we do, love the Earth, and love each moment we are blessed to experience. Love is the most powerful force in the universe.”
That Lady put together a pretty good list.
But I think she’s dead wrong with it.
None of those things is the most important thing in life. What Paul passed on is the most important thing in life.
Let’s read the full thought together:
I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. 4 He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said! (1 Cor. 15:3-4)
That fact is the most important thing you have in your life… well, most of it, anyway.
We’ll need to complete the thought in the rest of the sermon!
- The Best Thing in Life—Eyewitnesses of it
St. Paul describes some of the witnesses of the fact the Christ died, was buried and rose again.
It is pretty extensive, and while not complete, includes some events that show up no where else in scripture!
He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. 6 After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. 7 Then he was seen by James and later by all the apostles.
I really want more information about when Jesus showed up and was seen by 500 people at once. The only time in the scriptures this is mentioned – and there are many theories of when and where. Enough to get side-tracked in a Bible Study for at least 2 hours!
But all these people witnessed the fact that Christ had died, and as importantly, that He had risen!
We need to know both – that He died because we sinned. And that Alleluia! He is risen! (He is Risen Indeed Alleluia!) and therefore… (We are risen indeed! Alleluia!
- The Best Things in Life – Evidence – we all preach the message!
I said earlier that the first quote we started with contained the most important thing in life.. well almost. It read,
I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. 4 He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said! (1 Cor. 15:3-4)
The rest of the thought St. Paul gets to in verse 10.
But whatever I am now, it is all because God poured out his special favor on me—and not without results. For I have worked harder than any of the other apostles; yet it was not I but God who was working through me by his grace. 11 So it makes no difference whether I preach or they preach, for we all preach the same message you have already believed.
St Paul makes the connection between the death and resurrection of Jesus and his own life, and then to our lives.
It is his version of the “and therefore”
God pours out His love and forgiveness as the blood of Christ is spilled upon the ground, as it is sacrificed for us on the cross. He dies and He rises from the dead.
And with Jesus, all who believe are raised from the dead, holy and righteous, for in His death He has separated us from all sin.
This is the greatest, most important, most glorious thing in your life…for it shows you have been given a new life, in Christ, and Christ in you!
Which brings us back to the list….that we saw in the beginning. She was on to something – if you include Jesus
- Peace!—we have it as we are raised in Christ
- Health—we have eternal life in Christ
- Family and Friendships—we have a family of all believers in Christ
- Purpose—we exist to be in communion with God
- Time—eternity in Christ
- Learning—we know God for we are in Christ
- Love!—not that we love… but that He loves us!
So trust in this – Christ has died, Christ has risen, and Christ will come again! AMEN!
“Rain Gear, CHECK!”
1 Peter 1:3-9, Isaiah 43:1-3, Isaiah 48:16a
† In Jesus Name †
In the midst of these storms of life, may the grace, the mercy and the peace of God our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ clothe us, as the Holy Spirit sustains and comforts us, His people! AMEN!
Could this be you?
There you are, hiking at 8,000 feet in the towering pines of the San Gorgonio wilderness. Suddenly, a black cloud rolls over the ridge and within minutes a major mountain storm is upon you.
The last thing you want is to get drenched, so you take off your pack and reach for your rain gear… but you forgot where you pack it! By the time you find your rain pants, the rain has started to soak through your clothing. While searching for your rain jacket you begin to panic, did you pack it at all? Finally you locate your jacket, but you are starting to chill. Shivering you put away all your wet gear you pulled out during your frantic search, then discover the pack cover, but too late, your pack is now thoroughly soaked…
So starts Clyde’s trail chat about a critical aspect of hiking – the Rain Gear – Check! As he told me about it, and we talked about this very sermon, this very day, it became apparent that it was to be the theme for the sermon. Not just preparing you for storms on mountain trails, but preparing you for the storms of life, the very kind of storms we who love him, and know him, have witnessed him endure in this last year, and actually saw him thrive in, in the last weeks and months.
As we talked about this message, Clyde told me of the Rain Gear Checks that caused him to write the article. His infamous “inspections” where he would call for the CHECK, then inspect and share how each person would have survived. Those well prepared would be described in terms of being safe and functional. Others would have lost food but would have been dry, and others would have suffered hypothermia and become a burden to the group of hikers, and perhaps, given the remote nature of some hikes, not survived the vicious mountain storm. Does this lecture sound familiar to any of you?
Clyde the Pastor
I can imagine a fervor in Clyde, to see those he trained to hike, be protected and healthy and well, and to know the accomplishment of a successful hike, even through the storms. I can see that fervor translated into a pretty…. Straightforward and maybe brutal assessment – because he knew the dangers of being caught unprepared in the storm – and to make the scouts uncomfortable before they left, or in practice, was better than being unprepared and suffer on the trail.
It’s that attitude which made him a good friend, and a man I looked forward to serving beside as his “mentor” in ministry, even as he taught me much about life, and faith. And it is the attitude that is behind this sermon. Clyde was very concerned about those who would be here, and where you are at in life. A pastor’s role in serving his community is the same duty as the trail boss on a hike, its ensuring the safety of the group – until it reaches its destination. And Clyde, whether or not he was ordained, as a vicar at Concordia, as an elder and deacon in this place, or guiding a bunch of scouts in the wilderness, is a pastor at heart. He wants you each prepared to survive the storms of life, and to do it in a way, that leaves you able to see the power and majecty, not of the storm, but the one who protects you in it.
Are you ready for the storms? Are you going to survive this storm? It’s time for a spiritual Rain Gear Check…
The Storms of Life
As sure as mountain storms come up both unexpectedly and with a ferocity that overcomes all that is in its path, so too, do the storms of life.
Some storms we create, through our inability to love God and realize that His plan for our life, and our inability to live at peace and love each other. Such storms are based in sin, which can simply be defined as not loving and trusting God, and not loving our neighbors. Sin can cause some of the most vicious of life’s storms, which literally can affect generations, and often – those but innocent victims, caught in the crossfire of others. You can’t prepare against such storms, and often our reactions cause the storms to grow in their strength.
Other storms are not attributable to a specific sin, but are the result of living in a broken world; Illness, economic struggles, natural catastrophes. Such storms happen to those who are right with God, and to those who turn their back on God. These storms loom large and dominate our thoughts and lives.
Like the unprepared person backpacking, such storms cause us to scramble, and trying to find a way to deal with them. We look through our hearts and minds, looking for something that will protect us. If we only scramble harder, if we only create some new way to deal with such storms, if we can only find a way to cope. All the while, the storms are beating down us, wearing us thin, and destroying more and more of our life.
The Answer to the Storm
Clyde knew about storms in the mountains and about storms in life. He knew that surviving was found in knowing that the preparations had been made, and that there was protection and a refuge available. That preparation was the key to the peace we saw in him, in the midst of the pain and the suffering, in the midst of the medications, and the chemo and nausea.
He relied what we see in Peter’s epistle,
In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.
It is our faith, our trust, not in our preparation and our pack, but in God himself, that sees us protected from the storms of life. Christ’s resurrection from the dead, guarantees that Clyde has been raised from the dead as well. Peter’s comment about our new birth into a living hope is echoed throughout scripture, and in one passage in Galatians, is described in this way,
“26 for all of you are the children of God, through faith, in Christ Jesus, 27 since every one of you that has been baptised has been clothed in Christ. “ Galatians 3:26-27 (NJB)
HE is our rain gear, and it is in our baptism that we are dressed with all that it takes to protect us in these storms of life. Perhaps one of the greatest myths about our faith, is that miracles are the effect of strong faith. Yes, miracles happen, but the nature of faith is the assurance that whether it storms or not, we are ready, we will survive, shielded and comforted by God.
Perhaps it is difficult to grasp, but that uniting with Christ’s resurrection is possible because we have united with His death in our baptism as well. Suffering and even death takes on a different focus then. It becomes proof, not just of our faith, but in the faithfulness of the God in whom we trust. Peter said it this way
In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
We begin to realize that incredible truth, that in Christ death’s sting is never permanent, it is never complete. Our friend Clyde, who would ask us to check our faith this day; was sure of the peace that would fully encompass him in Christ.
Ultimately, it comes down to the fact that in Christ, Clyde lives, even more than he lived in our presence. Freed of the cancer that entrapped his body and laid it waste, he is also freed of the sin and spiritual storms of life that had the same effect. He is part of what we refer to in our worship service, where we hear, “with angels and archangels and all the host of heaven…
And as we sing that tomorrow at Concordia, as it is sung here at St. Paul’s, know Clyde is singing it with us, as all the saints of God gather and proclaim God’s power and holiness.
Summary of the Matter…
Here then is the Faith-gear – CHECK. Our faith is not a matter of our own personal strength, but in realizing the power, the peace, the refuge we have in Christ, whose words were written these favorite words of Christ.
The Lord says, “I will not forget you ever, for see, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands…”
For those hands were pierced, so that all that would separate Clyde from God would be found without any power, and that Clyde could rest in peace, witnessing the glory of the one who made the mountains upon which Clyde so loved to hike.
Those hands were pierced for you as well. So that “38 nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39 (NLT)
Clyde, one more time, today, calls us to consider where we are at. To know that the preparations have been made for the storms of life, and to survive for eternity. Having made the journey, he wanted to guide us, and in that, not pointing to our own efforts, but to the cross, and to the baptismal font, where God has clothed us with Christ, and assured us of sharing in His glory, for He has marked us as His…
Trust in Christ then in the midst of this storm, encouraged by our dear friend, rest in the unsurpassable, indescribable peace of God which guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. AMEN?
Keep Your Enemies Closer!
† In Jesus Name †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ transform you into people who call people to come closer… to you… and therefore God!
As I was working on this sermon about Joseph and his brothers, I would type out the title. Thinking about how God was working in their lives, I would look at it, and something seemed wrong.
It was the exclamation point. Maybe it should have been a question mark.
Keep your enemies closer?
Na… back to Keep your enemies closer!
Well, wait a minute… closer! Closer?
Which you think works better as a title might depend on who’s shoes you are wearing and what your agenda is…
But either way – make sure you repeat to those people what Joseph said to his brothers, Please come closer! And bring him here quickly!
Don’t Be Upset – Don’t Be Angry
Even though it has been a decade or more, Joseph knows his brothers all too well.
And he said again, “I am Joseph, your brother, whom you sold into slavery in Egypt. 5 But don’t be upset, and don’t be angry with yourselves for selling me to this place. It was God who sent me here ahead of you to preserve your lives.!
The first reaction to sin is denial, but they cannot do that anymore. The one they sinned against is standing right in front of them! So they go to the second and third steps in the getting caught process.
Fear – pure fear. Translated here as being “upset.” To be caught by the person who you sinned against, and for that person to have all the power and authority to do whatever he wanted to, to you. The amount of fear that would create – could probably be seen and even smelt.
And so Joseph says… calm down, don’t be upset!
The third step for a sinner caught in sin is to beat themselves up over it. We are all pretty good at that, aren’t we?
“Don’t be angry with yourselves!” he says to them – as fast as their mood is changing.
Even as God says that to us today.
Did you sin this week? Did you sell out Jesus? You thought everything would be perfect if you could get rid of God, sending Him away?
You will stand before Him, just as the brothers had to stand before Joseph.
Don’t be afraid or anxious; His desire is to draw you close….
Don’t be angry with yourselves; God the Father sent Jesus into captivity, just as God sent Joseph into Egypt. Hear Joseph’s words again,
God has sent me ahead of you to keep you and your families alive and to preserve many survivors. 8 So it was God who sent me here, not you!
Hear that – as Jesus says it to you from the cross! As Jesus dies, our life would be eternally spent with God the Father!.
God has sent me ahead of you to (the cross) to keep you and your families alive and to preserve many survivors. 8 So it was God who sent me here (to the cross!), not you!
So come closer, and don’t be upset or angry with yourselves…. God is in control….
Our hope – understanding grace like Joseph… bringing enemies near to embrace us!
I can imagine that the brothers saw themselves as Joseph’s enemies when he called them to “come near.” They struggled to believe how blessed they could be in the moment the truth set them free of their past and present sins.
But there he was… just as Jesus is for each one of us today. Ready to cry with joy over us, even as Joseph did as he embraced first Benjamin, then the rest of his brothers.
It is what we need to pray for, for those people who should be our brothers and sisters but struggle as they think they are our enemies.
Even as Jesus brings his enemies closer and reveals us to His brothers and sisters, Joseph could look back at what God did, what He was doing in providing for all the people of God. As He did, he found the ability to trust in God’s plan, in what God provided.
That is how we draw people to Jesus… we fall in love with Him as we see what He is doing in our lives, and we realize “our enemies” need to see it happening to them as well.
In our prayer circle – I had you put two names – the names to pray for, that God would come to be so natural to them… that when they walk through those doors, you dance with joy. These might be the people that betrayed you in your life, the way Joseph was betrayed. Or they may be the people you sold off into slavery. Either way, these enemies are drawn into a relationship with Jesus. Are revealed to be your brothers and sisters!
Call them to come near, tell them, “please come closer!.” Describe what God is doing, how you see God using the worst challenges in life as blessings,
And when that happens, weep because you are so overwhelmed with joy!
God is with you – so calling them to come closer. Praying that they do… is simply bringing them into the presence of God. AMEN!
The Call Never Changes
Isaiah 6 & Luke 5
† I.H.S. †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ sustain you, as you are formed for the works God has planned for you in the future, as you walk with Him through this life!
- Called to Train
Andrew Murray, a 19th Century Missionary from the Netherlands to South Africa, wrote,
“Let the Church awake to her calling to train the feeblest of her members to know that Christ counts upon every redeemed one to live wholly for His work. This alone is true Christianity, is full salvation.”*
While we need to carefully unpack that statement, it is quite true. Every person part of this community, young or old, is called to live for Christ.
Each of you is called to do God’s work, no matter what else you do, no matter where you do it.
The challenge is not to think that serving God is what saves you. Instead, salvation looks like these men’s lives: a relationship like Isaiah and Peter enter into with God. An intimate relationship resulting in a joy found in walking with Jesus throughout life.
And as you are called to walk in this journey, you are following in Isaiah and Peter’s footsteps, for the call never changes…
- Called into God’s Presence
The first part of the call is finding ourselves in the presence of God. For Isaiah, that was the incredible vision of heaven, seeing God in all His glory. It must have been overwhelming, to say the least, to see the angels ministering to God, praising God, seeing how God’s glory envelopes the entire world.
Peter and Andrew’s call was somewhat different. Their call happened at the end of a long night of fishing- long because all their hard work resulted in nothing but sore bodies and frustrated attitudes. As Jesus taught, and then the miracle – catching fish when and where you aren’t supposed to catch fish, led Peter to the same conclusion as Isaiah. “I have been called into the presence of God….”
- Called into God’s grace
Once called into God’s presence, both Isaiah and Peter had the same reaction,
5 Then I said, “It’s all over! I am doomed, for I am a sinful man. I have filthy lips, and I live among a people with filthy lips.
8 When Simon Peter realized what had happened, he fell to his knees before Jesus and said, “Oh, Lord, please leave me—I’m such a sinful man.” 9 For he was awestruck by the number of fish they had caught, as were the others with him.
To me, that they could talk while seeing God’s glory is amazing!
They were both aware of two simple facts…
The first is that God is so incredibly holy and righteous.
The second was how they described themselves.
for I am a sinful man. And I’m such a sinful man.
But that is where the second part of the call comes into play.
For these men were not sinners in the hands of an angry God, they were in the presence of a God determined to be merciful, a God who loved them, a God who had a plan for their life….
And even as they are called into God’s presence, they are called into His grace…into receiving His forgiveness and pardon. Hear that clearly….
He touched my lips with it and said, “See, this coal has touched your lips. Now your guilt is removed, and your sins are forgiven.”
Jesus replied to Simon, “Don’t be afraid!
God doesn’t call us in this life to punish us. He calls us into His presence to purify us, and so both Isaiah and Peter are calmed, and their sin dealt with…so that they can see the last part of their call into the presence of God
- Called to Minister to Others
What happens to Isaiah and Peter next is important.
Not because it happened to them… but because the call of God never changes.
Remember Murray’s statement?
“Let the Church awake to her calling to train the feeblest of her members to know that Christ counts upon every redeemed one to live wholly for His work. This alone is true Christianity, is full salvation.”*
Peter is told he will become a fisher of men, so he will. Isaiah responds to the same call that brought him into the presence of God, saying, Here am I – send me! I often hear that like this…
Send me! Send me! Please send me!
For that is the response. One early church describes it this way,
“The Lord does not say unequivocally whom he is sending. He leaves the matter vague so that the prophet might respond to the call voluntarily. When Isaiah responds, he does not do so out of rashness or overconfidence but out of trust. For his iniquity has been removed, and he has been cleansed of his sins”
And Luther adds, “But to offer one’s service is to say, ‘I’ll be glad to accept if you can use me in this place.’ If he is wanted, it is a true call. So Isaiah said, ‘Here I am. Send me’ [Isa. 6:8]. He went when he heard that a preacher was needed. This ought to be done.”
Sharing God’s love is always a matter of faith – of trusting that God has sent us into that place, using whatever gifts, whatever knowledge we have – no matter whether we are 9 or 90, a preschooler or a Ph.D. A fisherman, a tax collector, a student, a pastor, a financial guru, it doesn’t matter… We are called into this relationship… something so incredible, we need to bless others by bringing them into it.
Most of us will be like Peter, just fishers of men called where we live. As we live, called in the presence of God, saved by the cross of Christ, the end result is fantastic… sinners end up in heaven.
Just like we will be…. So my friends… when you are in the presence of God… hear His call… and go where He sends you…trusting in Him. For you dwell in His presence. AMEN!
* Andrew Murray, Working for God!: A Sequel to Waiting on God! (New York; Chicago; Toronto: Fleming H. Revell, 1901), 35.
 Wilken, Robert Louis, Angela Russell Christman, and Michael J. Hollerich, eds. 2007. Isaiah: Interpreted by Early Christian and Medieval Commentators. Translated by Robert Louis Wilken, Angela Russell Christman, and Michael J. Hollerich. The Church’s Bible. Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, UK: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.
 Luther, Martin. 1999. Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk. Edited by Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann. Vol. 54. Philadelphia: Fortress Press.
Take My Life! What Does that Mean?
1 Kings 19:1-8
† I.H.S. †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ enable you to joyously invite God to take your life and let it be dedicated to Him!
100 years…. A lesson
Church experts, both in Lutheran circles and in other denominations, talk about church life cycles. There is a bit of evidence for this, at least statistically.
Simple theory, the first ten years, the church grows and explodes. The second ten years, it keeps on the trajectory, growing developing programs. In the third ten years, it slows down and loses momentum, and in the last ten, it plummets towards death and closing.
One of the guys who came up with this theory noted that exceptional churches didn’t splash down….they didn’t die.
They simply see God at work still, the God who takes their life. They see God consecrating them as the Holy Spirit making them holy, setting them apart as they dwell with Christ.
That’s how the churches that last 100 years last! They are re-focused on the work of Christ in their midst! They rejoice in the work of the Holy Spirit who dwells in them, the Spirit whose indwelling is the promise of their baptism. The promise that is celebrated as they break the Bread and drink what Christ has provided!
And they live in that joy, loving God who loves them, and with Him, loving their communities, as they teach them all about Jesus.
In the words of the hymn, Jesus takes their life and consecrates it.
When do we pray for God to take our life?
In the reading this morning from 1 Kings, Elijah tries to give God his life.
Hear his words again,
4 But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” 1 Kings 19:4 (ESV)
There are two problems with this, and it is not that he journeyed to Palmdale. 😊
We face both problems, temptations that, if acted upon, result in sin.
The first is asking God to take his life, not from trusting God to do something with it, but from despair.
Basically, he thought it was time to end it all, and we get there at times. As individuals and as churches, we can get to the point where it seems the work is more than we can deal with, that the investment of our time, our hearts, and energy is not there.
And I bet over the last 100 years, there have been times when people in this church felt that way!
“Lord, we’ve been faithful, we’ve supported our school, we’ve bought the new hymnals, we’ve volunteered for the choir, or we’ve held board positions. The church isn’t what it was 30 years ago, or even before COVID struck.”
And so we doubt what God has in mind for this church – that He’s not revealed yet! Elijah was so focused on his energy into the ministry that he failed to see what God was doing through him.
He was relying all on his own power and reason….
And we’ve done the same thing on occasion.
The second error he made is found in these words,
“for I am no better than my fathers.”
While Elijah’s life led him to think he was done because he didn’t have anything left in the tank, the second, deeper sin crept in. He forgot the call on his life and the work that God made. By saying he was not better, he forgot what God was not doing through him but in him.
He was different from his father’s, at least the ones who died in rebellion and sin.
He walked with God, and God guided his way and empowered the victories he had experienced and would experience. His life had been taken and consecrated to God.
Just as God will do so here, in this place…
But we have to see how God ministered to Elijah.
We have to see how God would take his life and consecrate it to him.
How did God consecrate Elijah’s life
We need to see this work of God in Elijah’s life, and then we can see it in ours. For it is the sweet message of the gospel that helps us heal from our sins, the sins of not depending on God for strength, and that of doubting God’s work within us as if God could not consecrate and make us holy.
It happens as a messenger from God came to Elijah, hear again of the words of scripture,
And behold, an angel touched him and said to him, “Arise and eat.” 1 Kings 19:5 (ESV)
He looked – and there was the provision of God for him – enough to get him through the day…
Something to eat, something to drink – provided for him by God, and the messenger simply drew his attention to it. This is what scripture says happened next….
And he ate and drank and lay down again. 7 And the angel of the LORD came again a second time and touched him and said, “Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you.” 8 And he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God. 1 Kings 19:6-8 (ESV)
The journey was too incredible, the messenger said so – so he would eat and drink again. He would then travel to Horeb – to find God and speak with Him, before taking on more tasks.
But there is our lesson – to realize that there are times when we forget what God does through us because we forgot what God does in us.
He takes our lives and melds them to Jesus’s death and resurrection in baptism, recreating us and making us new by the power of His word, for He promised this.
And then He brings us back to remember that, every time we look and rise, take the Bread, and the wine, the Body and Blood of Jesus, given and broken for us.
This is where you will find God taking your lives, the lives of the school children here, and the lives of this community and consecrating them for another 100 years.
This is where you will see that consecration’s impact in this life, as God drives us to others who are broken, to invite them to share in this mystery God blesses us within Christ.
The Apostle Paul explained it this way,
27 To them, God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. Colossians 1:27-28 (ESV)
This is why the Grace Lutheran Church of Lancaster has endured 100 years of heat, good times, and trying times… and what it will do if it endures another 200…
To declare to the people who are in this sanctuary, to the children who sit in those classrooms, to work with the other churches to make it known in this valley, the glory of this mystery;
Christ, who was born of Mary, suffered under Pontus Pilate, was crucified, died, was buried and rose again, and did so to bring you to God the father.
The Spirit united you to Him in Baptism. We celebrate this together, as we arise and eat and drink.. looking forward to the day we will eat at the Wedding feast of the lamb.
This is most certainly true.
So my new friends, in a moment, we will share and celebrate this mystery, as the Lord takes your life and again consecrates it, for we know the Lord is with you! And may the peace of God, which passes all understanding, guards your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus!
He is Qualified… (for what?)
† In Jesus Name†
May the grace and mercy of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ strengthen you and cause you to dwell in His peace!
- We have an applicant!
As we look at Psalm 29 this morning, I want us to consider it as we would a job application.
Our question for the day? Is the person being presented to us a good fit for the position we need to be filled in our church? Are they needed in our lives?
This may seem an odd or different way to look at this scripture. Still, I think in the end, it will prove an important point, that God is qualified., incredibly qualified to be a productive part of Concordia’s team.
- The References ( What do people say about him?)
When I look at a job application, I want to know what people say about the applicant. Is he or she worth interviewing? I may even call their references and former employers before interviewing them. Even in a church, this is true. Do they stand out, does the employer or reference have to think about what they are going to say, or immediately praise them.
Or what if they have to think about it for a moment…. Trying to remember who this is?
Well, King David had no problem serving as a reference for God. In verse 1 & 2, he says,
Honor the Lord, you heavenly beings! Honor the Lord for his glory and strength! 2 Honor the Lord for the glory of his name! Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness!
David isn’t just trying to get the people of Israel to praise God. He is trying to get all of creation to do so!
I don’t think you could get better references, as the angels praise him for his power, ability, and ability to lead. Those are the concept behind glory and strength, splendor.
So, God, the Lord God Almighty, has a solid reputation with those who
- Look at these qualifications!
But David doesn’t leave it at the references,
He will then spend a significant amount of time talking about the qualifications and abilities God has, just by the sound of his voice.
First, David explains it in theoretical terms,
3 The voice of the LORD echoes above the sea. The God of glory thunders. The LORD thunders over the mighty sea. 4 The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is majestic. Psalm 29:3-4 (NLT2)
This talks about sheer power! God’s voice so powerful it can divide the sea, as it did in Moses’ day, and again as Joshua crosses the Jericho River in flood stage! God’s power, simply the power of His voice, creates, Divides, and destroys – as He wills, as He desires!
I don’t think we truly understand the connection between power and ability – but if we are looking for someone to be here, working alongside us, knowing God’s power refers to His ability to work, is something we need to understand.
God has all the ability; we see that as the power of His voice is further described.
5 The voice of the LORD splits the mighty cedars; the LORD shatters the cedars of Lebanon. 6 He makes Lebanon’s mountains skip like a calf; he makes Mount Hermon leap like a young wild ox. 7 The voice of the LORD strikes with bolts of lightning. 8 The voice of the LORD makes the barren wilderness quake; the LORD shakes the wilderness of Kadesh. 9 The voice of the LORD twists mighty oaks and strips the forests bare!” Psalm 29:5-9 (NLT2)
If we weren’t sure of God’s ability and power before, this should do it!
You want a few tables moved around? It shouldn’t be a problem for the God who can make Mount Baldy and Mount San Jacinto play hopscotch. … Hmm, do they still play hopscotch in schools today?
This is actually all child’s play for God, but it gets us thinking about how powerful He is…!
Qualified to do what, though?
As we’ve been considering God’s qualifications to be part of the team at Concordia, there is one thing we haven’t considered yet. His role.
I mean, we’d probably let him have any role He wants, right?
But a good manager helps someone find their perfect role in an organization, if at all possible!
But Psalm 29 includes a description of the job that God wants.
11 The LORD gives his people strength. The LORD blesses them with peace. Psalm 29:11 (NLT2)
There is it… there is what God wants to do to the people of our community through this church.
The Hebrew is exciting in both these words; the strength He wants to give them is His strength! It is the word for protection, protecting them from everything that would assault and stress them out.
It is like God taking us in His hand and protecting them as He deals with our enemies.
He’s taking on the sin that has so easily attached itself to us and freeing us from it.
The second term Is to bless us with peace, to bless us with serenity—something we so desperately need during this broken, messed up world and in the corner of it.
All this work happens because Jesus was lifted up, as it says in the gospel. “so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life.
That is what happened at the cross! That is where His voice was heard, as He pleaded with the Father to forgive us… for we don’t really know what we have done.
That is where our salvation took place. That is where God’s voice was heard; that is where He took us in His hands and gave us peace….
That is where He proved what He is doing here in and through Concordia in this community.
He is qualified to be our God….AMEN!
Encounter God and Live
† In Jesus Name †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ show you how to live!
Two odd focal points
Like most of the gospel, I have preached on reading from Luke before. I thought I had attacked it from every possible point and hadn’t missed anything in the story before.
I did pick up on a couple of things I missed, two different phrases that are repeated twice. I was also trying to work on how you preach on the miracle of someone rising from the dead in the middle of a pandemic. I mean, if there was a time to repeat the miracle in the Valley of the Dry Bones, wouldn’t it be a great thing to do it now?
Back to the two things I missed – these two phrases. As we deal with them, I pray that they will help us learn to live, to really live.
The first is that twice it describes Jesus as being Angry.
The other is a phrase that Jesus uses, that is translated as, “for your sake!”
The gospel records this,
“33 When Jesus saw her weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, a deep anger welled up within him, and he was deeply troubled. 34 “Where have you put him?” he asked them.
Did you catch this?
38 Jesus was still angry as he arrived at the tomb, a cave with a stone rolled across its entrance. 39 “Roll the stone aside,” Jesus told them.
Other translations make this seem that he was simply bothered, that he was upset – and yet word describes someone who is enraged, indignant, and storming about angrily.
Does that make sense? After all, what is he angry about?
My first reaction was the lack of faith, the absolute raw pain he is witnessing! Here he is, and Martha even acknowledges he is the Messiah.
Is Jesus truly mad at the lack of faith?
If so, perhaps he is mad at me for this week. After all, watching the fear and anxiety affect so many has been brutal. Hearing of friends whose families have contracted the virus has been brutal, especially as I can’t go to them, pray with them, give them a hug.
I don’t want to entrust these friends and their loved ones into God’s hands, and that, as brutal as it sounds, is a lack of faith.
Is that the reason God is upset? Because they couldn’t trust that Jesus would raise Lazarus from the dead?
I don’t think so.
But I think we beat ourselves up too often for our lack of faith, and this time is definitely not a time to be doing so…
This epidemic is not about our lack of faith, and God hasn’t abandoned us in this time.
We might not see what He is doing, but that is true in other times of our lives as well.
We have to understand it is okay to struggle, it is okay to ask the hard questions, it is okay to weep, because then, having admitted where we are, we can see Jesus at work.
For your sake
Which is where the other duplicated phrase comes in to play.
Verse 14, “So he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. 15 And for your sakes, I’m glad I wasn’t there, for now you will really believe. Come, let’s go see him.”
and then verse 42, Father, thank you for hearing me. 42 You always hear me, but I said it out loud for the sake of all these people standing here, so that they will believe you sent me.”
When you see these verses bracket this story, it is not a major leap to see that Jesus’ anger isn’t toward those whose faith is struggling. For it is to strengthen our faith that this occurred.
So why would He be mad at the lack of faith?
God worked something out of this situation that led people to have more faith in Him, to depend on Him more than they ever did before.
In this case, it was a miracle, the resurrection of someone dead 4 days.
But that too – was something God had planned – remember – he said we are going to him. Even though Jesus said he was dead, they were going to him.
But that isn’t the end of the story, for God was going to demand more of their faith, which we get a hint of in Thomas’s comment, “Let’s go, too – and die with Jesus.
A Greater Demand on their Faith?
This story is about the fact the disciples would need even greater faith when Jesus dies just a little while after this. They would need to depend on God for the darkest three days of their lives.
Not knowing what any of it meant, not knowing what darkness would hit next…
As God would sustain them during those dark days between the cross and the resurrection –
For that is the place where God’s anger is purged – as the power of death and sin was crushed.
The sin which so separated us from God, and from each other – Jesus’s anger at that sin was made evident, there as He is with those dealing with the consequence of sin, death. He understood that death for the sinner would be final, which is why a short time later, the Father would deal with death through Christ’s suffering and death and resurrection.
He had to do something about the sin and death that so scares and scars us.
And so he did… Jesus would die,
For their sake…
And for ours.
And that is why we have a faith that is stronger, that is why we know we can depend on Him, not just for the forgiveness of sins, but that He will be with us always…
Caring for us, loving us, dying for us…
Alleluia – He is Risen!
and I can’t wait for you to say the next part
He is Risen Indeed Alleluia and therefore we are risen indeed! Alleluia!
Let’s Go See Jesus
A Christmas Day Sermon
† In Jesus Name †
May the Grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ help you to desire to dwell in the presence of Jesus more and more!
How dare they?
How would you feel if you went to the supermarket tomorrow morning, and the doors were locked shut… and not a staff member was to be seen?
And then you headed over to your favorite restaurant, to use the gift card someone gave you, and it was closed.
Frustrated, you start to head home and realized you needed gas, and the gas station was closed, and the pumps turned off.
I imagine that would be the same response as the owners of all the sheep around Bethlehem if they had gone out to check on their shepherds on the first Christmas Day…
Think of it, all these employees just left their jobs, and took off to go see a little baby, lying in a manger? It wasn’t even their own child or grandchild.
But they took off, and they enter the village and go to the stable, and as they stare at this little baby, mumbling about angels, and being woken up from a sound night sleep and praising God for finally sending the Chosen One, the Messiah.
So who was back with the sheep?
Would we dare to leave it all behind?
So here’s my question, knowing what they did, and why, would you leave your work if an angel showed up and told you Jesus was here?
Not some ceramic doll, but if Jesus was truly here, would you leave your Christmas gifts behind, you plan for lunch or dinner? Would you drop all the other “stuff” in your life, would you forget your plans, would you be that irresponsible?
We need to be
If you wouldn’t, or If you say you would do it later, in a day or two, then I have failed our calling. I need to make sure you understand what it means for Jesus to be in your life, for Him to dwell with you!
Enough that everything and everyone else in your life takes second place.
Not just because He forgives your sins, but the real reason, our fellowship with the God who loves us, the God who came to dwell among us, and whom we will dwell with for all of eternity.
That is why He came, and laid there, for shepherds to see, and praise God to all who would listen. That’s what Mary pondered, that this little one she carried would save, not just all of Israel, but people that will be gathered from every language and tribe and tongue.
The one named Yahweh Save, and who is Called God with Us!
This Baby Jesus, who you came to celebrate today, and receive in the sacrament. He is not just the reason for the season, but the reason for your life. A life He longs to share with you, the good, the bad, the sinful, the holy, all of it. He longs to be yours, and you to be His.
So as the shepherds left everything to find that which mattered most, I pray you see Him revealed to you in this message, and in the sacrament, and because of that, in every moment of this day and week.
Knowing you are His, may the peace of God which passes all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.. AMEN!
As Much As
May the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ help you know this.
YOU ARE LOVED BY GOD!
Intro – They Don’t Know His Mind toward them.
In Luther’s Large Catechism, there is this sobering thought:
66 These articles of the Creed, therefore, divide and distinguish us Christians from all other people on earth. All who are outside the Christian church, whether heathen, Turks, Jews, or false Christians and hypocrites, even though they believe in and worship only the one, true God, nevertheless do not know what his attitude is toward them. They cannot be confident of his love and blessing. Therefore they remain in eternal wrath and damnation, for they do not have the Lord Christ, and, besides, they are not illuminated and blessed by the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
The Kathos Key
It is a sobering thought, and yet has to do with the gospel reading this morning. For what the heathens, Turks, Jews and false Christians need to know is what Jesus reveals in today’s gospel reading, the words that give the context to the title, “as much as”.
May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me
God the Father loves you, as much as He loves Jesus!
As much as, to the very same degree, to an equal measure…
God loves you, just as much as He loves Jesus.
“As much as.”
And this is revealed when we see how much we love, how much we are devoted to, how much we care for one another.
This is the very glory that Jesus shares with us, that we are loved, and it is proven in the unity we have with each other. A unity that is often not spoken, but it is so…evident.
and proves the love that God has for us.
When you looked at the apostles, it is truly a miracle that they were of one mind and one heart. There were men that were enemies, such as Simon the Zealot and Matthew the Tax collector. Seriously, both the lesser Simon and Judas from Iscarioth were rebels, they lived and trained to kill those who work with the Romans. No one worked closer than the tax collectors, who grew rich off the people.
Or what about the “sons of thunder”, do you really think they got that nickname because they were so gentle and kind towards each other?
Yet, by the power of the Holy Spirit, they become one in mission and one in heart and mind. The fisherman and the scholar, the enemies, the brothers, and even Peter. Sounds a lot like us, if it wasn’t for the power of the Holy Spirit at work in us.
When we are so desperate, so overwhelmed we listen to God, and hear how he loves us, that love causes what divides us to drift away. It doesn’t matter how much hatred we had toward others, how much sin was in our lives, how depraved and evil someone is, when the love of God cuts through to their heart, that love changes everything.
That is how incredible it is that God the Father loves us as much as He loves Jesus.
As God reveals this love, as Christ hangs on the cross, as He is in the grave, as His rises. The Spirit reveals it to us, as our hearts are cut open, and all that which is broken begins to heal as we are untied to Christ in our baptism, and here at the altar, as we receive His body and blood.
Impact – so that’s!
We see it at work, as we don’t want to stop until we have past God’s peace to every person in the church. We see it as we kneel at the altar together. I dare say it would be more than awkward to commune next to someone we are pissed off at! But somehow, as our sins are forgiven together, there is healing of our relationships.
And the world, seeing this, realizes that Christ came for them all.
For such unity is not natural.
It is Godly though – and people will praise God because of what they see Him doing in us. And that is a witness to the world, just as Jesus prayed it would be.
God has made us one, as He loves us as much as He loves Jesus…..and we will be with God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, for eternity.
And so, along with knowing Jesus asked the Father for this kind of peace, I end with one of the prayers and the words that follow of St Paul,
5 May the God who inspires men to endure, and gives them a Father’s care, give you a mind united towards one another because of your common loyalty to Jesus Christ. And then, as one man, you will sing from the heart the praises of God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. AMEN!
So open your hearts to one another as Christ has opened his heart to you, and God will be glorified.
Romans 15:5 (Phillips NT)
Concordia’s Service on Sunday May 12, 2019
More Blessed to Give than Receive!
† In Jesus
May the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ so transform your life, that you just don’t know it is better to give than receive, but that you give yourself completely…
If there is a day that I don’t have to look far for a sermon illustration, today’s sermon passage from Acts 20 is it. Here is the primary verse for the passage…
“It is more blessed to give than to receive”
and then think
Hmmm… could there be a connection there? You know, those ladies who have given so much, and whom most of us have benefited from,
Most of us struggle to really understand this passage but if there is a group of people who do, it would be moms! Been watching a lot of pics on FB this week, of friends whose kids are graduating college. The largest and perhaps the quietest, proud smiles are on the faces of the moms. Heck, half the time, they are the ones taking the picture! The same for my cousins, putting up pictures of their sons and daughters at recitals or ball games! I think they find more joy at the moment than their children do, and the sacrifices, well are forgotten.
Mom’s give a lot, and some of them, when their children succeed, or simply have learned that lesson that was so hard to teach them, find their reward, and know the sacrifice was worth it.
So they have a small grasp on what it means when Paul mentions Jesus’ teaching on “it is more blessed to give than receive.”
And yet, there is more to it, as we shall see.
The struggle and the answer
The challenge of understanding these simple words is that most of us don’t recognize when someone is sacrificing something in order to help us. We didn’t see our mom’s at the end of a long day, cleaning the house, or doing the laundry.
We don’t understand why they would work so hard, or our fathers would work so hard, until we faced the same thing, until we wanted something for our children, for those we care for… then sacrifice became the norm, often without even thinking.
Yet prior to that, we assumed that was our mom’s role. That is what parents do, they are supposed to wrap their lives around us kids. They are, along with our grandparents, supposed to spoil us rotten.
And when they disciplined us, we never understood the phrase, “this is going to hurt me more than it hurts you….”
But it did….
Well, I think it did!
But we have to encounter the need to sacrifice out of love, we have to have it happen naturally before we understand it… or at least experience it. It has to get by that part of us that wants to get, get! Get!!
That part of us that is sure what we want is best, that we know what is right, and that throws a tantrum. What? You don’t think adults throw tantrums?
We are quite good at it!
Look at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or listen to conversations at Starbucks or a bar if you don’t believe me!
Remember, we are called to love. Love our moms, our spouses, our families, our friends, neighbors and enemies…
That means we can grow in this blessing of giving more than we receive.
Let me give you an example.
Susan, last year when Ethan one of your preschool students ask you to be his sponsor when he got baptized.
Did you think about how much you and your teachers invested in Ethan? Of the time you taught him about Jesus, or held his hand on the way to chapel? Or were you just in awe of being asked?
That is what it means, that it is better, it is more of a blessing to give than receive!
Context! Context! Context!
And that brings us back to the context of our passage.
You see, Paul isn’t talking about being a mom to the leaders of the church in Ephesus. He’s talking about shepherding them, about their need to shepherd the people God entrusts to them…. About our sharing Christ’s love, no matter the cost, with the people God brings us into contact with.
He says this,
24 But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.
Ultimately, that is our job, to help all of “our” kids know that God isn’t going to “get them” when they screw up, but that He wants to fix what they’ve broken. A relationship, a level of trust, their own internal life.
Because that is what the cross was about, the ultimate lesson in the idea that it is more blessed to give than receive.
For we received the forgives of sin, and the promise of everlasting life, the ability to know that God will be there for us, with us.
And Jesus gave His life so that God the Father would gain a family of saints. Including all that depend on Him.
For that is what faith is, realizing how much God has promised, and depending on Him to provide it. The forgiveness of all sin, the promise of eternal life, and the promise of His walking with us now.. even as we learn to give the gift of salvation to others.
This is what Paul wanted to give everyone the knowledge of, and as he did, as Susan did, as I have done, we realize what it means that it is more blessed to give than receive.
As we do we realize, as we see it over and over become real to others, that it is in giving that we realize how precious the peace of God is that He draws us into, a peace that goes beyond all understanding, even as, like a mother hen, He protects our hearts and minds in that peace. AMEN!