​May 15, 2022 5th Sunday of Resurrection







Let us pray: We acknowledge and thank You, O Gracious God, for Your overflowing and undeserved love for us. May we live every day in the assurance of that love until that time when You call us to be with You forever. Bless the hearing and proclaiming of Your Word that we might see our sin and Your forgiveness, that we might be encouraged and strengthened to proclaim the precious Gospel of Jesus Christ in whose name we pray. Amen.




Grace, peace and mercy be unto you from God or Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.




Our message this day is from the inspired, inerrant and infallible Word of God as recorded in the appointed Holy Gospel, the 13th chapter of St. John, verses 31 through 35, hear again the words of our blessed Lord from verse 34, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another”




This far our text




St. Augustine said, ’It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has the eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. This is what love looks like.”




In our text today we have what is often called the eleventh commandment, the command to love. Yet our direction to love is not a law but an example. What

St. Augustine said is descriptive of Jesus, for it was and is Jesus who has the hands to help, who has the feet to come quickly to the poor and the needy, who has the eyes to see misery and want who has the ears to hear our sighs and sorrows.




To see Jesus properly is to see LOVE. Nowhere in Scripture do we find that Jesus ever turned away from anyone who came to Him truly seeking help. But there is more-----He also sought those who did not seek Him, He sought those who hated Him and persecuted Him. It is in Jesus Christ that we have the perfect example of love in action.




In order to understand our text, we have to look at the events preceding the text. It was Maundy Thursday; Judas had just left the upper room to go out and betray Jesus. It was then that Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him.”

What is this??? Jesus sees Himself and the Father being glorified by the betrayal? The betrayal by JUDAS assured the death of Jesus. His actual redemptive work now begins.




Truly, this was a glorious time because the passion and death of Jesus and His determination to endure it all are the most perfect display of His obedience to the heavenly Father. This perfect obedience by Jesus is an act worthy of praise and honor beyond any other act in all of creation.




Only hours before His death, Jesus says in our text, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”




Why does Jesus give this commandment to His disciples and not to the world?? It would have been useless to give it to the world for only those who experience the love of Jesus can have any idea of what He means by the word love.




Love is not a new commandment. We see it in the Old Testament. In fact, in explaining the Law Jesus says, in Matthew 22, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”




In our text then, to love is not a new commandment. Jesus wants His disciples to love in a new way. It always was through love that God the Father sought the salvation of mankind, but Jesus has brought this perfect love into the world. He always has been and is yet today the perfect example of true love.




As we hear in Ephesians 5, “Be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love as Christ loved us. If we are going to attempt to love as Jesus loved and does love, then in all aspects of life we must attempt to follow the example of our blessed Lord.




We must follow His example of meekness as He says in Matthew 11, “take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart. Meekness has disappeared from the vocabulary of many people today. In fact most people seek greatness, not meekness. Why if I am meek people will run all over me.




To be gentle does not mean that we become a doormat for others. Rather it means that we have compassion, that we are truly concerned about others. For those of us who took a meal to the residents of Friendship house once a month and helped with other projects like painting picnic tables and moving dirt, that was being compassionate and I don’t know about you but I always thought I was the one being blessed.




It was of course because of love that Jesus suffered and when we put our love for Him into practice, we might well suffer. But we count it all as joy as Jesus says in the 5th chapter of Matthew, “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.”




In everything, day in and day out, we are to follow the example of our Lord as we hear these words of assurance and comfort from Jesus in Revelation chapter 3, “The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.”




Many other examples could certainly be quoted from Scripture, but they all can be summed up by saying in every situation in life, we should ask ourselves what would Jesus do? This has been a popular question over the last twenty years or so but it was first used in 1881.




If we answer that question properly then we will know what course of action to take in every situation. This is not some philosophy of life it is the theology of life. Not only should that be the ideal, but it should be the practical.




You and I often perhaps very often today come into contact with people who are associated with heathen churches. The correct meaning of heathen is anyone who is not a Christian and that includes many who claim to be in Christian churches. Anyone who accepts what is conflict with God’s Word is truly a heathen because one cannot be a Christian and go against God’s Holy Word.




When we encounter such people our mission is to share the truth of God’s Word. It all comes back to the very basic teaching that the Bible is God’s Word. Could God then have in the Scripture anything which is not true? Of course not. Some years ago, a so-called Lutheran publication printed an article by someone who was identified as a Lutheran pastor.




He suggested instead of teaching abstinence in relation to premarital sex we should teach responsibility.

This is the logic of the world but it is totally at odds with God’s Word. If we followed the Biblical teaching that all sex outside of and one with whom you are married, there would be almost no unwanted pregnancies.




You see the government in many states is now trying to regulate abortion and we applaud that the fact that it is the state not the federal government which has the right to do this. But if people had sex the way God intends there would be no need for abortion.




That is but one example of what is happening in our world that is against God’s Word and it is our responsibility to speak the truth but we do it in love. This we must always do.




In the last verse of our text we have already heard Jesus say, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” The argument is that we are to love other Christians and we are but that does not mean we exclude those are not Christians. Have we forgotten the words of Scripture in Romans chapter 5, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”




Thank God that He loved us before we loved Him. Hear from Jesus in the sermon on the Mount, “I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.” This is not an option for us. This is one of those hard sayings of Scripture, but Jesus means what He says. Love your ENEMIES, pray for those who persecute you.




Again, brothers and sisters this is not an option for us, we must love all people. Our love extends to all people because Jesus extends His love to all people, as He Himself said, “I when I am lifted up from heaven will draw all people to myself.”




He did not die on that cross for white middle class American Missouri Synod Lutherans only. He extends His love to Roman Catholics, to Mormons, to devil worshippers, to prostitutes, to thieves, to murderers, to terrorists, to criminals of all kinds, or to be clearer, He extends His love to every single human being. That does not mean that all people are saved, but He still loves them and so MUST WE.




For emphasis we hear again what Jesus says in our text, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Make no mistake about it the world is watching. The love which is in us is not some type of love which might be found in society.

Speaking of Christians, the scoffer Julian in the late 14th century said, Their Master has implanted the belief in them, that is Christians, that they are all brethren.” That is true for we consider ourselves one with Christians all over the world.




We do not follow the perfect example of Jesus so that the world will say, Oh there goes another Christian. But we do the best we can do as sinful people so that the world will see that we have something which they do not have and so that they might desire to have what we do have which is eternal salvation and peace with God.




In all we do we must attempt to follow Christ to the glory of God. Much of this message has been a call for us to do something, to change our lives so that we become more Christ like.




It must be stated that this is not the false doctrine of salvation by works, No it is the doctrine the Biblical doctrine of works BECAUSE of salvation. If as followers of Jesus we do not display meekness, practice service, gladly suffer persecution when it comes and persevere how can we expect the world to do those things?




Our love is rooted in the soil of faith and so it will grow until it reaches full bloom in heaven. And mark this well, we are not on our own, it is the Holy Spirit who gives us the ability, the power, to follow the example of Jesus and to be an example to others.




Jesus was telling His disciples in our text that He loved them in a special way and that they must love one another.




He also loves us in a very special way, He suffered and died for us, He brought us here today, He comforts us and provides for us and sharing in His love, we must love all other people. His love must flow through everything we do.




Jesus is the perfect example of what we should be, what we can be and what we will be. It all centers in love as expressed in the words of a hymn we all probably learned as children, Jesus loves me. God grant that we might forever live a life of love.




AMEN,




May the peace of God which is beyond all human understanding truly keep your hearts and minds in and on Jesus now and forever. Amen.




















































































































 May 8, 2022 4th Sunday of Resurrection




Let us pray: Heavenly Father we rejoice that through the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ we have been brought into a loving and saving relationship with You. May Your holy Word this hour cause us to seek that which You would have us to do and may our lives bring honor and glory to You. This we pray in our blessed Savior’s name. Amen.




Grace, peace and mercy be unto you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.




Our message this morning is from the inspired, inerrant and infallible Word of God as recorded in the Holy Gospel, which we have just heard but hear again these words of our living Lord, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”




This far our text.




A woman travelling in the West and enjoying the unsurpassed beauty of the mountain scenery rounded a curve and was surprised to see that the road ahead seemed to end in the face of the mountain.




The road narrowed to one lane and as she drove closer she saw a sliver of an opening into a tunnel. It was so narrow that it looked impossible to drive through without scaring the rock walls.




Then she could see a hand-lettered sign to the right of the tunnel entrance left by someone who had passed that way before. It proclaimed, YES YOU CAN.




This is the message of our text for today. YES YOU CAN be certain of salvation, YES YOU CAN make it through the eye of the needle into heaven, all because our Good Shepherd, has passed the way before us. He has left a sign for us it is His Holy Word, we call the Bible which proclaims from Genesis through Revelation, YES YOU CAN.




We heard it in the morning Psalm, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not be in want.” It was in the Second Lesson from Revelation, “the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd,” In the Gospel Jesus tells us, “My sheep listen to my voice.”




This image was in our sermon hymn which is based on the 23rd Psalm and from another familiar hymn, “Savior, Like a Shepherd.” It is customary to use the 23rd Psalm at funerals. Why do you suppose this image has such power over us?




Even though many people today, the majority, in fact, probably have no first-hand knowledge of a shepherd and his sheep, still in our troubled world especially, when we hear of Jesus as our Shepherd, is it not a pastoral scene, which is a picture of peace and tranquility, is that not the scene we envision?




In last week’s message we heard about having a vision and seemingly being transported to the throne of heaven when we hear certain words of Scripture and so when we hear of Jesus as our Good Shepherd, do we not picture ourselves in a sort of heaven on earth?




As we go through our text his morning, we will see that we are in fact like the sheep whether our vision is of an animal which is soft, clean and rather docile or if it is an animal which is dirty, lost and stubborn.




The Psalm begins, “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.” Since Jesus is our Shepherd, it only follows that we shall not want. Wait a minute. Does this mean we shall never want for anything?




Probably almost every person here wants something that they do not have. There may be some here who want better health. There may be some who want new clothes, or a new house or some other material thing.




There are even Christians who do not have enough clothes or food and they most definitely want those things. I hope that there are things we want for this congregation which we do not currently have. What then do these opening words of the Psalm, “I shall not want” mean?




The explanation begins with the next verse, “He (The Good Shepherd) makes me lie down in green pastures.” We would do better to have the word meadow instead of pasture since the green pasture is a reference not to food but to a place of rest.




Sheep do not graze when they are lying down. And then the Good Shepherd makes us lie down not only in a green meadow but also beside the quiet waters or the still waters. The quiet, still waters invite us to rest also.




In a tumultuous and turbulent world, too many people are as those described in Isaiah, to whom God said, “This is the resting place, let the weary rest"; and, "This is the place of repose"-- but they would not listen.”




For those who will listen the Good Shepherd says to us as He said to His disciples long ago, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest." Those who do this will find themselves in the green meadows and beside the still waters and they will be able to echo the words of the Psalmist, “Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.”




Our text then tells us that the Good Shepherd “restores (our) soul.” To restore is to revive a soul that is burdened with sin. It was through Holy Baptism that our soul was first revived.




And now, Jesus, our Good Shepherd, revives, restores us when in contrition we come to Him and so we shall never want, that is, whenever we come to Him, He will restore us. And along with this restoration the Good Shepherd will, “guide us in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.”




The path of righteousness is the right way; the path we are to take as the children of God. Now that Jesus has restored us, He will show us the way to go. It may not be the way we want to go or the path we want to take, but we must keep the image in our mind that Jesus as the Good Shepherd is going on before us and He will not lead us into that which is harmful to us. Rather, He will guide us in the right way “for His name’s sake.”




That is, He will do it because He is God and how could He possibly lead His children on the wrong path? Has He ever done so in the past? No, and He never will. Scripture tells us, “the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.”




If Satan should be waiting for us around the corner, Jesus will keep us from turning the corner. When we come to a fork in the road in any decision in life, we need to listen to Jesus who will guide us to take the correct path.




We have said or heard the 23rd Psalm countless times, for it is a psalm of assurance, it assures us that YES YOU CAN. If you were to die tonight and God says to you, why should I let you into my heaven, what would you say? God would never ask a question like that, but can you be sure right now that you are going to heaven?

YES YOU CAN, because Jesus has promised to you and to me and to all who truly believe in Him and listen to Him that there is a place in heaven for all follow Him. Sinful though we be we have the assurance that our place in heave has been secured through the sacrificial death of the Lamb of God.




Well, my dear brothers and sisters, no matter how much faith we have, we are still human. By faith in Christ we are made new creatures but what that means is that our souls have gone from death to life. And by God’s grace we will continue to become more like Christ although we will never attain perfection in this life.




Continuing in our text we hear, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death.”




The image here is that the sheep may be reluctant to go through dark places where they may hear the cry of wild beasts. For you and I the valley of the shadow of death does not refer exclusively to earthly death, although that is included, but it is also a reference to any and every situation where darkness and terror surround us.




That darkness and terror includes any situation in which we are being crushed by the adversities of life; when we see a child of ours involved with stealing, drugs, or sexual immorality; when we are financially destitute, and certainly for children the valley of the shadow of death is when their parents are getting divorced. For young people that valley might be peer rejection or uncertainty about their first job.




Those dark and terrifying moments are certain to come to each one of us. And so the question is can we get through this situations and a thousand more? YES YOU CAN, you can I can be certain of God’s grace as long as we listen to our Shepherd.

As we hear in our text, “your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Of course the rod and the staff in and of themselves could not provide comfort, the all-important thing, the thing that brings the sheep complete assurance is the very presence of the Shepherd Himself.




So with absolut assurance we say to Jesus our Good Shepherd, “Thou art with me.” In the darkest night of tribulation and even in the face of physical death, The Good Shepherd, the Lamb of God, is with us as He has promised, “I am with you always.”




Our text continues with these words, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.”

In applying this portion of the Psalm to ourselves; the world may see themselves as victorious over us but Jesus our Good Shepherd will prepare a banquet table so that our enemies can see how He cares for us, loves us and delivers us.




In our worship services our Good Shepherd prepares a table before us as we are privileged and blessed to partake of the Lord’s Supper. When Jesus rose from the dead that was the festival table prepared in the face of the devil.




And when Jesus is our Good Shepherd, “Surely goodness and love will follow us all the days of our life.” Whatever trouble comes our way in this life, no matter how dark and troublesome the road may be, yet Jesus has already gone before us and we do not need to watch our back because His goodness and love will follow us.




Our relationship with our Good Shepherd does not end with this life. Quite the contrary, if we listen to our Savior and follow Him in this life then with confidence and in joy can we say, “I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”




In this life we, like the sheep, are prone to wander from the flock. We are at times stubborn, headstrong, willful creatures. How true it is that in the words of Scripture, “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way.”




And yet in spite of all of our sins, all our wandering away from following our Lord and Savior, in spite of all of this, on this very day, Jesus through His body and blood would assure us once again of forgiveness for every sin and make us pure and holy,




He would make our robes white because our Good Shepherd wants to present us to Himself “as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.’




Our assurance is that in truly listening to the voice of our Good Shepherd we will never be forsaken. At all times and in all places and all situations, let us hear our Lord , our Good Shepherd saying, YES YOU CAN, because I am with you and I will never leave you.

Amen.




May the peace of God which is beyond all human understanding keep your hearts and your minds in and on Christ and Him alone, now and forever. Amen.


































































































































May 1, 2022 3rd Sunday of Resurrection





Let us pray: Most Gracious Father in heaven, as we continue to contemplate and celebrate the solemnities of our Lord’s resurrection, grant that our souls may be forever filled with the blessed news that because He lives, we live. Keep us in the one true faith until that day when we shall be in the courts of heaven there to give praise eternally to You. This we pray in our risen Savior’s name. Amen.




Grace, peace and mercy be unto you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.




Our message this day is from the inspired, inerrant and infallible Word of God as recorded in the appointed Second Reading from Revelation the 5th chapter, verses 11 through 14, hear again from verse 12, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!




This far our text.










When we hear these words from Revelation, are we not given to a heavenly vision? It is as if at that moment we are transported from our familiar sometimes humdrum world of sound and sight into that glorious new world of ecstasy where God in all His majesty and holiness is truly present, and where spontaneous praise flows from our deepest being.




In Psalm 96 we are told, “Splendor and majesty are before (the Lord); strength and glory are in his sanctuary. Ascribe to the LORD, O families of nations, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength. Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; bring an offering and come into his courts. Worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness; tremble before him, all the earth.”




The church today rarely speaks of the majesty and the awesomeness of the Almighty God and we are the poorer for it. In a poor comparison this is like the relationship between parent and child.




Some parents want to be their child’s buddy. Now it is good for parent and child to do things together and yet if the parent becomes too much of a buddy, the proper relationship is destroyed and parent and child will both suffer.




Yes, Jesus is our Brother, He is our Good Shepherd, He is always with us to guide us and we have the privilege of coming to God with all of our needs and wants, knowing that He will not only hear us but He will answer us,




However, that does not mean that we should try to put God on our level, for He is the all glorious God of eternity and we must not diminish our consideration of His glory, nor dare we fail to meditate on His majesty. Indeed, in the Book of Ephesians, we are told, “to God be glory in the church …throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”




It was God Himself who said, “Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted in the earth.” And then this charge is given to us from the Book of Psalms, “Give unto the Lord the glory due unto His name; worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.”




In our text once again we hear, “I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice,




“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,

to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might

and honor and glory and blessing!”,“




When we hear these words we should let them flow over us like a waterfall to saturate every fiber of our being as we in our mind’s eye visualize the majesty, the holiness and the glory of Almighty God and we should be open to letting our mind imagine that we are among those before the great throne of God singing of Him and to Him who was raised for our justification, “Worthy is the Lamb.”




If we are so filled with God that He permits us to seemingly be transported to have a vision of the courts of heaven, the problem is that like St. Peter, when he took his eyes off of Jesus and began to sink in the water, the vision of the glory of heaven all too soon fades from us and we are back to business as usual. Doing the laundry, going about our chosen field of endeavor, doing schoolwork, coping with bills, illness and the unexpected.




Is this what life is meant to be? The regular and the routine earthly things and even the non-routine things like tornados and earthquakes, and hurricanes interrupted only occasionally by a glimpse of the heavenly?




Is there any way that the realities of eternity can shape and enliven the present moment even when the alarm rings on Monday morning? Can these moments of inspiration be sustained? Can heaven come to earth?




What makes the heavenly scene we have been talking about so awesome is the central focus of the “Lamb who was slain.” Heaven indeed comes to earth first when we catch that central focus.




What is the emblem of our faith? It is not a flower even though our Lord spoke of the lilies. It is not a star even though it was that which guided the Wise Men to the birth of the Lord. And for Lutherans it is not a man with a rounded waist and a lethargic repose. The emblem of our faith is the cross on which the Lamb of God was slain.




Of all the things Jesus did, we cannot escape the fact, nor would we want to, that He suffered and died for our sins. “Worthy is the Lamb.” Through His death and resurrection we have been put back into a right relationship with God the Father.




If we keep this uppermost in our minds every day of our lives, in every situation, we are set free from the burden of trying to win God’s favor.

Even coming to church is for many a way to try and satisfy their obligation to God. If I give God an hour a week, He will be satisfied with me and will take me to heaven. Oh how sad. If someone comes to church for that reason.




How many times must we hear that we cannot pay what we owe God, we cannot satisfy the obligation which is the very reason that the Lamb of God came to earth to take our place. May God have mercy on us if we believe that coming here to worship will in some way assure our place in heaven.




It is difficult enough trying to prove our worth to those around us. On one tombstone was engraved the following, “Here lies William Brown. He lived past threescore and ten and never missed a day of work.” This shows the extremes to which some people go to justify their earthly existence. Even among those whose achievements exceed a perfect work record there is still a certain apprehension about whether or not a person has really done all one might have done.




It is the vision of the resplendent God, on the throne, surrounded by the 24 elders and the living creatures, this vision of the holy God which also included a vision of the “Lamb who was slain.” This is the living God who was in the words of Second Corinthians, “reconciling the world to Himself in Christ.”




And so instead of trying to win God’s favor, we see the God who pardons us and welcomes us solely because of the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. When we see that vision then gone is the need for us to try and prove ourselves, to justify ourselves, to make ourselves acceptable.




That vision puts us at peace with God. And now we are able to radiate that peace to others through our words and our actions. Now we can live as truly free people, now can our lives be filled with joy and peace.




Jesus taught us to pray, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” God wants His will to be done on earth through us, but when we look at the degree of crime, immorality, greed, injustice and all the other evil which confronts us, where do we begin?




We confess with Luther, “With might of ours can naught be done. Soon were our loss effected.”

And yet our text reminds us that the resources we need reside with us, and even more than that the resources reside WITHIN us, for they are found in the Risen Christ, who lives in us and to whom we are told belongs the “power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise.” This is why Luther continues, “But for us fights the valiant One, Whom God Himself elected. Ask ye, Who is this? Jesus Christ it is.”




Jesus must win the conflict, every conflict, because as we are told in our text, He has the power, the strength of God that broke the power of death in the Resurrection. He has the wealth—no claim can be made that He cannot satisfy.




He has the wisdom; this means among other things that He has the solution to every problem. Oh, mark it well, since Jesus does live within us, we have within us the solution to every problem. No, not just the problems that we can comprehend, but also those beyond our comprehension.

Jesus has the strength as evidenced by the fact that according to His human nature, He resisted every attack of the devil. Again, that means that we can resist the devil, we do not have to give into temptation,




Scripture tells us, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” Jesus has the honor as seen in those who are not His followers and yet respect Him and also as we are told in Scripture, “He sat down at the right hand of God.” That is the place of honor and power.




Jesus has the glory for what man other than Jesus could ever say, “He who has seen me has seen the Father.” And He certainly has the praise. In addition to the heavenly hosts there are countless millions on the earth who have tasted of the goodness of Jesus and they lift their voices in continual praise of Him who was slain. So we who have tasted the goodness of the Lord should lift our voices in praise of Him.




It is when we use these resources of the living Jesus that we become an extensions of Him to those around us. Did He not say, “You are the salt of the earth…you are the light of the world.” So heaven comes to earth as Christ through us comforts the pain, alleviates the misery and removes the troubles of people.




The most glorious harmonies that have ever come from Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Mendelssohn and even the mighty Messiah of Handel, cannot compare in the least to the musical adoration of God which occurs in heaven. Although they give us but a faint glimpse, they do stir our emotions and if these earthly compositions are echoes, what must the reality of heaven be?




In a familiar old hymn we sing, “When morning gilds the skies, My heart awaking cries, May Jesus Christ be praised.”




And so He is and forever shall He be praised. The closing stanza of that hymn says, “Sing sun and stars of space…God’s whole creation o’er, today and tomorrow shall Jesus Christ be praised.” Every single aspect of the creation does indeed, day in and day out sing praise to the Lamb who was slain.




Our text puts it this way, “I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb

be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”.”




The tiny sparrow and the mighty eagle, the thousands of microbes in a drop of water, the mighty wind, the sand on the seashore, the stars, the cattle on a thousand hills, the majestic mountains all sing a hallelujah chorus to God by being what He intended them to be.




In a similar fashion we who have been created in God’s image and born again through the saving work of Jesus Christ join that chorus as through God’s Word we are privileged to guide people to the golden streets of the heavenly Jerusalem.




We who are destined to be in that vast company of heaven standing before the great white throne of Him whose glory the heavens cannot contain, we can already sing heaven’s new song, “Worthy is the Lamb! Blessing and honor, glory and power! Forever and ever!”




Already in this life, when we contemplate and visualize the thousands and thousands and even tens of thousands gathered before God in joyful assembly and recall all that the Lamb of God has done for us, continues to do for us and will do for us, and realize that we will one day be in that heavenly paradise for all eternity,




then will it be, already on this earth, that we will truly be able to rejoice, give thanks and sing. “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise! Forever and ever. Amen.




May the peace of God which is beyond all human understanding keep your hearts and your minds in and on Christ now and forever. Amen.  



















































April 24, 2022 2nd Sunday of Resurrection




Let us pray: We rejoice, O Lord, that we are able to once again proclaim the truth that You have risen from the dead. In our meditation this hour bring us to assurance that because You live, we live. So fill us with love and devotion to You that we might ever make the good confession that You are our Lord and our Savior. In Your holy name we pray. Amen.




Grace, peace and mercy be unto each one of you from the Triune and Eternal, the only True God




Our message this day is from the inspired, inerrant and infallible Word of God as recorded in the appointed Second Lesson, the 1st chapter of Revelation, hear again from verse 5and 6, “To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood… to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”

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References for Revelation 1:6

Footnotes




This far our text.







There is a door at the end of each life through which all people must pass. It does not matter who you are, who you know, what you have done, how much influence you have or what you have learned; How many material things you have accumulated; whether you are rich or poor, Christian or heathen, and that includes us, for each and every one of us the door is waiting. It is marked, “death.”




It has our name on it. No one else can pass through it for us or with us. And once we have passed through that door, it closes behind us and there is no turning back. The question is, what is on the other side of that door???




Some have passed through that door, we might even say the majority of people have passed through that door and they have found themselves in a dark and despairing imprisonment worse than anything they could have ever imagined. A place from which there is no escape----EVER. A place of unquenchable fire and absolute and total suffering.




Other people have passed through that door and they have found themselves in the light of the glory of the Almighty God. They have encountered the living Jesus, their Lord and Savior and a place more beautiful and peaceful than anything they ever could have imagined. A place where they are free to live in eternal freedom, joy and glory.




We cannot know what that experience of passing through death’s door will be like, but we do know for certain that on the other side of that door there is life---whether it be life in hell or life in heaven, there is life for all who have ever lived on the face of the earth. Which place will you and I experience when we go through the door of death????




In our text we are told of the Lord Jesus Christ that “His face was like the sun shining in all its strength.” This is the sight all of those who enter into heaven will behold. Seeing this, St. John says in our text, “I fell at his feet as dead.” In the presence of the eternal glory and majesty of the Almighty and Eternal God, who could do anything but fall down as though they were dead?




But heaven is the place of eternal joy and peace and so John says that (Jesus)”laid His right hand on me, saying ““Fear not, I am the first and the last.” During His earthly ministry Jesus often spoke these words to His disciples and to others. He would frequently begin a conversation by saying, “peace.” And when Jesus says peace that is simply another way of saying, “do not be afraid.”




"I died, and behold I am alive forevermore” says Jesus. Lest we forget, after His cruel crucifixion, the Lord Jesus Christ also passed through that door marked death. But He arose from the dead, the victor over sin, death and the devil. And so He says in our text, “I have the keys of death and Hades.”




Jesus and Jesus alone was able to conquer the power of death and the devil. He and He alone has the power to break through the door marked “death” and to unlock for all who believe in Him the glories of heaven.




Last Sunday we celebrated the resurrection of Jesus the One who according to our text is “the firstborn from the dead.” He is alive! He holds the keys! He is the everlasting Son of the heavenly Father, our and our Savior.! He is living!




This is the reality we celebrate throughout the Resurrection Season and every day of the year, for we know with absolute certainty that because He lives, we who have true and abiding faith in Him will live with Him in the eternal paradise of heaven.




As Christians we have total confidence in our eternal future. In this life, family friends, co-workers, pastors, doctors, will disappoint us. Many things will happen which may shake our confidence but we know without any doubt that because Christ went to the cross for us, because He rose from the dead for us, because we have faith in Him, we will, one day, experience the glories of eternity in heaven.




In this life we are living in a body of death, a body corrupted by sin, but when we pass through death’s door we will NOT be imprisoned for eternity because of our sins. Our text tells us that Jesus Christ “loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood” Sin is what causes death, but in Christ we will be freed.




Until we actually pass through that door marked “death” we will not know what true freedom and real life are all about.




But we know that when we pass through that door that is exactly what we will experience. God has promised it! He has secured it by His life, death, resurrection and ascension. It is guaranteed and we accept it by faith.




Life and freedom actually began for us when God first “freed us from our sins”. And every time we confess our sins, repent and seek the freedom that forgiveness brings, we are reassured of the life and freedom to come in eternity. For us who have faith in the risen Lord Jesus Christ, the door marked death must not frighten us.




When through the power of the Holy Spirit, we know the “living One’ who holds the keys, we can have absolute assurance that we have it made. Christ Jesus has made us alive already and He has freed us for eternity!




It is nice, it is wonderful to know that someday, the day when we go through that door marked death, that we will be free for eternity, but that is some day. What about today???




We say, I have more immediate concerns, more immediate problems and somehow, life and freedom in eternity as great as that sounds, just do not seem to apply. It is nice, it is reassuring, it is comforting to know that someday Christ will unlock the door of death and free us for eternal life, but what about today????




Today is the day I am without any money and the rent is due, today is the day I am suffering great physical suffering, today is the day I had an argument with my spouse, today is the day my children are rebelling. The income tax return is due on Tuesday and I am not finished with the return. I have an important meeting this week and I am not prepared.




I am having trouble in school. I am in trouble with my boss. I am afraid of losing my job. I cannot seem to overcome my bad habits. My parents do not understand me. I just cannot seem to get ahead. This guilt is eating me up, what if people find out what I did? The loneliness, oh, the loneliness is killing me.




Sound familiar??? Whatever our concerns and we all have them, they really get in the way of the life and freedom that God intends for us. Maybe, just maybe, that is because we forget that a loving God, who can unlock the door of death, can most certainly unlock other doors as well.




Life and freedom in Christ are not just for some day. They are for today, for this hour, for this minute. What Christ has done has not just gained us freedom from eternal death; it has also gained us freedom from the many things that bind and imprison us today. All of the doors, no matter how large, how secure those doors are, ALL the doors of all the prisons in which we find ourselves can be unlocked.




In our Gospel reading this morning we heard that the disciples of Jesus were gathered behind locked doors.




The doors were locked because the disciples were afraid of their enemies, the jews. But the doors are also symbolic of the fear that gripped the disciples and stole from them any sense of life and freedom.




But what happened as they were behind those locked doors, Jesus came to them. The locked doors could not keep Jesus out. And when He came into that locked room, He said to the disciples, “Peace.” With that word, the Lord was actually giving them peace.




I do not know what doors have you locked in---worry, fear, grief or loneliness. Or perhaps you are locked in behind the doors of greed, selfishness, loneliness, lust, addiction, impatience, dishonesty. All of these locked doors rob us of the life and freedom which God has for us.




As it was with the disciples in today’s Gospel, so it is with us, dear brothers and sisters in Christ---the locked doors in our life cannot keep Jesus out. We have experienced it before and we need to remind ourselves that our blessed Lord can come to us no matter where we are, no matter how shackled we are, no matter how locked in we are—Jesus can set us free.




Even more than that, not only can He set us free, but it is His great desire to free us. He comes to us, behind our locked doors, and He says to us, Peace. That is, He says to us, “do not be afraid.”




For Christians there is so much life to live, so much freedom to enjoy. No matter what our circumstances, even in the midst of all trials, we know what life is all about and we can truly live the free and joyful life that Jesus has secured for us.




Real life---the BEST life---is grounded in a real and living relationship to a loving God, a gracious and merciful Savior, who, through His Holy Word and Sacraments, brings the blessings of love and peace, and fulfillment and understanding, and purpose, and hope and joy and freedom. And our gracious God brings these blessings to all of our activities in this life, today.




That is what the blessings of the Resurrection are all about, blessings for eternity and for today. When we are living in Christ, the Living One, the First and the Last, the firstborn from the dead, the holder of the keys---then we are alive, then we are free, then we can face each day knowing that the door of death will be for us simply the entryway into the eternal blessedness of heaven.




And we know that as we make our way through this life, we do not do so alone, but the Risen Lord Jesus Christ walks with us and keeps us from ever being locked in by sin or sorrow or sadness. And that is real living which comes through Jesus Christ and Him alone.




Amen.




May the peace of God which is beyond all human understanding keep your hearts and your minds in and on the risen Christ and Him alone, now and forever. Amen.












































ecember 12, 2021 xxx 3rd Sunday in Advent

Let us pray:  O eternal and gracious God how joyful we are as we prepare to celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ and as we wait for His triumphant Second Coming.  Grant us grace that truly living in Christ we may remain faithful until that day when we receive the joy of living in the blessedness of heaven for eternity.  This we pray in the name of our Redeemer and our King. Amen.



Grace, peace and mercy be unto you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.



Our message this morning is from the inspired, inerrant and infallible Word of God as recorded in the appointed Holy Gospel, the 7th chapter of St. Luke.  Hear again the words of the living Christ from verse 23,


“Blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”
This far our text.

Today it was the pink candle which was lighted on the Advent wreath.  The reason for this is that this candle is to symbolize joy.  Recall in the Old Testament Lesson we are told to rejoice with all our heart.  Why?  Because we are in that same lesson given the glorious good news that, “The Lord has taken away the judgments against us.”   


 
The judgment against us was guilty. We stood under this guilty verdict because of our sins. However, as the Old Testament Lesson continues to tell us, “(The Lord) has cleared away your enemies.”  The enemies the Lord has cleared away are sin, death and the devil.  These enemies no longer have power over us because of our God-given faith and the fact that Jesus has overcome all of these enemies and His victory has become our victory.



In the Epistle for today, we heard, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” No matter what is happening in our lives we are able to rejoice, because we know that the Lord has come, that He is with us and that He will come again.  At Christmas we rejoice that God the Father sent His only-begotten Son to us and for us.  



We also rejoice knowing that one day our Lord will come again at which time our rejoicing will burst forth as a volcano long held in check, and we will give all glory to God because as we are told in Revelation, “the wedding of the Lamb will have come.”  That is, the Second Advent of Jesus will herald the beginning of our eternal honeymoon with Jesus.



Our text gives us reason to rejoice as Jesus says, “Blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”  Is it really possible that we are offended by the Lord Jesus Christ?



What does it take for someone or something to offend us?  Can you remember the last time you were really offended?  What caused it?  How did it make you feel?  Angry?  Shocked?  Vengeful?  



What is our response when we are offended?  Is our response something like,  “HOW DARE YOU”  “How dare you question my integrity?  How dare you insult my intelligence?  How dare you accuse me of wrongdoing?”


 
Our Lord Jesus was not a stranger to “how dare you.”  His earthly ministry lasted only three years, but it was enough time for Him to offend all sorts of people in all sorts of ways.  



The Pharisees were offended by Jesus because He threatened their authority and positions of power.  Recall what we are told in the 11th chapter of St. John that the Pharisees said, “If we let (Jesus) go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation."
Others, even some of the disciples were offended because Jesus disappointed them with the way He demonstrated His Messianic calling.  The Gospels record how time and again people were scandalized or offended by something Jesus said or did, or even by something He did not do.



There were times when His words were just too hard to swallow.  In chapter 6 of St. John’s Gospel, Jesus proclaims to the people that He is the bread of life, “the bread that came down from heaven.”  



That statement was enough for many to begin grumbling and arguing among themselves.  And when Jesus eventually uses the language of eating His flesh and drinking His blood, we are told that “many of His (followers) turned back and no longer walked with Him.”  



His very own disciples were offended by what He said.  It is little wonder then that the Jews were offended when Jesus said, “before Abraham was, I am.”  In other words, He was placing Himself before Abraham. 



At other times, it was not the words of Jesus that caused offense; it was what He was doing.  Jesus had the audacity to give sight to a blind man on the Sabbath.  In response to this miracle of healing which should have caused great rejoicing, the Pharisees said of Jesus, “This man is not from God, for He does not keep the Sabbath.” 


 
And of course there were those times when the people were offended by Jesus because of the company He kept.  Think how many of the culturally elite took offense as Jesus ate and drank with “tax collectors and sinners”. 


 
We are told in Scripture that, “the tax collectors and "sinners" were all gathering around to hear (Jesus). But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, "This man welcomes sinners and eats with them."’



When we are told that they muttered , that means they complained, they were offended.  After all, how could this man really be the Messiah if He was eating with sinners? The people were offended at Jesus when He associated with prostitutes and Samaritans. 



In the end, however, it was not only what Jesus said and did that caused so many to be offended by Him and reject Him.  For some, what Jesus failed to do, caused the greatest offense.



Consider once again the familiar scene from Palm Sunday.  The multitudes, the hundreds of thousands of people who were laying down Palm branches and shouting,” Hosanna in the highest.  Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.”



The people believed that Jesus was the conquering hero who would lead them to political and military victory against their Roman oppressors.  Here was the One who would enable them to become the rulers of the world.



Imagine how disappointed, discouraged and offended they were when Jesus did not do as they expected, but rather He was a compassionate and forgiving Messiah, One who exercised mercy and grace instead of vengeance.  That is to say, Jesus is not exactly what they were expecting.



Two of the disciples of John the Baptist come to Jesus and asked, “Are you the One who is to come or shall we look for another.” 


 
Jesus directs their attention to His miracles among the blind, the lame, the lepers, the deaf, the poor and even the dead.  He concludes by saying to them, “Blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”



Hear again the words of our Lord, “Blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”  Those words ring loud and clear even in our own day, do they not??  We live in a time and a place where many are scandalized, offended by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  



In the days leading up to the Christmas celebration it might seem like the world is less offended than at other times, but there is no getting around the fact that for most people Jesus Christ is much too controversial to be included in our holidays---let alone thinking of Him every day of our lives.



The offense of Jesus, of the Gospel and of the cross should be understandable by those who are Christians even though it is at the same time regrettable by us.  But the truth is, even those who profess themselves to be Christians can at times seem uncomfortable---even embarrassed---by the exclusive claims of Christianity.
Over the years, television talk-show host Larry King has interviewed several well-known television evangelists.  During the course of these interviews, the questions would always surface, “Are Christians the only ones who are going to heaven?  What about devout Jews, Muslims and others?  Are these good and sincere people really going to hell just because they do not happen to believe that Jesus is the Son of the living God and their Savior?”



It is usually at this point that the weak-kneed, spineless evangelist, not wanting to rock his popularity or lower his income but wanting to be politically correct will say something like, “Well, it is not for me to judge,” or “That is in God’s hands, not mine.”  



Instead of confessing the truth that Jesus is the ONLY way to the Father, too many have allowed their convictions to melt under the television camera’s bright lights. 



But it is not just the television preachers who sometimes have a problem when it comes to speaking and living the truth about Jesus.  



An article in the September 5, 2005 issue of Newsweek magazine reported that over one thousand Americans were asked the following question, “Can a good person who does not share your religious beliefs attain salvation or go to heaven?”  That is another way of saying, can a person be saved without faith in Jesus.  Approximately 79 percent of the respondents answered, yes.  



A more recent poll showed that about half of all people who claim to be Christians say a “good” person even without faith in Jesus will go to heaven. 
It causes us to wonder how many people are scandalized or offended by Jesus when He speaks so clearly in John’s Gospel, saying “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”  It is worth noting that the margin of error for the poll was four percent.  However, there is no margin of error when it comes to eternity and faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.



The even more sobering truth is that we are all guilty.  We have all acted as though Jesus was offensive to us. Certainly, we can recall times when we have failed to point out a fellow Christian’s sin.  Or those times when we were too squeamish to defend our Christian faith when confronted by a neighbor, a co-worker or a family member.



Or, what about those times, even now, even this day, when Jesus does not exactly measure up to our expectations---when our lives seem to be in total disarray, when it seems that God has not answered our prayers, when our plans fail, when our hope for a brighter future begins to fade?



Why do we so often fail to let our Christian light shine before men?  Why do we become so easily discouraged when it comes to matters of Christian faith and hope?  Are we afraid?  Are we worried about what other people will think of us?  Or is it that deep down inside we wonder if we really have faith, let alone a faith that can speak about Christ and share the Gospel with others?



We are offended by Jesus every time we fail to speak the truth of His Holy Word. And that offense can result in people continuing to accept all manner of things which are against God’s Word to their eternal condemnation.  This is a matter of the gravest concern.  



Let us be reminded that it is almost time to celebrate once again what God the Father has done for us in Jesus Christ. God became one of us so that He could speak a word of benediction to us, “Blessed are you,  Blessed are you---not because of anything you have done or have not done, but because of what I have done for you.”



“I created you to be my own, I redeemed you from sin, death and the devil with my precious blood; I called you to be my own and I have sanctified and kept you in the one true faith.” As we prepare once again this Advent season to hear and believe the message of the Christmas Gospel, blessed are those who are reminded of all their blessings.



Rejoice! Blessed are you who have been washed clean in the waters of Holy Baptism.  Rejoice ! Blessed are you who hear the words of Absolution spoken to your troubled hearts.  Rejoice!  Blessed are you who receive the body and blood of our Lord for complete forgiveness. 



Rejoice!! Blessed are you who trust in the Almighty God to be faithful, because He always has been faithful, He is faithful, and He always will be faithful.  
Rejoice! Our Lord, whose birth we will soon celebrate, will come to this world again and when He returns, it will not be a holy night, but a blessed day, it will be the glorious day of eternal life for all who were not offended because of Him. That being so-------------, let us sing aloud and rejoice with all our heart.  Again, I will say it, Rejoice!!!!



Amen.



May the peace of God which is beyond all human understanding keep your hearts and your minds in and on Christ and Him alone, now and forever.


Amen.  






























































































































December 5, 2021                             2nd Sunday in Advent


Let us pray:  O Father in heaven, mercifully hear the prayers of Your people, that as we rejoice in the Advent of Your only-begotten Son according to the flesh, so, at His Second Advent we may receive the reward of eternal life.  Keep us in that one true faith and move us to reach out with the Good news. In the name of Him who has come and is coming again, we pray. Amen.

Grace, peace and mercy be unto you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Our message this morning is from the inspired, inerrant and infallible Word of God as recorded in the appointed Gospel from St. Luke, chapter 3 verses 3 through 6, hear again from verse 4, “Prepare the way of the Lord.”

                                                            This far our text.



Onto the stage of world history once stepped a rather forceful man who was not in step with society.  He lived in the wilderness and subsisted on a diet of locusts and honey.  Some thought he was crazy.  Some thought he was possessed.  

Some considered him to be a prophet.  Some thought he was a reincarnation. Some considered him a nuisance.  But none could deny the passion with which he carried out his mission.  Rulers and religious leaders could not silence him until the murderous Herod had him beheaded.

This man we know as John the Baptist carried out his God-given mission announcing the Advent of God’s only-begotten Son Jesus the Christ.  We often say that John the Baptist was preparing the way for Jesus.  In this season of Advent, the word prepare is a prominent word.  

Since it is only a little over two weeks until Christmas the idea of making preparations is very much in the minds of many people.  We are preparing our homes, we are buying presents, making cookies and hanging decorations.

In the church we are preparing for the additional and special services.  All of these many preparations in the church and in our homes for an event which, in reality, will last only a few hours at the most.

On December 26th and perhaps even on Christmas Day, will we consider all the preparations to have been worthwhile?  
Probably because the preparations will have led to our enjoyment of celebrating Christmas even though the enjoyment is only temporary.   

We know that these preparations are necessary, and we do them because of the result we are after.  We also know what will happen if we do not make any preparations.  The results will most likely be disastrous.

Translating this into the spiritual realm, the same thing holds true.  Those who are prepared for the Lord’s return will find to their eternal joy that the preparations were worthwhile, for they know that their preparations will result in feasting with the Lord forever, they know that they will receive the crown of everlasting life.

Scripture is also very clear in telling us what will happen to those who are not prepared for the Lord’s return.  They will find to their eternal misery that being unprepared for the Lord’s return was the greatest error in their lives.  They are the ones who will live in the torment of the lake of fire for eternity.

We do not have words capable of explaining or minds capable of understanding either the blessing of spending eternity in heaven beholding the face of God or the distress of spending eternity in hell with Satan.  But, we can explain and understand that we will spend eternity in the place for which we are prepared to spend eternity.

We are also certain on the basis of Scripture that heaven is the place which has been prepared for all mankind.  It is a paradise which exceeds even the original paradise.  It is there that the Lord has prepared a place for us and He has promised in these words, “if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”  

Hell, on the other hand, is a place prepared not for mankind but for Satan and his followers as we hear Jesus say, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”  It is not God the Father’s will that any person should spend eternity in hell.  

If He did not care about mankind, He never would have sent His Son into this world to suffer and die.  If He did not care, He never would have caused His Holy Word to be written.  If God did not care, you and I would not be here today.

The question is, are we prepared to go to heaven or to hell?  I know, you are probably thinking, what a dumb question.  I am in church, am I not?  Well, the truth is that we could be here 24 hours a day, seven days a week and still not be prepared for the Lord’s return.
Our Gospel text tells us that John was “proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.”  He said to the people what we will hear in the Gospel for next week, “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.”  To be prepared to meet the Lord on the other side of this life means that we need to be repentant now.

Jesus Himself said, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near…unless you repent, you will all perish.”  If nothing else, this should tell us that God takes this matter of repentance very seriously.  My dear friends these are not idle words. We must seriously consider this question, When was the last time you and I REPENTED????  

To repent does not mean, to come to God and say, “I am sorry.”  That is contrition.  Repentance means to turn away from our sins.  So do we repent, do we turn away from our sins or do we simply confess and turn back to the same old sins??

John the Baptist preached the message of repentance in the wilderness.  It is in the wilderness of sin today that we are to pray that God would forever bring to us those who preach to us not only the message of reconciliation but also the message of repentance.

How many today have fallen victim to the lure of various cults?    These people have forsaken the true God, they are blaspheming Christ and they are unprepared for heaven which mans they are prepared for hell.

Many within the Christian Church have forsaken the green pastures where the Good Shepherd would lead them and they are wandering around in the wilderness of sins.  As we hear in the familiar passage from Second Timothy, “(they have turned) their ears away from the truth.”   In many cases it is not that they have not heard the truth but they have simply chosen to ignore God’s Word and they will have a lifetime in hell.

And, what about us?  Are we so righteous and perfect?  How many here today turn daily to read their horoscope?  How many here give the leftovers to God?  How many here fail to work and worship in God’s house on a regular basis?  

How many here are holding a grudge against another person?  How many here believe they have served God long enough in the work of this church and that they can now rest?  How many here fail to study God’s Word? Brothers and Sisters WE need to repent.

In our text we heard about “crooked roads.”  Are we traveling on that crooked road?  This is the road that twists and turns leading us first one way and then another.  This is the road of sin.  

And if God is not first in our life, if we are not active in the army of Jesus Christ, if we are not producing the fruit of repentance, we are on that crooked road.  And let us understand that it does not matter how crooked that road is, even if it is only slightly curved, at the end of that road is eternal destruction.

For those who have fallen victim to Christ-less religions, for those who have given in to accepting less than the truth of God’s Word, for all of us who are on that crooked road for whatever reason, all need to hear the Word of God proclaimed through the prophet Ezekiel, “Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit.”  This is a call to repentance and therefore a call to get prepared to meet the Lord.

When we look at what awaits those who are NOT prepared and we see that there needs to be repentance, that is, a turning away from sin and turning to Christ, in order to reach heaven, it would only seem logical that we should repent.  Who in their right mind would choose hell over heaven?

Repentance then is logical.  Repentance is needed to be prepared to meet the Lord.  But how is it that we repent, meaning how do we turn away from sin and to God?  By what power will we get a new heart and a new spirit which we need according to the words in the passage from Ezekiel?  

How will we avoid eternal separation from God?  It is from the prophecy we heard in the Old Testament reading this morning from Malachi that we begin to find out how to be prepared for the return of Jesus.

In that prophecy we heard God the Father say, “I will send my messenger who will prepare the way before me.”  The rest of the prophecy makes it clear that the time being referred to is not the birth of Jesus but the return of Jesus. The messenger is not John the Baptist, but Jesus the Christ.

In First Kings, Solomon said, “Praise be to the Lord…May He turn our hearts to Him.”  In the Book of Malachi, God says, “I will send you the prophet Elijah before the great and dreadful day of the Lord comes.”

This passage is often taken as a reference to John the Baptist, however, the great and dreadful day of the Lord does not refer to the birth of Jesus but to Judgment Day so the prophet refereed to is Jesus as God continues to say about this prophet, “He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers.”

In Second Samuel, David in singing praise to the Lord says, “You are my lamp, O Lord, the Lord turns my darkness into light.”  It is in the Gospel of St. Matthew that Jesus says, “I have come to turn a man.”  

The point here is that Scripture clearly says that it is God who turns us, who works repentance in us.  It is all by God’s grace.  As God again says through Ezekiel, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you.”  The new heart and the new spirit God demands, He gives.

We already know that do we not?  And so what is the point?  Just this; that in the Sacrament of Holy Baptism God turned us and now by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, that is, through God-given faith, we are to engage in daily repentance, a continual turning to God.  This repentance does not come about by hearing the Gospel, but by hearing the Law-----you are guilty.

Who will repent?  Who will turn from their sinful ways by being told that they are forgiven?  No, we need to hear the Law, that Word of God which points out to us that we have sinned.  People do not like to hear about sin, especially their own.  They want to come to church and hear about love and forgiveness. But hear this---forgiveness is not granted where there is not repentance

This does not mean that forgiveness is dependent on what we do for then our forgiveness would be based on our works.  No, forgiveness comes upon repentance and repentance comes upon faith.  Therefore if we are not engaged in daily repentance, we must question our faith.  For, how real is our faith if it does not drive us to our knees over our sins?

Our text this morning is a classic example of Law and Gospel.  We have heard that the Law demands repentance and we have heard the Gospel which tells us that God works repentance. So what do we need to do?  We need to repent.  

That is not a contradiction in terms for repentance includes confession, “I did it” and contrition, “I am sorry”.  We often seem to have the idea that since we are Christians, God will automatically forgive us and therefore it really does not matter what we do.
Wrong!  When we are sorrowful and contrite over our sins, such sorrow and contrition being a result of our God-given faith, then will God forgive us, then will God turn us around.  Then will we be prepared to meet the Lord.

Are we ready to celebrate Christmas?  Maybe, maybe not.  There are probably still some things we have to get ready for the celebration.  But that’s okay.  We still have a little over two weeks to get prepared.

Are we ready to meet Jesus is a much more important question.  Let us never believe that we are ready because we have been baptized and confirmed, that we are ready because we come to church when we do not have anything else to do, because in spite of those things we still have to admit that we have sinned, we sin every day and the only way we can be absolved of those sins is to repent.

In the confession of sins and the absolution in the beginning of the service we heard that our sins are forgiven.  Praise God.  And now as forgiven sinners, we need to turn away from those sins we confessed and we need to begin more and more to live the life of faith to which God has called us.

Many people have made and are continuing to make countless preparations for the Christmas celebration, maybe even you, and when it is over, the question will be asked, were all the preparations worth it?

For those of us who have faith in Jesus Christ, we should through daily repentance be making preparations for Second Advent of Jesus.  And when we enter the paradise of heaven forever, we will never have to ask, were all the preparations worth it?

It is in the Epistle of Second Peter that we hear, “what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming…So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.”

Brothers and sisters let us then make preparations to meet the Lord by engaging in daily repentance.

                                            Amen.

May the peace of God which is beyond all human understanding keep your hearts and your minds in and on Christ and Him alone now and forever. Amen.


































November 28, 2021                            1st Sunday in Advent

Let us pray: O heavenly Father as we once again enter the time of Advent we pray that You would turn our thoughts away from the things of this world and to the things of heaven.  Grant that we might eagerly look forward to the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. We rejoice that our redemption is drawing near.  May we at all times be found to be living in watchfulness. Move us to works of righteousness as we await the consummation of Your kingdom.  In the name of our precious King, we pray. Amen.



Grace, peace and mercy be unto you from God or Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.



Our message this day is from the inspired, inerrant and infallible Word of God as recorded in the appointed Epistle, First Thessalonians, chapter 3, verses 9 through 13, hear again from verse 12, “may the Lord make you increase and abound in love 8for one another and for all.”



This far our text.



Now it begins.  For Christians this is the season of Advent.  For the world this is the season of Christmas.  But for almost all people this is a time of waiting.  People are waiting for parties to take place.  Waiting for Christmas bonuses. 


Waiting to take vacations, waiting to visit with relatives; children are waiting for Christmas break or rather as it is called today, winter break.  Most people are waiting to see what will be under the Christmas tree for them. Merchants are waiting to see how willing people are going to be to spend money this year.


This time of the year might be described as a time of excitement.  It might be described by using words like busy, fun or nerve racking.  In the church we use words like hope, anticipation, watch and prepare and so we will use those words again this year but a very accurate word for us to use is wait.


We are waiting to recall the birth of our Lord, waiting to sing familiar and much loved Christmas hymns and carols, waiting to share in time-honored traditions, waiting to hear again about the hope and joy which are ours through Him who became God in the flesh. 


We are also waiting for the return of Christ when He will come in all glory and majesty and power.  In this waiting we are not alone as we hear in Romans, “the creation waits in eager expectation” when “the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.”


The angels and saints in heaven are waiting for that day.  So Satan and his angels are waiting for that day although it will not be a day of liberation for them but a day and an eternity of defeat.  In the Book of Revelation, Jesus says, “I am coming soon.” 


We, of course, do not know the length of time involved in that word soon and while we may long for the Lord’s return, there is not anything we can do to hasten or delay that day. For it will come at the appointed time, that time set already by God the Father even before the creation of the world.  So, we wait.


This is what our text is about today---waiting.  It is about what we are to be doing while we wait for the Lord to return. The theme of waiting is one of the keys for understanding the entire letter to the Thessalonians.

  
Not too long before he wrote this letter, St. Paul had visited Thessalonica.  Through the preaching of God’s Word converts had been gained from among the false religion of Judaism and from among those who had no religious affiliation.  The congregation seems to have been organized rather quickly with a sizeable number of members.  


But, St. Paul had enemies---people who were upset with the fact that people were becoming Christians. They were so upset that they wanted to kill St. Paul and so he had to leave the city quickly.


The history of St. Paul’s activity in the area helps explain the various references in the letter to his regret over the brevity of his stay with them and the several references to a great longing by St. Paul to see these people again so that he might continue to instruct them in the truth of the Gospel.


The Thessalonians were waiting to receive this additional teaching because they knew they were still lacking in knowledge and wisdom.  Within the two letters to the Thessalonians, we find instructions written to supply what the people were lacking.  


The people were also waiting for St. Paul because they knew that a visit by him would encourage and strengthen them. Above all else the Thessalonians were waiting for Jesus to return.  There was a general belief in the early church that Jesus would return soon, that is within a few years.


St. Paul’s two letters to the Thessalonians dwell on Christ’s return at some length.  He writes for example, in the first chapter of the first letter, “(The Christians from the region around Thessalonica) tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to WAIT for His Son from heaven.” 

 
In the last chapter of that letter he writes, “Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, "Peace and safety," destruction will come on them suddenly… and they will not escape.”

  
These passages show us that the people looked for Jesus to return because it would an end to their being persecuted.  His return would show who was on the right side and who was on the wrong side, who was being saved and who was not, for when Jesus returns, He will execute judgment.


His return will mark the unleashing of the terrible wrath of God Almighty.  But it also meant for the Thessalonians and still means for all who confess His name that Jesus brings with Him the highest joy.  The return of Jesus means deliverance forever from  sin, death, and all that bring distress to life.  The Thessalonians were a people waiting---waiting for the return of the Lord when they would be with Him forever.


With all this interest in the return of Christ, the Thessalonians were easily distracted from the work that was at hand.  They had failed to see that waiting for the Lord to return carries with it the responsibility of doing constructive God-pleasing things.  St. Paul reminds them and us that as children of the Light we must be doing the works of light.


This is what we hear in today’s text, “may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, × 
References for 1 Thessalonians 3:12
· Cross References
 so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before 10our God and Father, at 11the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.”  


Waiting is not just standing around.  We prepare for the coming of the One who loves us by loving others.  We rehearse for the coming of the holy One by being holy.


Waiting for Christ to return is a time for doing the deeds of Jesus, a time for living out our faith by walking in confidence in God.  


The people were to be responsible members of society, people through whom the light of Christ might be seen as St. Paul writes to them, “we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are now living.  Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more.”  


They are to encourage each other, for doing the work of the Lord is not simply the task of individuals, it is the task of the entire community of God’s people devoted to the cause of making their corner of the world more ready for Christ’s coming through their constructive lives and their living out of the Gospel.


St. Paul needed to encourage the people because he had received word that there was some “idle waiting going on.”  Some early retirement from living and doing among those who had become obsessed with the idea that Christ would return at any moment.

  
With their eyes to the heavens, they were standing in place with their hands idle. They were a picture of the old saying, in that they were so heavenly minded that they were no earthly good. They needed to be reminded that they were to build one another up and serve those around them by doing the work of Christ. 

 
We have spent some time looking at the events in Thessalonica as the people waited for what they believed was the imminent return of Jesus and we have done this because it will enable us to look at ourselves as we prepare to celebrate His birth and as we wait for His Second Coming.


The preoccupation of the Thessalonians with the return of Jesus may seem a little strange to us, if for no other reason than the fact that we often are exactly the opposite of the Thessalonians---All they thought about was the return the Jesus.  We seldom think about it and even worse we do not want to think about it.

  
Because His return will mean the end of all that we hold so dear in this world. 
His return will mark the obliteration of our beautiful houses that we have worked so hard to get, the fiery end of our cars, our motor homes, our wide screen televisions that we have spent so much money on; the demise of our technology of which we are so proud. 


It will all be gone as we are told in Scripture, “That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat.”  
As we said the Thessalonians lifted their eyes to the heaven and had idle hands, while we often keep our heads down, noses to the grindstone with our hands reaching out to take all that this world has to offer.  The Thessalonians would have done whatever they could to hasten the return of Jesus while we often would do everything possible to delay His return.


Even though this is so, is there not within us the sense of waiting for something?  We know deep down that “This cannot be all there is”.  There is something incomplete, something that still needs filling out about life, is there not?


If we sense it nowhere else, certainly our sins tell us about the emptiness of life and of this world.  The world is not what it should be and neither are we.  Our highest and best ambitions fall so quickly, and our highest hopes are dashed to pieces.  We know that we are anything but the creatures in whom God can place His trust for the future of the earth, for we have been and continue to be the destroyers of the earth.


For all the creative ingenuity that has brought into being as comfortable and as promising a world as we presently enjoy, our basic humanity remains haunted by the awareness that this very same ingenuity can destroy this world with the touch of a button were that in keeping with God’s plans.  We have a destructive genius equal to all the creative genius to which we point with pride.


So, we can only wait for a better future to come from beyond our own realm, from beyond our sinful, self-destructing powers. Advent means exactly that---a coming to us from beyond us.  It speaks of a future made not by mankind but by God. 
Advent turns our eyes to the One who was born by the saving act of God the Father and it also reminds us that He who once came will return to this world of insecurity, where we hear the rumblings of war and indeed we hear of the horrors of war. 

 
He will come to this world which is beset with the shaking of nations, the collapse of families, the meaningless mumblings of drug and alcohol saturated societies, and a world plagued by social disruptions. 

 
Advent turns our attention to both the Babe of Bethlehem and the Prince of peace; to the manger in Bethlehem and to the throne of God in heaven; our attention is directed to the One who will eliminate evil and establish righteousness forever.


As we wait for His return, we, like the Thessalonians must remember that we are to be engaged in doing the works of God.  Whatever we do will not bring the turmoil in the world to an end, we, on our own, cannot lay to rest the destructive forces in our society, but we do know in the words of our text, that He will “establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints”  


Waiting for His return we are to be actively engaged in constructive care of our corner of the world, in loving care of those around us and in searching out and doing those things that will further the common good and aid in the spread of the Gospel.


Those things that we do might be different for each one of us because God gives each one of us a life with different abilities, possibilities and opportunities.  And yet whatever we do, the One who’s Advent we celebrate and look forward to, enables and inspires each one of us.  Our confidence in the Christ of Advent makes our lives sing with love and care as we first knew that love and care of our gracious God.

  
The waiting seems long at times and we may even wonder if He for whom we wait will ever really come again, but then He makes Himself known once again through the remembrance of His birth, makes Himself known through Baptism and through the Holy Communion in which we hear the gracious promise, the words of prophecy, “The days are coming when I will fulfill the gracious promise.” 

 
He comes to us through Word and Sacrament to sustain us as we await His return.  Being sustained by our gracious God, this Advent season is a time for us once again to turn our eyes to the heavens, to wait with confidence, to engage in works of love, to spread the Gospel and to pray with great anticipation, 


“Come Thou Precious Ransom Come”.  Then when our Lord returns and our time of waiting is over, may we in joy proclaim, “Hark the glad sound---------The Savior Comes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Amen.



May the peace of God which is beyond all human understanding keep your hearts and your minds in and on Christ and Him alone, now and forever.


Amen.
























































November 21, 2021     Last Sunday of the Church Year

Let us pray:  We have gathered here O heavenly Father, to praise and glorify You and to be fed through Word and Sacrament.  Remove our fears and fill us with Your joy.  Give us the courage to forever proclaim the truth of Your Word and Your Son Jesus Christ as the only way of salvation.  It is in his name that we pray. Amen.


Grace, peace and mercy be unto you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 


Our message this morning is from the inspired, inerrant and infallible Word of God as recorded in the appointed Epistle, verses 20 through 25 of the Book of Jude, hear again from verse 21, “Keep yourselves in God's love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.”
This far our text.

As we know, this Sunday is designated by various terms; Christ the King Sunday, the last Sunday after Pentecost, the last Sunday after Trinity, the last Sunday in the Church year, the Sunday of the fulfillment. Various Scripture readings are suggested depending on how this Sunday is observed.  This means that there are many different themes which could be followed today.


Of all these choices there is one text which speaks, more clearly than the others on how we are to live as Christians.  The lesson from Jude addresses itself to fear.  There are numerous occasions when the child of God is fearful.  Those who say that Christians should not experience fear do not understand anything about human nature or Christianity.


Time after time Scripture tells us of people of God who were afraid.  In the Garden of Eden, Adam said to God, “I was afraid.”  When Isaac was asked about his wife, he said, according to Genesis, “She is my sister.  He said this “because he was afraid to say, she is my wife.”  He thought he might be killed if he spoke the truth. 
After killing an Egyptian, we are told in Exodus that “Moses was afraid and thought, what I did must have become known.”  In First Chronicles we hear that “David was afraid of God.”  The Apostles were often afraid.  We are told of Peter that when he was walking on the water, “he saw the wind and he was afraid.” 
At the transfiguration of Jesus, the disciples “were terrified and they fell down on the ground.”  At the crucifixion of Jesus, the disciples were afraid. The women who followed Jesus left the tomb, afraid.  On and on the list could go of those followers of Jesus who were afraid for one reason or another.


Of what are you afraid?  Are you afraid of being alone?  Are you afraid of going to the doctor?  Are you afraid of applying for a new job or taking a test in school?  Perhaps, are you afraid of growing old?  And ultimately, how many here today are afraid of physical death?  


Is it not fear which often keeps us from sharing the Gospel with other people? We fear ridicule and rejection.  What we need to remember is that fear is an emotion brought on simply by the anticipation of experiencing something unpleasant.
Do you remember the old Arab tale about Pestilence overtaking a caravan in the desert on the way to Baghdad.  “And pray” said the chief of the caravan, “what are you going to do in Baghdad?” 


To which Pestilence replied, “I shall claim 5,000 lives.”  Actually some 50,000 died in Baghdad.  Later when meeting Pestilence again, the chief said to him, “But you were unfair.  You promised to take only 5,000.”  Pestilence replied, “I kept my word.  I took only 5,000.  The other forty-five thousand died of fear.”


Fear is indeed a very destructive force. It also sometimes has a positive effect on people’s lives.  When the plague struck Germany and large numbers of people were dying the healthy in mortal fear of dying flocked to the churches of the city which they would not have previously done. 


It was not the fear of God which drew them to the church it was the fear of the plague and the fear of death.  As soon as the plague abated so did the zeal for the worship of God.


Fear is tied to something which is unknown.  While fear does come into our lives even as Christians, how do we keep that fear from overtaking us?  We do it by turning to that which is known.  In the words of our text we are told, “Build yourselves up in your most holy faith.”


We should be most grateful for the faith which God has given us, but often we do not appreciate it until there is nothing else to cling to.  What hopeless lives people without faith in Jesus live.  


Their lives have no foundation, no strength.  But our faith is centered in Jesus Christ and it is built on the foundation of the teaching of the prophets and the apostles with Christ Himself as the chief cornerstone.


It is faith which overcomes our fears and so does it not follow that the greater our faith life is, the less fearful we will be?  It makes sense then that we need to build ourselves up in the faith as we heard in our text..  


God created saving faith within us.  We thank God for that but it is as if God planted the seed of faith and then He expects that seed to grow.  As a seed which we plant in the ground needs sun and water to grow so the seed of our spiritual faith needs nourishment to grow.


God nourishes our faith, strengthens our faith, through the Lord’s supper and through His Word, He causes our faith to grow.  


This should tell us that when we stay away from the Lord’s Supper, when we fail to read, hear and inwardly digest the Word of God we are setting ourselves up to have fear overcome us to the point of despair.


As people who have been born-again, we have the choice; We can use what God has given us to feed our faith so that we are strong, so that we can withstand the fiery arrows of the evil one or we can ignore what God has provided and become weak to the point where we are consumed by the fire of fear turned to despair.  
The next thing we are told in our text is, “pray in the Holy Spirit.”  This is another way to build our faith and remove fear. Being the children of God, praying should be as natural for us as breathing. 

 
When fear begins to clamp its ugly jaws on us, we should immediately be in prayer. Sometimes the best we are able to do in times of fear is say, “Oh, God help me.”  And the assurance from Scripture is that God will hear and answer.
However, one way to stem fear from ever even entering our life is to be in constant communion with God which we do by following another admonition of Scripture, “Pray at all times.”  The words we use are immaterial for as our text says, “pray in the Holy Spirit.” 


It is in Romans that we are told, “We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.  And He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.”  


The point is that we do have to know HOW to pray; we do not need to use specific words, we need only go to God and say Lord I have this problem, please deliver me.  And we know that God will hear and answer.  That being so, we say with Psalmist, “of  whom shall I be afraid?” 


We can certainly expand and say not only “of whom” but also of what?  The answer given is that we need not be afraid of anyone or anything because the Lord is our light and our salvation, He is the stronghold of our life.


Live in prayer or live in fear.  In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus was in great anguish saying, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow.”  And then “He prayed all the more earnestly.”  What was ahead of Jesus was not removed but in prayer He received the strength to endure.  Prayer may not remove the cause of our fear, but it will remove the fear.


Next in our text we are told, “Keep yourselves in God's love.”  In Romans we are told “that nothing is able to separate us from God’s love that is ours in Christ Jesus”  And so the point of our text is that we do not stop loving God.  In Scripture we are told that “perfect love drives out fear.” 


If only we would love God more.  For those who are married do you not love your spouse more than when you were first married, has your love not deepened?  So with our love to God, we should love God more today than when we first believed, we should love Him more today than we did yesterday.  And as our love for God increases our fears will diminish.


In Revelation the message of Jesus Christ to the church in Ephesus is this, “I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. 


You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love.”
The Christians seemed to be doing everything right—they were at Church on Sunday morning probably for both worship and study.  They checked what they heard against the Word of God to see if it was the truth.  


They probably helped out at the local center for the homeless.  They were always working at the church.  BUT they had forgotten their first love that is their love of God.


Is that the way it is with us?  We are so busy with church that we forget to love God?  And outside of the church there are so many activities that cry out for our attention that we sometimes forget to love God.  


Love of family, love of anything and everything must be secondary to our love for God.  By the power of the Holy Spirit, we need to replace fear with love.


Our text continues with these words, “Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them.”  


And so living ourselves without fear, we are to reach out to others with the Good News that they too can live fearless lives, saved lives.  All around us people are living with such great fears that they are on the verge of despair.  


It is a fearful world we live in, but we have God’s Word which alone is able to save people’s souls and deliver their hearts and their minds from all fears. It is through His Word that God will create within them faith in Christ.


And it is Christ our God and our Savior, “who is able to keep us from falling and to present us before His glorious presence without fault.”  These words are to remind us and assure us of God’s great blessings.  Although we are surrounded with dangers so great that we might be driven to despair, we do NOT despair because we remain confident living in His power, His love and His grace.


We turn not to our own power, our own abilities, for they are insufficient not only to save us but insufficient to remove our fears. 


Instead, we turn to the Lord of the church who came not only to save us for eternity but also to bless us in this life.


On this last Sunday in the church year, this Sunday of fulfillment let us thank God that everything necessary for our salvation has been fulfilled through Christ. Everything necessary for this life is found in Him and then let us gather together this coming Wednesday evening specifically to praise and thank Him who is worthy of our praise for all eternity.


No matter what comes our way in this life, no matter the trials, the troubles, though tens of thousands of foes rise up against us, though it may appear that we are about to be consumed, though Satan and all his angels should assault us,
yet in the midst of it all, we can in joy and confidence say to and of our blessed Lord and Savior “I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me.”

 
Amen.


May the peace of God which is beyond all human understanding keep your hearts and your minds in and on Christ and Him alone, now and forever.


Amen.























































NOVEMBER 14, 2021 

                                                                             

PENTECOST 25 



Let us pray: O heavenly Father You are always a refuge for us and without You we are worthless.  As long as You are before us and with us, we shall not be moved.  Our hearts are glad and our souls rejoice because in You is our security.  Bless then this time of meditation and worship as we pray in the name of our blessed Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ. Amen.

 
Is it built to last???  Why are we always shocked when cars break down or even when our bodies break down?  Or, why are we surprised when the house that we say was always on the corner, even though it wasn’t really always there, why are we surprised when it is gone? Or anything else in the world, whether those things be natural or man-made, why are we surprised when they are destroyed?


Maybe we think secretly that if we believe in them enough, then we can make them stay. But Scripture tells us that the things we cannot yet see are permanent while the things we can see are only temporary.  Yes, we respond, but the things I can see seem so permanent. And when the item is especially impressive, we reason “it’s here today, so it won’t be gone tomorrow”. Such reasoning is contrary to all experience.


So in our text for today from the inspired, inerrant and infallible Word of God as recorded in the appointed Holy Gospel from the 13th chapter of St. Mark, we hear the disciples say to Jesus, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!"


This far our text.


Grace, peace and mercy be unto you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

The disciples were men from small towns and when they came to the big city and saw the temple in Jerusalem, it took their breath away.  It was enormous and gorgeous, built by King Herod with all his money and power. It was one of the best and most magnificent buildings that the world had ever produced.


They were as awed by that temple as an Illinois farm boy staring up at the skyscrapers in Chicago.  It seemed as solid as the ages old Cathedrals in Europe.  It seemed as rock solid as the earth itself or as solid as the earth seems and will seem until judgment day.


When we look at anything, houses, skyscrapers, our own bodies, the earth or the universe, the question is not, “can we see it”.  The real question should be, “Is it built to last?”


Not the world or anything in it is built to last anymore.  In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth and all things, including people, all things were built to last for God built or created all things not for destruction but for joy.  Because of this we expect things to be permanent. 

 
The temple in Jerusalem seemed unsurpassable.  It could hardly have appeared to the disciples to be a mere shadow of things to come even though the greater reality was present with them in the person of Jesus.


In response to the awe expressed by the disciples, Jesus says, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down." Jesus is saying that the temple does not have an eternal foundation.  In these words of our Lord we have a warning and a preview of the end of all things.


Earthly peace such as there is will perish as Jesus says, there will be wars and rumors of wars. We see this in our world today.  The earth itself is already shaking as Jesus says there will be earthquakes and so there are today.

  
The skies are undependable as Jesus says famines will occur, crops will fail.  Inevitably earth and everything on it, the entire universe will be swept away as we are told in Scripture that the heavens will be destroyed by fire and all the elements will melt in the heat. And in our text, Jesus says, “These are (but) the beginning of birth pains.”


The houses we build, and all the things we work so hard to acquire, even this very house of God along with the earth upon which we stand, all things will disappear because human sin has brought God’s curse on all fallen creation including us.

 

Our life is also but a mist, we are here for a little while and then we return to earth, ashes to ashes and dust to dust.


Do earthly things not matter at all?  They are real, we can see them. We can see them all leaving for one day nothing will remain.  Is there anything then that is built to last?
Jesus Christ is built to last.  He was begotten of the heavenly Father and born everlasting.  He is everything we were made to be.  A sinless man. Like Adam before the fall, and therefore an immortal man, like Adam before the fall. 


He is the eternal Son of the living God, He therefore always has been and ever will be.  He is the everlasting temple of which the splendid temple in Jerusalem was just a shadow.


Our text says, “Jesus sat on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple.”  How strange for this was in reality a temple looking at a temple.  One man was greater than the magnificent temple in Jerusalem. His flesh and blood were permanent while the stones were not.  Which looked more impressive; the temple or Jesus?  The disciples were certainly more impressed with the temple made of stone.


However, like everything else, Jesus also died.  He died because the eternal, everlasting man was born to be destroyed.  In order that He might bear Judgment Day ahead of time, with the entire world’s curse in His body; to bring the end on Himself instead of on us.


Soon enough after the event in our text, the temple of Jerusalem did in fact lie in ruin. It was a great building for a moment and then there was not left one stone upon another.  But the ruin of that temple, the ruin of skyscrapers is nothing as terrible as the ruin left hanging on the cross.  


The end of the world, of the entire universe could not be nearly as horrifying as the end of Jesus Christ, when on the cross the living temple of the everlasting God was destroyed in front of our eyes. Consider what score does that not settle?  What sins does that not pay for?  What curse, what doom, what judgment is not swallowed up in that destruction?


No matter how stained, how doomed, no matter how we have sinned, no matter how often we have placed work or family or some other activity before our God, no matter how often we have failed to worship, no matter how we have mistreated others, no matter how often we have neglected the Word and Sacraments of God, no matter what----God’s death stamps paid in full on all of it as long as we have true and abiding faith in Jesus.
And, th

at is true only so long as we repent of our sin which we do when we confess our sin, are contrite over that sin and turn away from that sin.  We cannot deliberately engage in putting other things before God saying, “Oh God will forgive me.”  Won’t work!  We cannot confess Christ in church and then live like we never heard of Him.
Christ was raised from the dead, as He promised, “destroy this temple and I will raise it again in three days.”  Built to last, Christ being raised from the dead cannot die again.  He continues forever the same yesterday and today and tomorrow. He is holy and eternal, the everlasting temple of God.


The only permanent thing in all of creation, is Christ Jesus our Lord and He is here to make us permanent.  He has brought us into Himself which is into His kingdom and that kingdom is eternal as we hear in Hebrews,, “We are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken.”


He has rebuilt us through Word and Sacrament which is why the Gospel must be preached to all people for this is the only means whereby Jesus brings people into His permanent Kingdom.  He fashions us into everlasting stones as we are told in First Peter, “You yourselves like living stones are being built up.”  


We receive from the Lord the life we were built for in the first place.  Jesus said, “Everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.”  This has already occurred in our souls and soon in our bodies this promise of the Lord will come to be, “Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.”


Our bodies, the very bodies we are in this day, will be raised like His glorious body, and we shall live for eternity imperishable, indestructible, like living stones.



So, while everything that we see today will disappear, the world around us, rushing past us like waves over rocks and everything that is temporary about each of us;

Our suffering bodies with their cancers, and their pains, and their heartaches along with all of our sinfulness which is inherent in our sinful human nature, it will all disappear for as we are told in Scripture, 
“the perishable (cannot) inherit the imperishable… the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: "Death has been swallowed up in victory."


We then shall be in the Kingdom of Glory which is the unshakable and glorious kingdom of God.  The final victory shall be ours through faith in Jesus. That is what is before us, but we still have to make our way, by God’s grace through this dark sin-filled world where we war “against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”


That being so, Jesus says to His disciples in our text and so He says to us, “See that no one leads you astray.  Many will come in my name, saying, 'I am he!' and they will lead many astray.”  And there are those in the world who are always ready to say I am the way even though Jesus alone has the words of eternal life.


It may all disappear.  Our relatively peaceful lives could be and should be interrupted as Jesus says, “be on your guard. For they will deliver you over to councils, and you will be beaten in synagogues.”  Not literally, but when was the last time we suffered for sharing the truth of God’s Word?  It matters not how we suffer for the cause of the Gospel, for Christ and His kingdom and we as members of that kingdom are built to last.


Our friends may disappear as Jesus says, “All men will hate you because of me.”  The words all men means all those who are not Christians. We see the reality of this all around us. If everybody loves us, we are probably doing something wrong.  It is an oxymoron for Christians to say that they have unchristian friends.  


If you are friends with one who rejects Christ, one who does not look to Him alone for salvation, you are not a friend of Jesus.  You are deceiving yourself if you think you are really friends with such a person , for the Scripture clearly says,
 “what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?” Not my words friends, those are the words of God.


Our family ties may disappear as Jesus says, “brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death.”  Christ and His kingdom which are built to last must come before family, before anything or anyone. 


Every single thing we are able to see is disappearing even while we watch, but you and I are not disappearing, for we have been raised by the Holy Gospel. 


Jesus says, “the one who endures to the end will be saved” And that is descriptive of us.  Jesus has built us to last through this world and into the next world.  
Any minute now everything could disappear with a roar.  But when Christ who is our life appears, we shall appear with Him in glory and we shall for eternity be amazed.  
We shall be amazed at what He has made of us and we will be amazed at the splendor, the glory, and the wonder of the temple built to last forever and ever, and ever, Jesus Christ Himself, who is the eternal Rock on which we are built.


Amen


May the peace of God which is beyond all human understanding keep your hearts and your minds in and on Christ and Him alone, now and forever.

Amen.

 
























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NOVEMBER 7, 2021   ALL SAINTS’ DAY 



Let us pray:  We thank and praise You, most gracious Father in heaven that You have called us to be Your children.  This day we pray that we might continue by Your grace to be numbered with all the saints here on earth and in heaven.  Keep us steadfast in the one true faith that we might one day be found in the heavenly paradise that there, with all who have left his life in faith, we might be partakers of the marriage feast for eternity.  This we pray in the name of Him who is the bridegroom, our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.


Grace, peace and mercy be to each one of you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 


Our message this day is from the inspired, inerrant and infallible Word of God as recorded in the First Reading for today from Revelation chapter 7, hear again from verse 13: “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” 
This far our text.. 
 
Who are these? We have the description throughout our text, and it is all good.  They make up a great multitude that no one can number. They are from all nations  indeed, they are from all tribes and peoples and languages, because the Lord declared that His Word would go forth to all the world. 
 
It is not a small number. It is a great multitude. The Church always seems to look like the scattered few near extinction in this world, but God will have His people—too numerous to count! 
 
They are standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They are clothed with white robes and they are holding palm branches in their hands. Waving palm branches only occurs twice in Scripture: Palm Sunday and here, in Revelation 7. 
On Palm Sunday, the people waved palm branches as Jesus entered Jerusalem on a colt, the foal of a donkey. They were shouting, “Hosanna”—“save us now!”, and “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” Jesus was riding into Jerusalem with purpose, to save.

 
In a few days, He would be raised up on a cross for His throne as He died for the sins of the world. But now, while the palm branches are the same, everything is different—it is fulfilled. Instead of the cross, there is a real throne. Instead of the Savior preparing to sacrifice, He is now present as the resurrected Lamb who has been slain.

 
Rather than throwing down their garments in service to Him, they are wearing white robes that He has given to them. And instead of crying out, “Save us now!,” they declare that “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” It is done. The cross is over. The victory is the Lord’s. 


Who are these? They are in pretty special company: they are standing with angels around the throne. The elders are there, too—the twenty-four elders, perhaps the twelve apostles and the twelve patriarchs, who have thrones and crowns of their own.


So are the four living creatures. This rather elite choir continues the song that we hear in Revelation chapter5: “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.” All of this belongs to Him. Amen. Let it be so. 


 
Who are these? One of the elders asks John, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” When John says, “Sir, you know”, the elder explains, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation.

 
They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple; and He who sits on the throne will shelter them with His presence.” 
 
So, they have come out of the great tribulation. Some will tell you that this refers to a special seven-year time period just before the end of the world, but that is some fanciful interpretation. 


There is no denying that things will be worse before the end: the way that Revelation describes it, there will be a huge church that claims to be Christian but has actually denied the Gospel, as well as a world that has pretty well completely rejected Christ, and neither will favor those who hold fast to the Gospel very much at all. Kind of like today. 


However, a more sound interpretation of “great tribulation” is simply this: life in this world is always a time of great tribulation for the people of God, ever since Adam and Eve fell into sin. The multitude in heaven is a gathering of those who are no longer on earth but stand before the throne of God in heaven. 
 
And why are they there? Because they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Blood and white robes do not normally go together—in fact, bloodstains are often the worst to remove.


In this case, though, the Blood of the Lamb has removed every stain and spot of sin from the robes of this crowd—not just from one or two, but from the entire multitude. They are holy and clean before God, their robes white, because Christ has paid for every last one of their sins. 
 
Where are they? They are “before the throne of God,” but the throne is not empty. They are in the presence of God, with “He who is on the throne” and “who will shelter them with His presence.” As we are told in our text. The word for “shelter” there is an important one: it is also the word for tent or tabernacle. 


Back in the Old Testament, the tabernacle was God’s temple in the wilderness as the people of Israel journeyed to the Promised Land. God dwelt with His people in the Holy of Holies, the inner room of the tent. 


He concealed Himself there because they could not see His glory and live: stained and unholy with sin, they could not be that close to Him—He had to hide for their good. 


Now, in Revelation 7, He shelters them with His presence. In other words, they are inside the tent, inside the Most Holy Place, with Him. That is what heaven is—life in the glorious presence of God forever. They can be in His presence because the Lamb has made them clean with His own blood, because He became flesh and tented among them in order to save them from sin. 
 
They are in the presence of God (and can be!) because they are holy, and only holy things can be in the presence of God. That explains what is not in the vision: hunger, thirst, scorching heat, sadness. 


Our text concludes, “They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and He will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe every tear from their eyes.” 
 
So who are these? Who makes up this great multitude from all nations, gathered around God’s throne with the elders and the living creatures? Who has the honor of being that close in white robes, waving palm branches and singing praises to the Lamb? Who are these, delivered from the great tribulation, never to suffer sin, pain or affliction again? 
 
Who are these? Along with the rest of God’s people, they are us. We are among those whom God has gathered in from all nations. We are cleansed with the blood of Christ, and we wear the white robe of His righteousness, because all who are baptized into Christ have put on Christ. What we see in the text is our future. This is not a possibility or one of several endings: this is what Christ has redeemed us for.  
 
Christ has redeemed us for eternal life in the presence of Almighty God. That sounds a bit abstract, but consider it this way: it is like life in the Garden of Eden before the fall into sin. There, man could stand in God’s presence and God came to walk with man. 


There, because there was no sin, there were no wages of sin—no hunger, no thirst, no pain, no tears. Sin brought all of this as some of its curse. Christ came and defeated sin, suffering the hunger, the thirst, the pain, the tears and all of God’s judgment for sin. 


In doing so, He reversed the curse. Because He has won salvation for us, our sins are forgiven. Heaven is ours…and heaven means being in the presence of God, the Giver of all good things, for eternity. That is how God designed things to be in the first place. 
 
In contrast, hell would be where God is not—or at least where God is not present with grace and mercy. For those who want nothing to do with God, they receive what they want—though they will find an existence completely without God to be a terrible thing indeed. 
If God provides food, health, protection, order and deliverance out of His grace and mercy, will these things be found if God is not present with His grace and mercy? No!!!!!. 
 
But hell is not for us. We have been washed clean by the blood of the Lamb. Our future—our eternity—is life in His presence, with every good thing. That is what God offers to all people through His Son Jesus Christ, so that all who believe in Him might be saved from hell and delivered to heaven. 
 
For now, of course, we are neither in heaven or hell. We are in this world, sort of in between. There is a bit of hell here, because we still witness the wages of sin with the sickness, the troubles, the anxiety and everything else that contributes to great tribulation. 


But this world is not hell, because God is still present in this world. There’s a bit of heaven here, too, for precisely that reason: God is present with us,  as near as His means of grace. He has clothed us in that white robe of righteousness  He keeps speaking us clean with His absolution, and He gives us a foretaste of the feast to come in His Supper.


But this world is not heaven, either: God is present, but God must still conceal Himself in words and water, bread and wine. He must do so because sinners cannot abide His glorious presence and live. So, for now, we are between heaven and hell, enduring in a world that features both hellish tribulation and heavenly grace. 
 
The point of Revelation 7 is to remind us of our future. This world is not the end or our final destination. Our place in that multitude around God’s throne is already secure because the Lamb has already poured out  His blood for us and when we are repentant He forgiven us for all of our sins. It is only a matter of when, not if; the inheritance is ours. We just do not see it yet.  
 
The only thing that would keep us from the inheritance would be if we reject God’s grace and run away from Him. That is the only ploy the devil has left for us—to get us to run away from God’s gifts of forgiveness and heaven, and to choose sin—and eventually hell—instead. 


He will try to make sin look attractive, and our sinful flesh will want to cooperate and choose the sin over grace and the Promised Land. 



He will try to make us doubt God’s presence and believe we are God-forsaken and already in hell, though this world is still so visited by God that we cannot have a true idea of what hell is really like.
But once again, Revelation chapter 7 is written to Christians who are being ground into a fine powder by suffering, by trial, by tribulation. And again, compared to us and our strength and abilities, the tribulation we face is great.  
 
But Christ is greater, and here is the proof: all of the tribulation we face are a result of sin and designed to lead us to death. But Christ has already conquered death. He has emerged from the tomb, never to die again; and if He has conquered the greater enemy—death itself, He is certainly greater than the tribulation that afflicts us. 
 
So once again, by the grace of God, hold fast in Him. This time of tribulation will cease, because it is already defeated. Everything that has power to separate us from God has been gutted at the cross. 


Eternal life in His glorious presence is already ours, where there will be no hunger, thirst, scorching heat or any other suffering anymore. Those things cannot be there, because they are the result of sin. We will be there, because Christ has taken away our sins. For His sake, God will wipe away every tear from your eyes. 
 
From the favorite hymn “The Church’s One Foundation;” we hear, Though with a scornful wonder, men see her sore oppressed By schism rent asunder, by heresy distressed Yet saints their watch are keeping: their cry goes up, “How long?” And soon the night of weeping shall be the morn of song. 



Those saints who cry “How long?” are in heaven, their souls under the altar in Revelation chapter 6.  But that is our prayer, too, and certainly a good one. We pray that the Lord would come quickly and deliver us from tribulation. 
But however long the Lord tarries in His wisdom and mercy, we have the vision of Revelation chapter 7. We know the end of the story, the final chapter of our life has already been written. It is Eternal life—delivered from every sin and every consequence of sin—is ours, because we are God’s forgiven children.

Amen. 

 
May the peace of God which is beyond all human understanding keep your hearts and your minds in and on Christ and Him alone, now and forever.


Amen.



























































October 31, 2021 REFORMATION SUNDAY

Let us pray:  O Lord God, you have  given us Your Word and through it, life eternal, reach into our hearts again this hour with that same Word to comfort, strengthen and challenge us.  O God, forgive those who strayed from Your Word and grant that they might yet return to the truth, before the day of grace ends.  Cast down Your enemies, O Lord, and raise up mighty prophets of Your Word, remove from the pulpits false shepherds and cause us all to follow the True Shepherd, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in whose name we have gathered and in whose name we pray.   Amen.


Grace, peace and mercy be unto you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.


Our message this day is from the inspired, inerrant, and infallible Word of God as recorded in Second Timothy, chapter 4, hear again these words, “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching,”


This far our text


Our text just said, the time is coming, my dear friends the time has come when even mainline Christian congregations have forsaken the Holy Word of Almighty God for the teachings of man. 


On this Reformation Day it is absolutely paramount that we consider the very thing the Reformation sought to bring about and that is that when we talk about God’s Word we must remain faithful.  Countless times we have heard the words of Jesus from Revelation, “Be thou faithful unto death and I will give thee a crown of life.”


Faithful to tradition, faithful to a particular church, faithful to a denomination, Oh no, it was Jesus who said in the 15th chapter of Matthew, “for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God.”  And in the 7th chapter of Mark, Jesus says, “You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.”


From our own Lutheran confessions, we hear “Some while boasting of and benefitting from their adherence to the Augsburg Confession even dared to give a false interpretation to these articles. This caused serious and dangerous schisms in the true Evangelical churches. 


These controversies are not, as some may think, mere misunderstandings or contentions about words , with one party talking past the other, so that the strife reflects a mere semantic problem of little or no consequence.


On the contrary, these controversies deal with weighty and important matters, and they are of such a nature that the opinions of the erring party cannot be tolerated in the church of God, much less be excused and defended.”


How very true and let us never forget that it is not those of us who remain faithful to God’s Word who are causing the problems, it is those who are trying to reinterpret the Word of God so that it conforms to the world. 


Despite what we are told in the 12th chapter of Romans, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
Are we so far this side of the Reformation that we no longer understand what it was all about? If that is true we must remember the Reformation was only about 500 years ago.


It was around 2000 years ago that Jesus was nailed to the cross. Perhaps that explains why we have lost some of the zeal of the reformation and why we have many times lost the real meaning of Christianity. 


The overriding concern of the Reformation was Scripture. Not only so the ordinary people might read the Scriptures but that in reading them they might be brought to a correct understanding of God’s Word and a true relationship with Jesus.


While it is true that Luther was interested in reforming the Roman Catholic Church, we must not miss what it was in the church that needed reforming. It was their corruption of God’s Word. A corruption which has only multiplied in the years since Luther. 


Hear once again what Luther said as he was defending the Word of God, “My conscience is obedient to the Word of God. I cannot and will not retract anything, for it is neither safe nor right to act against one’s conscience.”


Luther took the stand he took because he knew what the Bible says. Before we are willing to take a similar stand we better know what the Bible says.  This is the very reason why so many are being led astray to their eternal condemnation, they do not know what the Bible says.


Look at just a few of the ways the Roman Catholic Church has strayed even farther from the Truth since the days of Luther. 


The Roman Catholic Church now has a teaching that says, “that Mary, mother of Jesus has been free of original sin from the moment of her conception.”  There is another Roman Catholic belief that Mary is Co-Redemptrix referring to Mary's role in the redemption of all peoples. 


Indeed, popes, saints and other Catholic writers have taught that Mary is Co-Redemptrix or Co-Redeemer. Christ's death redeems men, but without Mary, there would be no Christ to redeem men. Therefore, without Mary, there would be no redemption. This foolishness came about in 1854.


Then there is a Roman Catholic Teaching  called the Assumption of Mary: Pope Pius XII, in 1950 defined that Mary, "after the completion of her earthly life was assumed body and soul into the glory of Heaven." That is, she was "taken up body and soul into heaven," at the time of her death. She is there "exalted as Queen of the Universe."


 One more, if you will, In 1965 the second Vatican council decreed we have to look at Mary as the Mediatrix in three senses:  First, as mother of the redeemer, she was the intermediary through which the Son of God entered this world to save us from sin.


Second, by the witness of her own faith and thereby of presenting Christ to others, she aided in reconciling sinners to her Son.  Mary, sinless yet knowing the suffering caused by sin, continues to call sinners to her Son.  Through her example, she inspires all of us to the faith, hope, and love that our Lord wants all of us to have.


Finally, because of her assumption and role as mother for all of us, she prays for us, interceding on our behalf just as she did at Cana, asking the Lord to bestow graces to us as He wills. Friends, The Roman Catholic church is not a Christian church. In addition to what we just looked at, they believe in purgatory. You know that is where you go while someone on earth makes satisfaction for your sins.
This along with the other falsehoods we have mentioned show that they do not believe in salvation by faith in Jesus they do not believe that Jesus died for all of our sins. 


Again, our text also says, “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions.”


This is exactly what is going on in the Evangelical Lutheran Church (ELCA), the Methodist Church , the Church of Christ, the Congregational Church and so many others in their embrace of homosexuality and all other kinds of sexual perversion. 


They have accumulated teachers to suit their own passions. So it is with Trinity Lutheran in Ottawa and their recent call to a pastor and I use that term loosely as this man has what he calls his husband.


Then ELCA also according to their own website supports abortion. The point of all this is that the Roman Catholics and other religious groups who call themselves Christians are not Christians and their eternal salvation has been sacrificed on the altar of compromise with the world instead of adherence to God’s Word.


You should not accept in totality any pastors word as to what Scripture says. We are told in the book of Acts, “in Thessalonica, they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.”  Search the Scriptures to make sure the pastor is speaking the truth. 


This ties in with something else which came out of the Reformation, the priesthood of all believers.  The congregation has put on the pastor, and he has willingly accepted the idea that the pastor is the one who has to do all the church things. —but as Luther said, “every man must do his own praying, dying and believing.” 


The point of this is that each one of us must study the Bible, pray, visit the sick, evangelize the lost. I must remain faithful and you must remain faithful, my faith will not save you and your faith will not save me. 


People have forgotten their individual responsibilities, forgotten that the pastor is supposed to lead them into the truth of Scripture, he is not to live the Scripture for them.


Constantly you hear from this pulpit about the heathen doctrines being advanced in many churches and you have heard it again this day, so what are you going to do about it??


If we believe the truth of Scripture the people you know who are attending a Roman Catholic Church or any protestant church which is teaching acceptance and toleration of any sexual deviations, they are holding hands with the devil and they are not Christians because a Christian cannot accept that which is in contradiction to God’s Word.  


Lutherans have a great heritage, and our doctrine is based entirely on Scripture. We should be bringing the people the truth and our churches should be filled with people seeking the truth. It has been reported that Billy Graham the famous Baptist preacher and evangelist once called the Missouri Synod a “sleeping giant.”

 
If that is true what will take to wake the sleeping giant. The real truth is that the Missouri Synod, you and I are like those described in the Bible. Remember account in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus was with His disciples, and He said to them,   “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” 

              
Later He came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour?”  The question for us is are we still sleeping?


The Roman Catholic church and most protestant churches are literally going to hell. How many people today this very hour have worshipped in these satan led churches and what will we do about it? They have not worshipped the True God, so they have worshipped an idol, a god of their own making


May this be the day when we begin sharing the truth of God’s Word with everyone, some will accept it, some will hate us, some will no longer be our friends but the important question for us today is---------------


Are we remaining faithful to God’s Word, every single Word in the entire Bible?


AMEN 





























































































































October 24, 2021                                     22nd  Sunday After Pentecost

Let us pray:  O most heavenly Father, we pray that through Your Word we might be led into a greater understanding and deeper appreciation of all that You have given us through Yourself, through Your Son Jesus Christ and through the Holy Spirit.  Grant that we might boldly and faithfully carry the message of the Gospel into the entire world.  This we pray in the name of our Lord and Savior.  Amen.



Grace, peace and mercy be you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ


Our message this day is from the inspired, inerrant and infallible Word of God as recorded in the Gospel from St. Mark, “I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward.”  



This far our text.


Names are something we may take for granted.  However, people often take a long time to decide on just the right name.  Maybe we know why our parents gave us the names they did and maybe we do not.  Or, why did we give our children the names we gave them?  There might be any number of reasons---how the first name sounds with the last name, it might be a family name or the name of a hero, or because it is “cute” 

 
So in Scripture we find that names are sometimes descriptive of a particular person.  Isaac means laughter because Sarah laughed when she was told that she would have a son even though she was 90 years old and then she laughed again when Isaac was born.  


Israel means one who struggles with God because Jacob wrestled with the Lord and then God said to him, “Your name will no longer be Jacob but Israel because you have struggled with men and with God.”


In that same encounter between Jacob and God, Jacob said to God, “please tell me your name.”  In the Hebrew this means that the name would reveal the character or personality of a person.  In Scripture John said to Jesus, “we saw a man driving out demons in your name.”   


The name Jesus reveals something of the character of the person Jesus as we hear the angel say to Joseph, “(Mary) will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."


The name Jesus therefore means Savior.  And when we think of Jesus is this not the first thought that comes into our minds?  Here is my Savior.  After His resurrection from the dead , Jesus said to His disciples, “This is what I told you while I was still with you:  Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms." 


This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.”

 
 Here is the blessed Gospel message we are to take to the world, for Jesus said you and that means all of us who are His followers, we are to take to the world the message of repentance and forgiveness in the name of Jesus. This is what we are told in Second Corinthians, “(Jesus) has committed to us the message of reconciliation.”


For those of us who have been baptized, we came to the font or we were brought to it because of faith in Jesus.  It is in the Gospel of St. John that we are told, “these are written (that is, these words telling of the miracles of Jesus and in fact all these words of Scripture are written) that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”


So by God’s grace we have been granted faith, saving faith in Jesus. That faith which according to Scripture, “comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.”


“At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”  


Every unbeliever should fall on their knees in absolute terror at the name of Jesus for He is the righteous Judge who will reveal every unbelievers evil and all their sins. This is what the evil spirits do as we are told in St. Mark’s Gospel” Whenever the evil spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, "You are the Son of God."


Recall on the night when He was betrayed, the soldiers, chief priests and scribes came to arrest Jesus and He said to them, “Who is it you want?" "Jesus of Nazareth," they replied. "I am he," Jesus said.  (And when He said that), they drew back and fell to the ground.”


But you and I and all who have longed for His coming should get on our knees and proclaim the same thing.  The difference being that when we praise Jesus by saying, “You are the Son of God.” we do that in eternal gratefulness for all that He has done for us, but most especially for the forgiveness of sins and the eternal life we have through His name. 

 
Here is the promise from God’s Holy Word, the exact same promise from both the Old and New Testaments, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”


Whether we are talking about the miraculous or the ordinary, everything is to be done in the name of Jesus.  This is what we heard about in our text when Jesus was talking about someone casting out demons in His name.  We would have to agree that such a thing is a miracle, but in our text Jesus also says, “anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name…will certainly not lose his reward.”  

The name Jesus has evoked more passion both good and bad than any other name in the history of the world.  Great deeds of mercy have been done in His name, people have given away their fame and their fortune in serving Him, but some of the greatest wars have also been committed in His name and people have sought to gain fame and fortune by invoking His name.


Yes, we love to hear the name Jesus because it reminds us of the crown of everlasting life which awaits those who, through Jesus, are victorious in this life. In one stanza of the old hymn “Oh, for a Thousand Tongues to Sing”, Charles Wesley penned these words, “Jesus the name that charms our fears; that bids our sorrows cease; tis music in the sinners ears, tis life and health and peace.”
The name Jesus charms our fears and bids our sorrows cease.  Jesus Himself knew conflict in this life that you and I will never know.  The prophet Isaiah said of our Lord, “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.”


Sometimes you and I feel all alone, so our Lord felt when at the crucifixion His disciples ran away.  He suffered rejection when three times Peter denied Him.  At almost every turn the people rejected Him.


When you and I are feeling rejected, when we are feeling alone, and those feelings come to all of us, let us hear the name Jesus.  For in the person who bears that name is the only One who can deliver us.  


It matters not whether our fear is the loss of material goods or what the  cause, Jesus is there to take away our fears, He is there to take away our loneliness.  Luther said in his famous Reformation hymn, “take they our life, goods, fame, child and wife, let these all be gone, they yet have nothing won, the kingdom ours remaineth.”


There have been in our lives times when we were undergoing great suffering and there may yet be more of those days in our future.  Life was not easy for those who have gone before us either.  We know the story of Job, he lost everything he had.  


John the Baptist was imprisoned and eventually beheaded.  There was Daniel who was put in the lion’s den.  Since this is the month we celebrate the Reformation we also recall Luther who was constantly under threat from the government and the church.  Also other reformers Wycliffe and Hus.


All of these people and so many thousands of others have gone through what none of us have ever gone through and yet they endured because they knew the reality of what we are told in the 18th chapter of Proverbs, “The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.”


Instead of focusing on our fears, we need to run to the name of the Lord where we will be safe and we need to focus on our Savior.  As a man of sorrows, Jesus experienced the loss of a loved one as His friend Lazarus died and the Scriptures tell us that Jesus cried. 


From a human standpoint, Jesus like all human beings had to enter the valley of the shadow of death alone for He hung on the cross alone. On that cross, covered with the sins of the world, He was forsaken.


When you and I are tempted to sin, or more importantly when we give in to sin as we do every day, we need to hear the name of Jesus, we need to hear about the forgiveness which He procured and secured on the cross for us.  


Then His name is music in our ears.  How glad we are, for with His name come the glorious words from our Heavenly Father, “Your sins are white as snow.”  Hear it again, “your sins are white as snow” and hear it every time we come to God with contrite hearts. 


Indeed, as we hear in First Corinthians, “you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.”  We have been cleansed of our sins, we have been made holy and we have been declared not guilty of deserving eternal death.  All of this in the name of Jesus.  No wonder we love that name.


If we would be victorious in life, then we need to be in the battle. In our own lives we need to battle Satan, and in carrying the name of Jesus we also need to be in the battle for people’s souls.  Right now, this is a battle which Satan is winning, because too many in the Lord’s army have laid down their weapons. 

 
There is a movement in this country like there has never been before to remove the blessed name of Jesus from every area of life. And, instead of marching on to victory, we retreat or worse, we desert the Lord. We have given in to the idea, “I can’t make a difference.” 


When we follow that course we are forgetting or not really trusting the promise of Jesus found in the 14th chapter of St. John, “I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” 


You and I need to Stand Up for Jesus.  We need to take His name into the workplace, into the marketplace, into every aspect of daily living.  We need to take that name which is above all names.


What conflict is it that is troubling our life this day?  Is there something which has brought us even to the brink of denying our faith? Instead of happiness, is there despair, loneliness, desperation—hear then that blessed name of Jesus and realize that we have in faith received a new name from Him, we bear His name and He claims us as His own.  


Names are something that in everyday life we may take for granted.  But let us never take the name of Jesus for granted.  In Scripture there are two hundred and fifty three names or titles given to Jesus, 


but not one of them is sweeter sounding to our ears or more calming to our troubled hearts than the name Jesus for that name is the name of the One, the only One who came into this world to save US.


AMEN.



May the peace of God which is beyond all human understanding keep your hearts and your minds in and on Jesus and Him alone. Amen.
















































































































































October 17, 2021 xx
21st Sunday after Pentecost
Let us pray: Heavenly Father, we have gathered to thank and praise You and seek to grow in our walk as Your children.  To that end, bless now the proclamation of Your holy Word, grant that we might increase in knowledge and commitment.  This we pray in the name of our blessed Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ. Amen.

Grace, peace and mercy be unto each and every one of you from the Triune and Eternal, the only true God.


Our message this day is from the inspired, inerrant and infallible Word of God as recorded in the appointed Holy Gospel, the 10th chapter of St. Mark, hear again the words of the living Jesus from verse 25, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God." 
This far our text.


In our Gospel today, Jesus talks about entering the kingdom of heaven and life as one in that kingdom He first describes it as very difficult,—not really impossible but really, really difficult. Then a few verses later He describes it as truly impossible. So which one is it?


Remember from last Sunday what happened immediately before today’s text? A rich young man came to Jesus, asking what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus truly loves this young man. And this rich young man appears sincere in his request. He has many things right. 


Certainly, he has come to the right
person, Jesus. Indeed, he runs to him. In the Gospel of Mark, it appears that only sincere individuals, with real needs, ever “run” to meet Jesus. And unlike the scribes and Pharisees, he kneels as a sign of respect to Jesus. He addresses Jesus in a very complimentary way, “Good Teacher.”


 It is so complimentary that Jesus uses it to encourage the young man to consider the full implications of what he just said: “Why do you call me ‘good’? Only God is good.” With this reminder of the First Table of the Law, involving God and his name, Jesus does not seem to be criticizing the young man, but rather asking if he understands the true implications of his address. 


It is as if Jesus is saying, “How far are you willing to take this? Do you know who I really am? Are you willing to confess who I really am? With not just your lips but with your actions? Are you willing to believe in the impossible? Are you willing to accept just how difficult this mission is?”


The man asks his question: What must he do to inherit eternal life? In our Psalm today we heard, “How shall a young man cleanse his way? Let him with care Thy Word observe”. Thus, Jesus points the man to the commandments. 


The list of commandments Jesus gives is not exhaustive, nor need it be. It makes the point. The man responds that he has kept these from his youth. Amazingly, Jesus does not contradict him. He goes into no lecture on the fact that we are all sinners, and no one has kept the commandments perfectly.


 Instead, Jesus “loves” him and tells him that “you lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me”.  Jesus’ “assignment” forces the young man to acknowledge whether or not he can say with the Psalmist,   “More joy Thy testimonies gave than all the riches I have known.” 


It also challenges him to place Jesus and his mission first, thereby testifying to whether the man gets the full implications of calling Jesus “good.” The man leaves saddened because he had many possessions. Did he go away to do what Jesus said, his sadness merely indicating that he realizes now just how difficult genuine discipleship is?


 Or does his downcast demeanor indicate a refusal on his part to pursue the path Jesus has laid out? Whatever the case, Jesus turns to his disciples and comments how difficult it is for the rich to enter heaven: “"How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter 3the kingdom of God!"  Difficult. Very difficult.
This surprises the disciples. Perhaps they assume that wealth is a sign of God’s blessing and therefore an indicator of one’s relationship with God. Money is a good gift from God, but “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils” We are told in First Timothy. 

 
How many of us are rich toward God by supporting the preaching of his Gospel? The text as it stands warns us today about the danger of allowing riches to get in the way of our total devotion to God. Riches, rather than always being a sign of God’s favor, can actually get in the way of one’s trust in God.


But it gets worse—or at least it appears to. Jesus goes on to teach his disciples a deeper truth. “Jesus said to them again, ‘Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God!


 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.’ And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, ‘Then who can be saved?’” Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man it is impossible’ ” 


Humanly speaking, no one can slip a camel through the eye of a needle. Not only are riches a huge hindrance to entering the kingdom and thus merely difficult, but Jesus also says it is impossible for a rich man to enter the kingdom. And not just the rich! “Then who can be saved?” Jesus answers: it is impossible for anyone to enter the kingdom of heaven on one’s own.


It is not just riches that can get in the way of heaven. Indeed, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above”). But any of God’s greatest gifts including the gift of wealth, can and often are used by Satan as his greatest temptations and most powerful idols. Jesus says “Whoever loves father or mother more than me” and that shows that parents, children, and spouses can become idols. 


How many people forego church because of their family members? Because their family members are visiting? How many leave a church where God’s Word is properly taught to join a church that errs in some doctrine because they want their kids to have a “better” youth group? Or they want to be with other family members? 


The Gospel account of the rich man serves as a narrative example of our Epistle’s warning to all believers: “Let us [all of us!] therefore strive to enter that rest” and, as was urged earlier in this same Letter to the Hebrews, to “exhort one another every day . . . that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin”—any sin, what we call big sins or little sins. Sin is sin. 


The truth is that no one can save himself. It is impossible. And unlike “difficulties,” there are not grades of “impossibility.” With man, it is simply impossible. With any man, all men, anyone, anywhere. There are no exceptions.
 No matter what race, no matter how smart, no matter what age, no matter what gender, no matter how rich, no matter how poor. Man cannot  and does not do it, not even with a little help from God. 


It is not that man does his part and God does his. Man’s only part in the equation is the impossible. What man brings to the table is the impossible. Man merely brings sin. The only thing men supply is man’s need.


No, -------man needs the God of the possible to do the impossible. Our text continues with these words “Being exceedingly astonished the disciples said to Jesus “Then who can be saved?’ Jesus looked at [the disciples] and said, ‘With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God” For us, it is not just difficult; it simply cannot happen. But with God, nothing shall be impossible.



Are we willing to believe in the impossible? The Gospel is the Good News that God does the impossible for US He paid the price that was impossible for us to pay. He paid for your sin, my sin, the sin of the whole world.

 
No mere mortal could do that. But with God all things are possible. God became man so that you and I might be saved. In Jesus, God died for us. The impossible is possible with God. Indeed, He and He alone opens stony hearts to believe. He truly can make a camel go through the eye of a needle. 


Whether we are rich or poor, we believe. We are saved. We confess this truth whenever we say with Luther in the Small Catechism, “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith. 


In the same way He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.” Not only our salvation but also our conversion is all God’s doing. God doing the impossible.
Even though God has done the impossible and redeemed us, paying for all of our sins, and even though he has done the impossible and turned our hearts of stone into believing hearts, until we enter fully into the kingdom in the resurrection, the road will be hard.

 
Jesus calls us to our own Mission: Difficult—very, very difficult, Jesus, the one who did the truly impossible job of the cross for our salvation, calls upon us to pick up our cross daily and follow him. And as we have heard before, to take up our cross means to share the Gospel..


Jesus wants to alter the simplistic thinking of his disciples in this regard—especially in regard to prosperity being the sign that we are among God’s blessed people. Quite to the contrary—being a follower of Jesus might entail persecution. 
And such persecution will seem to the world and even to our own flesh as if God is abandoning us. Contrary to many popular health, wealth, and prosperity preachers, our best life will entail the cross.


In today’s Gospel from Mark, Jesus explains to the disciples that the benefits are huge—“in the age to come,” Jesus says, “eternal life.” But in the meantime, He says, God’s many blessings come “with persecutions” 


The difficulties are also great. Jesus implies that we might lose family members over our faith. As He says elsewhere, “I have come to bring division . . . a son against his father” (cf Lk 12:51, 53). And he specifically warns about persecutions. 


In this life we will have great blessings, as fellow believers will make up our new family. But we will also have trials and tribulations. And along with these there will be constant temptations, not least of them the desire to look for our security and comfort in wealth.


But remember, no matter how difficult it gets, the Mission: Impossible is Mission: Accomplished because Jesus has completed his mission for us. We are assured of the victory in Christ because he did the Mission: Impossible for us.


It was John Dyer who wrote in the 18th century these very appropriate words, “A man may go to heaven without riches, without honor, without learning, without friends, but he can never go there without Jesus Christ.”


Amen.



May the peace of God which is beyond all human understanding keep your hearts and your minds in and on Christ and Him alone, now and forever. Amen.






























October 10, 2021    xx                                                                   Pentecost 20



Let us Pray:  O gracious God how thankful we are that You, through Your Holy Word, have given us saving faith in Jesus. Grant that we might forever see that this is the gift above all gifts.  Guide us that we live according to Your will and bring all the honor and all the glory to You, This we pray in the name of our blessed Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ. Amen.



Grace, peace and mercy be unto you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ



Our message today is from the inspired, inerrant and infallible Word of God as recorded in the appointed Holy Gospel, the 10th Chapter of St. Mark, hear again the words of our living Savior from verse 21, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have 9treasure in heaven; and come, follow me."


This far our text.

How loose our use of words! Not so with our Lord. When the rich young man shows him due deference and addresses him as “Good Teacher,” in verse 17, Jesus will not let him get away with it. “Good?”  Why?


There is only one way Jesus could be good—if He were the one true God, who alone is good. Is he God in the flesh or not? Therefore Jesus says in verse 18, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.”


Think how God himself had laid bare exactly what is in mankind back in Genesis. We recall these words from before the flood: “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” 


Nor is that an isolated Scripture passage. We hear in the Psalms: “They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one” (Ps 14:3).  


Unlike us, who would rather believe that this is a classic instance of Hebrew exaggeration, our Lord knows it to be absolute truth. God’s words before the flood and the words of the Psalmist still apply to people today, yes even to you and me. 


So anyone coming to Jesus and calling him good had better reckon with the fact that that means He is Yahweh in the flesh. 


Even as we are told in the Gospel of St. Matthew, "Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel," which is translated, "God with us.”


The very question that the young man put to our Lord shows that he was not ready to ascribe to the truth that all human “goodness” is sin in the eyes of God. He had not taken to heart the words of Isaiah 64:6: “our righteous deeds are like filthy rags.” 


He thought he still had some wiggle room, and so he puts the question to Jesus in verse 17,: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” 


For certainly if there is one thing that all religions agree on, it is this: If there is an eternal life, it is given only to a person who is worthy of it, not to a person who is unworthy. So the young man’s question comes down to this: “Just tell me what I need to do.”


This is the question which is at the heart of all world religions except Christianity. Strikingly, our Lord turns to the Second Table of the Law. He says, according to our numbering system, Commandment number five, “Do not murder,” number 6 “Do not commit adultery.” Number seven, “Do not Steal”, number 8, “Do not bear false witness”, numbers 9 and 10, “Do not defraud” and number 4, “Honor your father and mother.” 


Jesus has gone through the second table of the Law which speaks of our relationship with other people which Jesus summarizes when asked what is the greatest commandment and He responds, “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.'  This is the first commandment.  And the second, like it, is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

   
In speaking of the second table in our text, Jesus says to the young man he already knows all these things. And that’s true. The young man had been brought up well. He knew what God commanded in the Law at least in relation to his neighbor.


He knew that he was to love his neighbor as himself. Jesus was holding up a mirror in order for the man to see the truth about himself, but he was so blind that he utterly missed it: 


In verse 17, the young man said to Jesus, “Good Teacher.”  Now in verse 20 he says, referring to Jesus only as, “Teacher, he says, all these I have kept from my youth” Such is the power of the human to be deceived.  No longer does he refer to Jesus as good teacher. In Jeremiah, we are told, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick, who can understand it?”

 
Note the contrast between the assessment of Genesis and this young man: “the thoughts of a man’s heart are only evil continually” we hear in Genesis and the young man in our text says, “all these I have kept.”  In the young man’s words we hear a perfect example of self-righteousness. 


And see the supreme irony that the young man is standing in front of the only Son of Adam and Eve who can make that claim and be right in it. For Jesus truly did keep them all from his youth! But the young man is not ready to see that Jesus stands apart from him in this, that Jesus is “good” in a way that he is not and never could be. 
Also strikingly, when the answer comes back, “all these I have kept,” Jesus does not scorn or shame the young man. Our text says in verse 21,: “Jesus, looking at him, loved him”. He pities the young man’s great self-deception and in love gives him the gift he needs most. Jesus takes the Law in hand again, this time unpacking the First Commandment: “You lack one thing.”

 
And what was that? You can almost see the young man leaning in, listening, and waiting for the one more thing he could do to secure his eternal future.  “Just tell me,” his eager face declared. But then the shocking words of verse 21: “Go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me”.


Whoa. Wait a minute. The disappointment and horror are written across the young man’s face. A wealthy young man who had lots and lots of stuff. A man who could not see selling all  of it. A reasonable amount given away to the poor, yes. But all? What kind of a person could do that? Would do that. 


Could you and I do that?  Suppose the Lord Jesus Christ were to visibly stand before us today and say to us, sell ALL that you have, give to the poor and come, follow me. How would we respond? As individuals and as a congregation????
Would we be willing to sell our homes, our campers, all our other toys, cash in our 401 k”s, our bank accounts and give it all to the poor?  Maybe?  No??  Yes??
Ah, but look upon who it is who is issuing this invitation. There stands Jesus, the truly wealthy one—and the truly Good One. “Though he was rich, yet for our sake he became poor so that through his poverty we might become rich”, we are told in Second Corinthians. 


Jesus invites the young man to leave all his stuff behind (stuff he will have to leave behind when he dies anyway) and follow along with Jesus as he goes to his cross—where our Lord will give away all that He has to us poor sinners, where He will make his unbroken “yes” to the will of the Father, his absolute keeping of every commandment. 


Where he will gain for himself treasure in heaven, not the blessings which are already in heaven because they are His, but the treasure He will gain is —you and me—by suffering and dying to forgive our sins, including our sins of forgetting again and again that He alone is our true and lasting treasure.


All the young man sees in that moment is his own failure. True, he had not kept all these commandments, for he had not kept even the First Commandment, Thou shalt not have any other gods.”


If we cannot keep the first commandment we certainly cannot keep the rest of them, remembering what we are told in James, ‘whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles14 at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.”15     This young man had let his stuff become his god because he had violated the First Commandment. And seeing only his failure, he walks away sad. 


That is how it ends with all who think that what they do is how they inherit eternal life. They end up walking away sad. Because, of course, they cannot inherit life that way, and so they believe that there is no life for them.


But how wrong they are! Eternal life is a gift. It cannot be earned. It cannot be deserved by any sinful human being. Jesus came to give it freely to poor sinners who confess they could never do enough to deserve it, for they have been sinful from their youth. 


Oh, people loved by God, how utterly unnecessary for us to walk away sad from Jesus because He shows us that we have not kept the commandments. How much better to stay on our knees before him and beg for his mercy precisely because our heart is sinful from our youth! 


How much wiser to admit that we have had (and sadly still have) other gods and that we are entirely too attached to our stuff and to beg the mercy and forgiveness of our King! And it is not just stuff that sometimes becomes our god, it can be anything which we put before God. 


How much more blessed to join the wise thief on the cross and say to our King who died to cover all our sins: “We are only getting what we deserve, but you have done nothing wrong. Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom!”  For then we, too, will hear with the thief the shocking words of grace from the lips of our Lord: “Truly I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” 


A peanuts comic strip from way back when featured Lucy telling Linus how she was intending to grow up one day and be a queen and live in a big house and even wear her crown while swimming! Linus shatters her daydream with the sad news that you have to be born into a royal family to be queen.


Lucy gets very angry and announces that she intends to work very, very hard and makes lots of money so that she can buy herself a queendom and kick out the old queen….so that she can live in a very big house and wear her crown while swimming.  


Like Lucy and like the rich young man who came to Jesus, our temptation is to think that by working very hard we might finally be able to placate God and earn our way into heaven.


But God teaches us that while the Kingdom cannot be earned or deserved by any of our efforts, or bought with money, it is a gift which He delights to give us.  
Despite the fact that we could never earn or deserve it, Jesus gives eternal life as a pure gift, “not by works,1 so that no one can boast.”  As we come before our King today and he puts into our mouth his body given and His blood, poured out for us and thereby we have the assurance of the forgiveness of all our sins, and  He gives us right now a foretaste and promised guarantee that eternal life is and will be ours.


 For As the Only Good One, Jesus delights to bestow what cannot be inherited or earned by any of our doing. And for that, be all glory to the Father, and to His beloved Son our Lord and Savior now and to the ages of ages! 

 

                                               Amen.


May the peace of God which is beyond all human understanding keep your hearts and your minds in and on Christ and Him alone, now and forever. Amen. 




































 October 3, 2021                                                         19th Sunday After Pentecost 


Let us pray: Heavenly Father, we have gathered to thank and praise You and seek to grow in our walk as Your children.  To that end, bless now the proclamation of Your holy Word, grant that we might increase in knowledge and commitment.  This we pray in the name of our blessed Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ. Amen.


Grace, Peace and Mercy be unto you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 


Our message this day is from the inspired, inerrant and infallible Word of God as
 recorded in the Old Testament Lesson for today from Isaiah chapter 55. The lesson begins with these words, “Seek the Lord while He may be found.”
Did you ever have a cat or dog that you let outside, and it did not come back for a long time or perhaps it never came back.  In such a case someone may have come to you and said, “where is your cat?” The answer was probably something like, “I don’t know he has been gone for a week now.


Maybe there has been a screwdriver or some household item, which you do not use every day, then one day you go to get it, you go, of course, to where you believe it is and it is not there. Again, the statement may be if someone asks what you are doing, Oh I am looking for my screwdriver, but it is lost.


The fact of the matter is, the cat and the screwdriver probably were not lost, they were someplace, they appeared to be lost because you did not know where to find them.  


Is our spiritual life like that???  Time and again we are told to seek the Lord, the problem is that for many who have found Him they seem to want to put Him somewhere so that when they need Him again, they will be able to find Him.


Many have tried to keep Him in the Bible, some have tried to keep Him behind the Altar Rail, as we search God’s Word this morning may we learn that this is not what is involved in FINDING GOD. 

Our text is a call to action, seek the Lord.  We dare not say, I will do it tomorrow. We are told to seek Him while He may be found, while He is near. Some people go through life believing that when trouble comes, or especially when they are near death that then they will seek the Lord, then they will truly call upon Him.


We must remember however that there is evidence in Scripture that at times God removes Himself. There comes a point where God says, enough! In our individual lives we do not know when that point may be reached.


Now, lest someone here begin to believe that God has withdrawn Himself, that we perhaps have already gone beyond that point where He is available. There is Good News, through this very service, through our hearing His Word, He is reaching out His hand, He is at this very moment seeking us.


How do we respond?  Do we hear His voice, do we see His outstretched hand and go away from this service, leaving the Almighty God standing there?


We have all heard sermons before about seeking the Lord, we have been told that this is something we must do, but were we told how to go about seeking the Lord? And if we were told, do we remember what we were told? In Isaiah 34:16, we are told, “Seek and read from the book of the Lord.” 


Yes, we are to seek God in the words of the Bible.  How many here have a bible or perhaps more than one in your homes and it is never read?  If the Bible is on a shelf gathering dust, so is our faith gathering dust. Perhaps you will once in awhile dare to venture to the Bible class, but do you come out of a sense of duty or do you come truly seeking the Lord.


In the familiar words of Matthew 6:33 our blessed Lord Jesus says, “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness.”  To seek the Kingdom of God means to live as members of that kingdom. We seek to provide ourselves with money, food, clothing and other things. Again we get it backwards for Jesus says in the rest of Matthew 6:33, “All these things shall be yours as well.”


Now this does not mean that if we seek the Kingdom of God that all necessities of  life will be dropped in our laps, we will still  have to work, however the struggle will be eliminated as we will realize that we already are members  of the Kingdom of God and God will provide for His children.

We are to seek the Lord through prayer as we hear in the 9th chapter of Daniel, “I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking Him by prayer and supplications.”  As we are told in the book of James, Is anyone among you suffering?  Let him pray,… is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray… pray for one another…(James 5)


And of course from Philippians, chapter 4, “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”


Where else are we to seek the Lord?  Listen to Psalm 27, “ One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.”
For us we seek the Lord in this house, in the ancient liturgies and in His Holy Word, in the hymns, all of these things blend together so that we may see the beauty of the Lord.


In addition to seeking the Lord our text tells us “to seek Him while He may be found. “  We are told in the book of Hosea, “It is time to seek the Lord that He may come and rain salvation upon you.” (Hosea 10:11)  And from the 6th chapter of  second Corinthians, “Now is the acceptable time, behold, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Corinthians 6:2)


Let us not put off seeking the Lord. We may never have another opportunity. This is not some type of scare tactic, this is the stating of truth.  Remember the parable of the rich fool told by Jesus, the rich fool said, 
‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you,” (Luke 13)
You see we do not know if there will be a later for us. In addition, seeking the Lord must be a continual activity.  It is not a one-time thing. People are always seeking the answers to many problems, this is why there are such things as marriage seminars, peace seminars, drug seminars and on and on……people would find the answers they are seeking if they would only first and forever seek the Lord. 


Many seek the help of the Lord without actually seeking Him. Here again things are reversed. The words of Psalm 14 apply as we hear, “The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God.” And the sad answer is found in Romans chapter 3, “No one understands, no one seeks God.”  


The remaining question is, when we seek the Lord, will we find Him?  There are many who go through the outward motions of seeking the Lord but their heart is not in it. This is what we find in the 29th chapter of Isaiah, The people were engaged in outward forms of worship. 


They were seeking the Lord but not finding Him because they were not seeking Him with their hearts.  It is to these people that these words were spoken, “this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men,.”
(Isaiah 29)


And so according to Proverbs 1, “Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently but will not find me.”  This is the Almighty God saying , Forget it.  I came to you and you refused me. 

Finding God is impossible for those who refuse to seek God with their entire heart. Only when we confess our sins without end and repent for not seeking God above all things only then do we receive the beautiful promise recorded in Jeremiah 29, “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with ALL your heart.”


Upon finding God, we will have what the world even unbelievers are really after and that is happiness. The Psalmist said, “O how happy is the one who seeks Him with his whole heart. “


Our road map, for going through this world and getting out of this world is God’s Word but it appears that many who claim to be Christians have lost the Bible.  When they go out into the world, they do not take God’s Word.  God is the one Who rescues us and leads into the light. Now are we going to refuse to be rescued by Him??? The answer is yes if we never search His Holy Word.


It does not matter what we have done in the past. God is standing here this very day, this very hour with His hand outstretched , full of grace and mercy, ready for those who are seeking Him with their entire heart.


Our Lord says to us, seek and ye shall find. Are we seeking? If we ae truly doing that they we will find Him. We just sang in the sermon hymn, “ finding, following, keeping, struggling, Is He sure to bless? Saints, apostles, prophets, martyrs, Answer, YES!


You and I are able to add our names to that list, for we know that He is sure to bless. May we leave this service dedicated to not just seeking God once a week through the worship service, but rather dedicated to a daily even an hourly seeking our God for when we do that we are daily and richly blessed in FINDING GOD!
Amen.


May the peace of God which is beyond all human understanding truly keep your hearts and your minds in and on Christ and Him alone, now and forever.
Amen,




















































September 26, 2021             18th Sunday After Pentecost


Merciful and Gracious Father, bless us now as we hear Your Holy Word. May it truly be for us the Word that calls us from sin, that guides us in the way we should go and brings us the assurance of forgiveness and life everlasting in the kingdom of heaven. This we pray in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ. Amen.



Grace, peace and mercy be unto you from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ.


Our message for this Day is from the inspired, inerrant and infallible Word of God as recorded in the appointed Holy Gospel, the 9 th chapter of St. Mark, hear again the words of the living Jesus from verses 49 and 50,


“everyone will be salted with fire.


Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another."


This far our text.


The American people are having a love affair with their own bodies. All you have
to do is look at advertisements in the newspaper, or on television and you will be
constantly reminded; to lower your cholesterol, avoid sugars and trans fats among
other things. It is good to do these things.


There also people who are on a salt-free diet. There are salt substitutes for those
who believe they need something to replace the salt. And after this substitute has
been used long enough a person forgets what real salt is like. Sad to say, but we
find the same thing within the church which bears the name Christian.


Within God’s house, people are on a salt-free diet and that is not a good thing.
They have substituted something else for the salt with which Christians are to be
salted or they are simply not using salt at all. And they have used this substitute or
nothing for so long that they no longer know what the real thing is.


As we go through God’s Holy Word this morning, may we learn above all else,
that in our spiritual life, there is NO SUBSTITUTE FOR SALT. In fact, we must
be saturated with salt. Not the earthly salt in a box, but the spiritual salt of God’s
Holy Word.


The disciples came to Jesus with a problem saying, “Teacher, we saw someone
casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not
following us."


Looking at the statement by JOHN, we should ask, what was the problem? Why
did the disciples stop the man from casting out demons in the name of Jesus?
Indeed, we find that Jesus did not see a problem as He said, “Do not stop him, for
no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak
evil of me. For the one who is not against us is for us.”


The man was casting out demons in the name of Jesus and so he was obviously a
believer, he was a Christian, since the demons were being cast out.


This man was doing the work of God just as the disciples were to be doing. So the
disciples should not stop this man or anyone who is doing what Christ has
commanded. There is a message here for us.


Many times Lutherans are so concerned with their own system of worship that they
will not have anything to do with Christians who have a different system. This is
not saying that we should all become one giant church. We believe the Lutheran
distinctives are the proper ones and so we follow them; to do otherwise would be
to go against what we hold as truth and that would make us hypocrites.


However, that does not mean that people in other denominations are not also
Christians. Do we not recall the passage from Scripture that tells us, “by their
fruits you shall know them?” It is not the name of the church which is important
but what matters is that the True Word of God is proclaimed within the church.
If people are being saved within another denomination and that is possible if the
true Word of God is being proclaimed, then praise the Lord; those people are with
us because they are doing exactly what we are doing or what we should be doing,
they are sharing the Gospel of salvation.


Jesus then says in our text, “For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of
water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward.”
Jesus says anyone and that means anyone.


If anyone receives us, if they are kind to us, they will not lose their reward,
however notice the qualification they must do it simply because we are Christians
and for no other reason. Anyone who does this is probably also a Christian for the
world is not likely to be kind to us because we are Christians, if anything the
opposite is probably true; the world will reject us and scorn us simply because we
are Christians.


The next section of our text could be called “warnings about hell.” Jesus begins by saying, “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it
would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he
were thrown into the sea” When Jesus talks about a little one, He is referring to
all who have faith in Him as He also said, “I tell you the truth, unless you change
and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”


A child like faith is descriptive of those who accept and believe in Jesus without
questioning. We are able then on the basis of our text to say, any person who
causes a believer to sin, it would be better for that person if they were thrown into
sea. And this is not only speaking of those who openly oppose Christ who lead
believers into sin, it is also speaking of those hypocrites within the church who
lead believers into sin.


Here is a message for all denominations, all preachers and teachers who are
causing believers to sin. Any organization, whether of the world or the church
which advocates things contrary to the Word of God it would be better for the
people who make up these organizations, to have never been born. So it is for the
supreme court justices who approved same sex marriage and for all judges or
anyone who sets themselves above the Word of God.


The reason is because as people who have led Christians into sin, they will face the full force of the judgment and condemnation of the Almighty God. And the
message for us is that we must avoid those who would lead us into sin, for if we
willingly enter into sin, if we reject the salt which is God’s Word, we too shall face
the condemnation.


To avoid such sin and condemnation, Jesus speaks of cutting off the hand, or the
foot or removing the eye. Certainly, He is not speaking about actual physical
dismemberment, what He is saying is that we are to get rid of that which hinders
our being in a closer relationship with our God. What He is telling us is that we
need to sacrifice whatever is necessary so that we do not lose our eternal salvation.


You see, these verses are all about the choice between heaven and hell, between
life and death and actually between following Jesus and following Satan. Go into
the majority of churches today and you will not find the teaching which our Lord is setting forth in this Gospel. Many, many churches today do not preach or teach
about life and death, heaven and hell or sin and grace.


They speak of life, heaven and grace. This is not the Gospel which is to be salt, it
is a substitute, it is a weak Gospel which does not have any preserving or
seasoning qualities. It is salt which has lost its saltiness!


When you go home, search the Scriptures and you will that the strongest words
regarding hell came from the lips of Jesus. You will also find something else;
when Jesus is speaking about hell, He is speaking to either His disciples or those
who profess to be religious, but He does not speak about it to those who are outside of religion.


To those who had faith or to those who at least professed to have faith, Jesus spoke of hell and to those without faith, He spoke of heaven. The counterfeit churches of our day have turned that around. They speak of heaven to those in the pew and to those in the clutches of Satan they speak of hell. And this is the way those in the pew like it, is that not true?????------------------------------


Oh yes it is! You would much rather hear about grace and about heaven than
about sin and hell. It has been said that the doctrine of hell should be preached in
all its terribleness.


It is not kindness to spread a pretty covering of leafy branches over a pit into which many have fallen and broken their necks. That is the devils work as he hunts the world for souls. But it is not the business of preachers to ruin peoples souls in order to spare their feelings.


For those of us who are partakers of Christ we need to be reminded of what is
waiting for us if we fail to remain faithful to Christ. If we lose our saltiness.
And those who have never tasted the goodness of the Lord need to be shown what awaits those who have faith in Jesus. Yes, they also need to hear about sin, and this is why with Christians and non-Christians alike we are always to use the full counsel of God’s Word for the entire Bible is God’s salt.


The reason for speaking so descriptively of hell to Christians is to draw them into
an ever closer relationship with God. Then Jesus concludes our text by saying,
“everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its
saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at
peace with one another." The age old argument about whether salt may become
un-salty and still be salt is immaterial here.


The point is that the disciples are to be the salt in the world, but if they are salt in
name only, what good are they? To be salt in the world, we must have salt within
ourselves and if we have this salt, then we will be salt in the world and we will be
at peace with one another.


We are to be salt for our own preservation and so that we might through God’s
Word see that others become salt, not only for the preservation of Christians but to retard the spread of sin in the world. If there was ever a time when the world
needed the salt of Christianity it is now. The world is becoming ever more soiled
with sin and left to their own devices; the non-Christians have no way to retard the spread of sin.


If we think the moral fiber of the world and of this country is continuing to decay,
think what would happen if Christianity would be totally removed. The decay of
society would then become complete. And a world without the salt of God’s Word
would be completely unbearable and unlivable, for that would truly be hell on
earth.


We became God’s salt shakers when God gave us faith, however, salt shakers are
also of no value if they are empty. It used to be when people went on vacation
they would collect salt shakers and then bring them home and put them on a shelf.


They make nice decorations, but they are of no use. Too many churches are filled
with empty saltshakers. They make nice decorations in the pew, but they are of no value because they are spiritually empty. They are not salting the world with the Word of God.


In a few minutes we will once again have the opportunity to be filled with salt.
Coming to the Lord’s Table we will be re-salted. God grant that we may ever
remain more than nice decorations.


You and I know what the real salt is, it is the Word of God, faith in the Lord Jesus
Christ. May we have the courage to live as the salt in the world, for in checking
the spread of sin in our own lives and in the world, in matters pertaining to the
soul, to our eternal salvation, to the eternal salvation of all people---------------------
there is NO SUBSTITUTE FOR SALT, that is there is no substitute for God’s
Word.


Amen.


May the peace of God which is beyond all human understanding keep your hearts
and your minds in on Christ Jesus and Him alone, now and forever. Amen.








































September 19, 2021    17th Sunday After Pentecost



Let us pray: O Most Gracious Father, we pray that you would cause Your Holy Spirit to move among us that we receive a true understanding of Your Word. May we truly become Your servants in this place and may we serve You for all of eternity in the heavenly home You have promised us through Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, in whose name we pray. Amen.



Grace, peace and mercy be unto you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ


Our message for this day is from the inspired, inerrant and infallible Word of God as recorded in the appointed Old Testament Lesson, the 11th chapter of Jeremiah, hear again from verse 20, “O LORD of hosts…….. to you have I committed my cause.”



This far our text.


The Psalmist prayed to God, “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light to my path.”  In these words we are given two applications which comfort Christians while in this land shadowed by Satan, veiled in the sins of man and darkened by death.  These two applications are with us in this fallen world in which we live as we journey from here to eternity and they are true for all Christians of all times.


The first comfort we hear from these words is that the Lord has not left us in the darkness we deserve, but He has given us His Word--- that Word which is “able to make (us) wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”  


In the Bible, we have that Law which reveals what Almighty God’s will is for what we are to do and what we are not to do, what we are to think and not think.  For as Jeremiah said, the Lord God is the One “who judges justly and Who examines the heart and the mind.” You see, we can fool other people, but God knows the truth of what is in our mind and our heart. 


Since we are not able to keep God’s Law perfectly as He absolutely demands, the Law accuses and condemns the Old Adam in each one of us.  Make no mistake about it, every day we sin and God’s Word is true as it declares that the “soul that sins shall die.”


Even though we are not able to keep God’s commandments, God’s Law offers no freebies, makes no exceptions, has no loopholes and cuts no slack. 


Then in Scripture, we have the blessed Gospel, the good news that God came into this world in order that we might be forgiven for all our sins.  This is the message of salvation that began after Adam’s fall from grace and into sin.  And, this Gospel message will continue until the world is no more.  This is the Good News that speaks of God’s grace in a world of hurt.


For example, the prophet Jeremiah lived in a time and place where the forces of evil were all around him.  Even though God had delivered the people out of bondage, the generations following that deliverance stopped hearing the Lord and listened rather to the voices of liars including religious leaders who no longer held to the truth of God’s Word.  


The religious leaders preached a message of tolerance which enabled the people to engage in all kinds of sin.  Many, many people rejected God and His Word and so suffered the temporal and eternal consequences.


We certainly are able to recognize that the world we live in is not so very different, as we are told in Ecclesiastes, “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.”  


We are told by those who live by and accept what is in opposition to God’s Holy Word that we must be tolerant.  No we do not!!  We must never tolerate those who spew teachings which are against God’s Word. 


Even though Jesus came into this world to die for the sins of all, thereby affording peace with God the Father through the forgiveness of sins, and even though Jesus, True God and True Man, rose again from the dead conquering death and the devil, the generations since that time have stopped hearing the Lord. 
Instead, with ears itching for something new and with an insatiable hunger for forbidden fruit, they listen to the voices of liars whether those liars be in the pulpit or in the pew, and we too have listened to those voices.


Religious leaders are still engaging in idolatry that is they no longer hold to the True Word of God.  They permit and encourage that which is clearly contrary to the Bible, turning God’s Word into the opposite of God’s will, thereby attempting to create God in man’s image, according to man’s likeness…male and female they create him or her or them or it.


We, too, are capable of that.  We are prone to taking our lives into our own hands.  We would provide for our own security, peace and well-being. Our things, the world’s objects seem to give us the greatest security, peace and hope. We would put ourselves in the place of God.  Indeed, we would be God!


We turn again to our first parents who faced such temptation.  The devil came to them telling them that they could have control over their own lives. They would live not by the Word of God alone, but by the bread of the world, the things of the world.  


They could take pride in the fact that they would be independent of God and they would find their joy in the world and its pleasures.


Such was the temptation brought to our first parents and such is the temptation that comes to us. And as Adam and Eve fell, we also all too many times fall.  However,  the Word of God has not changed as He said through the prophet Jeremiah, “I will bring on them a disaster they cannot escape. Although they cry out to me, I will not listen to them.”


In the midst of individual, corporate and national sin which is rampant in our country, it is the faithful Christian, the True Christian who prays, “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” And, the true faithful follower of Christ seeks to live by the Word and in that Light. 


While the first comfort we heard about is that the Lord has revealed His Word, the other comfort comes from the fact that not all areas around us are given light; that is, the lamp and light are only given for a small area around us---the path where our feet are.


We are not able to see everything that is happening or will happen. In dark areas to one side are the wicked men of the earth, lurking or in a more familiar term, stalking.  How many of them were close to us this past week? We don’t know, do we?  But we would most certainly be terrified if we found out just how many were so very close to us. 


In the shadows to the other side of us is Satan, the prince of Darkness in whom there is no light and no truth.  That, my brothers and sisters is a reality. Though certainly chained, the devil is nearby seeking someone to devour---someone who strays from the path enlightened by God’s Holy Word, and who while carelessly wandering about in the darkness stumbles into the camp of the evil one.


Such has happened with those who no longer come to worship and partake of the Sacrament of the Altar.  Those who are failing to provide for their children’s Christian education have succumbed to Satan and are living in the darkness. 


Those who tolerate that which is contrary to God’s Word have become followers of the Evil One. How much longer will we confirm children knowing that their parents are never again going to bring them to Sunday School or worship. What is the point of confirming them?


This is what we heard in the Epistle for today, “You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God”


As we just said, on one side of us then we find the wicked men of the earth, on the other side is Satan and above us are all the devils in the world and below us, just under the skin of this earth’s crust are all those graves.


God in His mercy prevents us from seeing all this. You have heard people say, “Oh, I wish I knew what was going to happen.”  Thank God we cannot know that for each one of us would die in an instant if everything suddenly became visible. 
In God’s great mercy we are not shown what lies ahead of us in the shadows beyond our lighted path.  For in those shadows there might be physical pain, the casket of a loved one, betrayal by family or friends, Alzheimer’s, cancer, loneliness---just an absolute flood of tears or guilt that weighs down.  There are some things, many things,  it is best for us not to know.


We are told in God’s Word, “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this (doctrine).  


So, as our blessed Lord said, “Do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself.  Let the day’s trouble be sufficient for the day.”


Will there come a day of trouble?  Yes, and we will know it when it comes.  That day came for Jeremiah.  There was a revolt against God among the people of Judah and Jerusalem.  They knew that Jeremiah was the Lord’s prophet and the wicked men were out to get him.


So Jeremiah writes in our text, “The LORD made it known to me and I knew; then you showed me their deeds. But I was like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter. I did not know 2it was against me they devised schemes, saying, "Let us destroy the tree with its fruit, 3let us cut him off from 4the land of the living, that his name be remembered no more. "


Though this was a struggle and Jeremiah had to endure suffering, insult, hardship, lies and pain of body, soul and spirit, still he trusted in God and prayed, “O LORD of hosts, who judges righteously, who 5tests 6the heart and the mind, 7let me see your vengeance upon them, for to you have I committed my cause..”

 
What is ahead for us??  Only God knows.  If it is physical pain, we need have no fear for God is not punishing us since Christ took all our eternal pain of punishment upon Himself when He was crucified.

 
If betrayal should come upon us we need not fear Jesus was betrayed and He is faithful in His unchanging promise of grace and love.  If some disease such as Alzheimer’s awaits us with the insidious possibility that we may not even know who we are, we need have no fear, Jesus has redeemed us.  


He has called us by name, we are His as we are told in Scripture, “the sheep listen to the voice of Jesus. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” The voice of Jesus can pierce through the darkness of any disease that may engulf us.
God will never leave us or forsake us, this we know to be true for He has told us so in His Word.  And we have the promise of Jesus that He is with us always even to the end of the age.


If in the future or even in the present if we find ourselves locked in prison or in a prison of addiction or sorrow, if we find ourselves in poverty, if we are gasping for breath or unable to move, Jesus will be there, He will be there to deliver us. 


If we should find ourselves filled with overwhelming guilt, we need not fear but rather recall the Good News of God’s Word that Christ has paid the price for all our sins and by God’s grace we are forgiven of our sins. Let this Word of God dwell in you richly today and always and may you be guided by the Light of Christ. 


Amen.



May the peace of God which is beyond all human understanding keep your hearts and your minds in and on Christ Jesus and Him alone, now and forever. Amen. 









































SEPTEMBER 12, 2021              Isaiah 50:4-10            16TH Sunday After Pentecost

Merciful and Gracious Father bless us now as we hear Your Holy Word.  May it truly be for us the Word that calls us from sin, that guides us in the way we should go and brings us the assurance of forgiveness and life everlasting in the kingdom of heaven.  This we pray in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ. Amen.


Grace, peace and mercy be to each one of you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Our message for this Day is from the inspired, inerrant and infallible Word of God as recorded in the appointed Old Testament Lesson from Isaiah, chapter 50, hear again from verse 8, “He who vindicates me is near.”
                                    

This far our text.



For all of us, there are times in life when the path ahead looks dark and difficult. There are times when we are unsure which direction we should take or whether we should take any direction at all.


These are times we are called into the darkness, and the darkness is frightening. When these moments occur, where do we find the strength to move forward? Our reading for today will put light on this.
The lesson for today is from Isaiah chapter 50. This is the third of what are widely known as the “Servant Songs” in Isaiah. In the Jewish world, there is debate as to whether the Servant is Israel, Isaiah, or the promised future Messiah.


But as Christians, we hear the witness of the texts themselves. Each of the songs paints a picture of the Servant. And with each successive song, one becomes more and more convinced that the Servant is Jesus, the Promised Messiah, who came into the world to redeem the world.


Listen to the depiction of the Servant in this song. In verses 4 and 5, the Servant is depicted as one who sustains the weary and listens. In verse 5, he has not been rebellious and does not turn away.


Verse 6 offers a stark description of the Messiah. He offers his back and cheeks to blows and does not hide his face from the mocking and spitting.


Undoubtedly, this is a picture of Jesus, who was beaten, mocked, and spit upon and who, through it all, did not hide his face or turn away as we are told in the 27th chapter of Matthew,  (cf Mt 27:27–31).


And what does this Servant do amidst such obstacles? Verse 7 provides the answer. He sets his face like a flint and is not put to shame. This is a picture of Jesus encountering Satan during the temptation in the wilderness.


It is Jesus in the days leading up to Holy Week as he sets his face toward Jerusalem. It is Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane praying that this cup would pass.


But after the night of praying and sweating blood, Jesus arises. He looks into the darkness and cries, to His Heavenly Father, “Not my will, but yours, be done” (Lk 22:42).


There are times in life when our paths ahead may be dark. We are familiar with these times. Perhaps it is when a series of tests has taken place and the diagnosis is not good


Or perhaps it is more common and mundane. There is so much to do, and we are not sure where to start. In each case, we are similar to the Servant. The world is beating us on the back and pulling our cheeks, mocking and spitting on us.


All this reflects the human heart after the fall. In response, our own sinful condition will, at times, bring doubt and fears into our lives, and we question whether God really cares. The Stoics would have an answer.


They would tell us to endure. One of the most famous Stoics, Marcus Aurelius, once said, “Everything that happens is either endurable or not. If it is endurable, then endure it. Stop complaining. If it is unendurable, then stop complaining. Your destruction will mean its end as well.”


Or perhaps the Epicureans could bring some light. They would encourage us not to get too attached to anything in this world because someday it will all be gone. Just live for today. But that offers no hope, because a life without attachments brings no joy.


Sadly, many Christians will also tell us that the answer is simply to pray harder or trust harder. They will say that if we just find more strength internally, we can get through whatever struggles we face.


The Servant, however, provides an alternative way. The key is found in verse 8. It is here that the Servant says, “He who vindicates me is near.” We have already established that the Servant is Jesus. Why does he need vindication? Why is it important that the one who vindicates is near?


Well, for his own sake, Jesus did not need vindication. His standing before the heavenly Father was always secure. But for our sakes, when bleak times are ahead, it is important for us to find two things in God’s vindication of Jesus.


First, we should understand that the root cause of all doubt is our separation from God after the fall. There was a time when we walked with God in the “cool of the day.” We had no worries or concerns or doubts because God was walking beside us every step of the way.


We knew that we were his beloved. But when sin entered the world, we broke that relationship with God, and now we doubt whether God really does walk with us. A famous historian of the Reformation period relates that in his days as a student he was seriously bothered by doubts about the Christian religion.


He related his troubles to a minister and the minster told him, “If I were to rid you of your doubts and difficulties, others would soon arise. There is a simpler way of getting rid of your doubts.


Let Jesus Christ really be the Son of Almighty God and the divine Savior to you and no doubts will be able to disturb the serenity of your mind. The person who comes to the Lord Jesus Christ and says,


 “Just as I am though tossed about, with many a conflict, many a doubt Fightings and fears within, without O Lamb of God, I come, I come.” That person will find that the Lord will erase doubts and will fill the heart with a sure faith.


We should remember that God the Father sent the Servant into the world to provide vindication for his beloved. Jesus was fully human and fully divine, but he allowed himself to rely only on the promises of God’s Word.


While confronting Satan in the wilderness, there was temptation. Before heading to Jerusalem, he must have paused. In the night in the garden, he cried out to God to take the cup away. But God, who vindicates, was near.


And Jesus set his face like a flint and headed to Calvary. There, by his atoning death, he reconciled us to God the Father, restored that relationship we broke. So now God is with us, walking with us, again.


The cure for dark times is to remember that this same Jesus, the Servant, has walked before us. He who needed no vindication nevertheless trusted his Father to do just that, to declare him the very Son of God by raising him from the dead (Rom 1:4).


Christ—obeying his Father perfectly, dying in our place, rising from the grave—has done everything; we need to do nothing. And now we can trust the same promises of God that Jesus trusted—that in his time, God will vindicate us, declare for all to hear that we are his beloved children.


When the guilt of sin is overwhelming, remember that he who vindicates is near. When the diagnosis is not what we have hoped for, remember that he who vindicates is near. When the work ahead seems daunting, remember he who vindicates is near.


God, Who Vindicates Us, Is Always Near.


For Christians, that is those who have real abiding faith in Jesus, our victory happened when the Servant broke through death and won eternal victory. Even in our sins, even in our doubts and the very real troubles with which a sinful world assaults us, he has vindicated us, and he is near.


Perhaps you have heard the following phrase. When I was younger it was in common use. When a group of people are going to get into a car one person will claim the front passenger seat of the car with the phrase, “I’m riding shotgun.”
It is a rather curious phrase, with an even more curious history. For those who do not know that history. It was back in the days of stagecoaches and stagecoach robberies; two people would ride up front. The driver controlled the horses and spent his efforts making sure that they worked as a team to pull the stagecoach.
But the second person, sitting right beside him, watched for potential bandits and other bad guys. Sitting on his lap was his firearm. He was riding shotgun.
Sometimes when the road ahead was precarious, the driver’s concentration could be so focused on the task at hand that he might actually have forgotten that his partner was near.


But the sidekick never left. Through all road and weather conditions, he protected the driver, the team, the stagecoach, and the payload. In our text we hear, “He who vindicates me is near.”


Even when we get busy with life, when we are afraid or troubled or threatened, when the truly wicked one is hot after us, God is riding shotgun, for He is watching out for all those enemies that would destroy our God-given faith.

 
He will protect us and get us safely to our eternal destination in heaven.  So, when life gets too burdensome, when we are tempted to sin, enticed to follow a path away from God, when we leave God on the shelf,  
let us forever remember and be comforted with the truth that He who vindicates, that is He who defends and redeems us our Almighty God is near.     Remember the words of the old hymn---He walks with me, and He talks with me and He tells me I am His own.

                 
AMEN


May the peace of God which is beyond all human understanding truly keep your hearts and your minds in and on Christ and Him alone, now and forever. Amen .





































September 5, 2021                                                                                            Pentecost 16

Let us pray:  O Lord, it is with thankful hearts that we have gathered in Your house today.  We are bold to pray that You would bless us again through Your Holy Word.  Comfort us with the assurance of salvation and encourage us and give us the courage to share the good news of salvation with all those we meet.  In the name of our Lord and Savior, we pray. Amen.



Grace, Peace and Mercy be unto you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.



Our message this morning is from the inspired, inerrant and infallible Word of God as recorded in the Book of Acts, where we hear these words, “We cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard."



This far our text.

Our text is from the 4th chapter of Acts, and it is another account of the courage of the apostles.  This time it is Peter and John.  It is the story of how the early Christians told a message to their friends and neighbors.  The message was not popular with the religious authorities, but it was such good news that they told it anyway and through the message many people were saved for eternity.


The account we are looking at took place near the time of Pentecost.  We recall that on that particular day about three thousand people were brought to faith in Christ and beyond that we are told in Scripture, “The Lord added to that number daily those who were being saved.” 

 
Then through Peter God healed a man who had been a cripple since birth.  Peter and John continued preaching salvation through faith in Jesus and as we are told in Scripture, “many who heard the message believed and the number of men grew to about five thousand.”


When we add to the number of men, the women and the children who were also brought to faith, it is possible that the number of Christians easily numbered more than ten thousand.  The Jews had a real problem.  


Earlier in this fourth chapter of Acts we are told that the Jews “were greatly disturbed because the Apostles were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead.”


The Jewish leaders had Peter and John arrested.  Then they had them brought before the rulers, the elders and the teachers of the law and they began to question them with these words, “By what power or what name did you do this?”  They were referring to the healing of the crippled man.  Peter responded, “It is by the name of Jesus Christ whom you crucified.”


The admonition throughout Scripture is that God’s people are to be “strong and courageous.”  This is what Peter and John were doing.  They were proclaiming the good news of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.  


They proclaimed this message to the people in the streets, to the religious leaders and to the civil leaders.  They understood what we are told in Second Timothy, “God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.”


They were teaching as we hear in Scripture that “salvation is found in no one other than Jesus.”  He is the One who came into the world to save us from eternal condemnation.  That good news of Jesus has not changed throughout the centuries.  
On our televisions it is possible for us to watch events as they happen on the other side of the world.  We can transplant human organs.  Computers enable us to do things we never thought possible.  Scientists are involved in cloning.


And yet, and yet, the only way of salvation is still through faith in Jesus Christ.  Who, other than God, knows what will happen in the future?  Perhaps one day everyone will have their own personal robot to do all the housework and yard work.  


Perhaps one day the secrets to eliminating deadly diseases such as cancer will be discovered.  The possibilities are unlimited.  But no matter what happens in any area of life, eternal salvation will still be possible only through true and abiding faith in Jesus.
There never has been, there is not now and there never will be salvation in anyone or anything other than Jesus of Nazareth, the only-begotten Son of Almighty God.  We certainly cannot save ourselves.  


From the Book of Ecclesiastes, we are told, “There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins.”  We might be able to refer to someone as a self-made millionaire or we may speak of a self-educated person, but there is no one who is self-saved.


Salvation is not found in a particular religious system. As much as we might like to believe otherwise, The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod is not going to save us or anyone else.  We might be listed as members of this congregation, but that does not secure our salvation. 

 
Many who are in churches around the world today will find themselves in hell for eternity.  The only way to go into the paradise of heaven is through real abiding faith in Jesus, not faith when it is convenient or faith which will not offend anyone.


The messages Peter and John were preaching was that Jesus gave His life as a ransom and that He had been victorious over death, over sin, over the world, over Satan and that this Jesus was alive.  He was living in heaven and had gone there to prepare a place for all who would believe in Him.


The message is the same today.  Jesus Christ is still risen from the dead, He still lives and reigns to all eternity.  This is the message which is to be taken into all the world.  What a beautiful, life-giving message the apostles were proclaiming. 

 
And how different from the religious messages the people had been hearing.  The people had been told that the only way to be saved was to be a Jew.  And that meant among other things the keeping of over six hundred laws.  It was a works righteousness religion. 


In contrast to this, the Apostles were, in effect saying, “Look you don’t have to keep these laws.  You do not have to observe specific religious holidays.  It is not necessary to make animal sacrifices.  


You do not have to be a Jew.  None of these things will secure your salvation.  What you must do to be saved is to believe that Jesus is the Christ.” Which is what we, in this congregation, confess every Sunday. 


There was resistance to this message about Jesus being the only way of salvation.  
In this section of Acts, the jewish leaders said, “To stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn these men to speak no longer to anyone in this name."  We too can expect resistance to the Gospel message.  Peter and John were warned to stop telling the message and in many ways we are also warned to be quiet.
The message of Jesus is resisted by those who forbid prayer in His name in the public schools.  We are warned not to tell the message by those who have seen to the elimination of nativity scenes on public property.  We have heard about these things before and there are many more examples we could give.


However, our emphasis today is in a different area.  Much of the resistance we encounter in proclaiming Jesus as the only way of salvation is because of those within the church who teach that all religions are equally good and therefore we cannot say that Jesus is the only way of salvation. 

 
There are Lutherans who believe that as long as people have some type of belief in some type of god, they are going to be saved.  God forbid that anyone here believes that.


Such a teaching should infuriate us because what it is saying is that Jesus suffered and died on the cross for nothing.  Such a teaching is against everything we are told in God’s Word.


In telling the good news to others, Peter and John risked being put in prison and even being put to death.  They kept telling the message anyway.  Eventually Peter was put to death and John was banished to a lonely island.  But they had done what Jesus had commanded them to do and what He also commands us to do. There are risks when we tell the message to others.


We do not face prison or exile or death, at least not yet, but we may risk losing a friend or being estranged from a family member. This is a risk we should take not because we have to but because we want to. 


If we have a friend or relative who needs a blood transfusion, do we say, “I certainly hope somebody gives blood”? 

 
Again, if someone we care a great deal about, does not have enough food or clothing, is our response to wait and see if someone else helps them?  No, in both cases we are going to do what we can to help them.


What about a friend, a neighbor, a relative who does not have faith in Jesus?  We know that those who die without faith in Jesus are lost for eternity.  Is this what we want for them?  Do we want to know that they left this life headed for the eternal fires of hell? 
 Or are we willing to risk losing a friend, neighbor or even a relative when there is the possibility that in sharing the good news of Jesus, they might be brought to faith and so be saved.  The question is, are we concerned enough about their eternal salvation to share Jesus with them, or do we just hope someone else gives them the message? Or do we think that for some reason God will overlook their denial of His Word?


This also applies to sharing the truth of God’s Word with those who are in unbelieving churches. Churches which accept all kinds of sinful teachings. You cannot be a true saved Christian and attend a church which teaches lies.


Remember what Jesus said, “a person's enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.  And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” (Matthew 10:36-38) So people must decide to they love Jesus or the false church more.


Peter and John were bold.  In our text the religious leaders made this observation about Peter and John, “they were unschooled, ordinary men.”  While that was true from a human viewpoint, it was incorrect because Peter and John had been filled with power and understanding by the Holy Spirit.  


That same Holy Spirit lives within us today and He has not lost any of His power throughout the ages.  Therefore, the same power and understanding that Peter and John had is available to us.


But notice in our text what else the religious leaders observed, “They took note that these men had been with Jesus.”  When you and I spend time with Jesus, it makes a difference.  We are with Jesus every time we have private devotions, every time we open the Word of God.  Every time we are in prayer. 


In this worship service we are with Him and in the Holy Communion we are with Him.  And the fact is that the more time we spend with Jesus, the bolder we will be in speaking of Him to others.


One way to speak of Jesus with others is to invite them to church. In fact, bring them.   Tell a friend, neighbor or relative about Jesus.  Tell of His love.  Tell what He has done is doing and will do for you.  To tell someone about Jesus is the greatest thing that we can do in this world.  We cannot leave it to someone else.


What an eternal tragedy that someone we care about, maybe even someone we love might miss out on the joy and happiness of living with Christ in this life and in the life to come and they might spend eternity in hell because we fail to give them the message of salvation through faith in Jesus.  We cannot leave it to someone else to tell them.
This week, pray for someone you know who is without true faith in Jesus. Pray that those in false churches will see the light of Christ.  Tell someone the good news about Jesus, about His life, His death, His resurrection, tell them that He is alive and gives eternal life to all who believe in Him. 

 
We can expect resistance, but we tell others about Jesus because we care for them, and we tell them with boldness.  The boldness that comes through the Holy Spirit.
Wherever we live, people need to hear the Gospel.  May God use us to spread that good news for the salvation of people’s souls and to His honor and His glory.  May we say with the apostles, “We cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard."
  
Amen.
May the peace of God which is beyond all human understanding keep your hearts and your minds in and on Christ and Him alone, now and forever. Amen. 












































August 29, 2021                             (Ephesians 6:10-20)          14th Sunday After Pentecost

Let us pray: O Eternal God, bless the proclaiming and the hearing of Your Holy Word.  Grant that we might go forth from this sanctuary to boldly proclaim the message of salvation.  By Your grace, grant us the courage to live as Your children so that our joy might be complete.  This we pray in the name of our Lord and Savior. Amen.

Grace, peace and mercy be unto you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ
Our message this day is from the inspired, inerrant and infallible Word of God as recorded in the appointed Epistle, the 6th chapter of Ephesians, hear again from verse 13, “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.”


This far our text.


Our opening hymn, “Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus” is one of my favorite hymns and I would imagine that it is a favorite of many of you.  However, why is it a favorite hymn?  In my case, it inspires me.  


And, if we look carefully at the hymn, it really is a call to battle.  For other lines in the hymn say, “Lift high His royal banner---The trumpet call obey---Stand forth in the mighty conflict---Let courage rise with danger---Stand in His strength alone---Put on the Gospel armor.” 


This is a hymn for “soldiers of the cross.”  And while I might wish that I could make some bold stand for Jesus and you may wish that as well, we have to be honest and admit that we have all had the opportunity, in fact, more than one opportunity, to stand up for Jesus and what we really did was fall flat on our face.  Not only was our confession not bold, we did not even make the “good confession.”  
By our silence, by our failure to stand up for Jesus and the truth of God’s Word, we have made another confession and that is that we have failed to rely on God’s strength, and we have instead relied on our own strength.  
When we do that we are certain to fail for our conflict, our battle is not really with people meaning friends and neighbors, our text says we battle “against  the rulers, against the authorities” and never has that been more true that it is our day.  
Our text also says that we battle against “the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”
That is we battle against the devil himself and his millions and millions of angels. For that battle we need spiritual strength and equipment. The most important thing for us to know and the hardest to accept is that those who rely on their own strength will never stand.
Many people are into strength building today.  Almost every major sport from the high school level through professional competition requires strength building to be included in the process. The idea being that no matter what the sport, the stronger one is the more likely the team or the person is to win, to be able to stand and not fall. 
Strength building has many advocates even among people who are not engaged in athletic competition. The reason for its popularity varies.  Some people like it because being strong gives them a sense of power and well-being.  Others like it because it helps them have confidence or gives them a sense of worth.
People might be impressed with physical strength, but God is not.  God wants us to be strong, as our text begins, “Be strong”.  However, it is not primarily physical strength that God is concerned with as our text does not just say, “Be Strong.”, it says, “Be strong in the Lord.”  
That does not mean that body building exercises do not have any value at all.  It means that their value is very limited when compared with what is of value to the true Christian.  Being strong physically is much less important than being strong in the Lord as we are told in First Timothy, “physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.”
People work so hard for physical strength and well-being and yet one day the body will lie silent in the grave. All the while they fail to see to spiritual strength and well-being for the soul which will never die.
The value of physical strength is very limited.  There have been airplane crashes in which all the members of a college basketball team were killed;  Another where a company of airborne paratroopers perished.  It would be imagined that all of these people were in great physical condition, they were physically strong.  And yet, their physical strength could not save them.
Not only accidents but also disease claims the lives of the strong as well as the weak,  Physical strength is not a guarantee that one will escape sickness and most certainly physical strength cannot defeat death. The Psalmist declares, “No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his great strength. 
Physical strength might be a source of pleasure to us, but it is not a source of pleasure to God.  God takes pleasure in a different kind of strength as the Psalmist writes, “(God’s) pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor his delight in the legs of a man; the LORD delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.”  


One of the most successful devices that Satan uses is to have people depend on their own spiritual strength.  An example of this is the account a young man named Paul who got a job with a service station.  It was a good job except that Paul had to work on Sundays.  One day the pastor went to see Paul and find out why he was not in church.  The Pastor warned Paul about the danger of staying away from worship.


Paul’s response was, “don’t worry about me Pastor.  I have a firm faith in God that nothing will shake.”  But it wasn’t long before Paul lost interest in the church and in the Lord.  After about a year he was no longer working on Sundays, but by that time he had closed God out of his life, and he was depending on his own spiritual strength.  He was no longer strong in the Lord.


Consider your family and friends who are no longer coming to God’s house to be fed with Word and Sacrament.  They might think they have faith, you might think they have faith, but Scripture warns us, “If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you do not fall.”

 
So, my heart breaks for those who are listed as members of this congregation, but they are not faithful in their worship of God. In fact some have not been here for weeks, months and even years. They are not being fed spiritually and so they are either dying or already spiritually dead. You see they be listed as members of this physical church but they are not members of the invisible church and that is what matters. 


Next week, God willing, we will begin Sunday School and adult Bible study. By my count there should be 50 people in theses classes and the same number in worship and the same number at the picnic, However, based on recent attendance there will probably be 10 total in Sunday School and Bible Study, there will be 28 in worship and 22 at the picnic. 


May God have mercy on those who no longer seek to know God’s Word, to be fed with the living bread from heaven and drink the of the living water which never runs dry and which alone satisfies our spirit for this is the bread and the water which is Christ Himself.



An obsession with physical strength can blind us to the fact that there is a spiritual strength with which we ought to be concerned.  But even more deadly is the blindness of imagining that one has spiritual strength when it is merely confidence in one’s own spiritual ability.  .Our own self-righteousness is our greatest obstacle to being strong enough to stand 


The reason that our own strength, whether physical or spiritual, will not help us in the least is that our basic conflict as we heard earlier might at times be with other people, however, the real enemy is the devil and all his followers.  That may include those we consider friends, it may even include our own family members because anyone who is not a follower of Christ is a follower of Satan. 


Because the enemy is the devil, human strength is not effective in the conflict.  To stand against the devil, we need spiritual strength and equipment from the Lord.  When Jesus was tempted by the devil, Jesus overcame the devil not by the use of His divine attributes, but by relying on the Word of God.  


On the cross when Jesus bore the sins of the world, He broke the devil’s hold on mankind. Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, the devil is powerless to condemn us. Have we forgotten those reassuring words of Scripture, “He who is in you is “greater than he who is in the world.”


Now the Lord provides us with His strength and the equipment that we need so that we can also stand, so that we can be victorious in the battle.  Our text calls what we are given, “the full armor of God.”  Did you catch that?  It is not our armor, but God’s.  God has given us this armor so that we might be able to stand, to withstand all the fiery assaults of the devil.


Look at what God has clothed us with; the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, a shield of faith, the helmet of salvation and on our feet the Gospel of peace.  That is to say, God has given us that which will protect us from our head to our feet.  And with that armor too many of us are content to just stand.

God has prepared us so that we will not be defeated in the battle, but we fail to enter the battle.  We are content to just stand by and let others lift high the cross of Christ.  In the sermon hymn we just sang, “the Son of God goes forth to war, A kingly crown to gain, His blood red banner streams afar----Who follows in His train?  Brother, are you following the Lord Jesus Christ into the war?  Sister, are you following? 

 
The war, O redeemed of Christ is the battle for the eternal salvation of our own soul and the souls of all the people of the world. It is a battle we cannot lose because we are clothed with the full armor of God, however, we must enter the battle and this is why along with all this body armor, the Lord has given us “the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.”


God has given us that which will protect us and He has given us that with which we might slay the enemies of Christ and that weapon is nothing less than the Holy Word of God.  Being equipped to survive and to defeat the enemy, we are told to “pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication”
Another blessing, we are able to speak with the Almighty God.  As we enter the battle, we pray; we pray that we might be able to stand, which we will be able to do and we pray for the defeat of the enemies of God, and they will be defeated.  In our text, St. Paul wrote to the congregation in Ephesus asking them to pray for him that he might be fearless in his declaration of the Gospel.


So, you and I need to pray for each other that we also might be fearless in our proclamation of the blessed Gospel.  In the last chapter of St. Matthew, our Lord commands us, “go and make disciples of all nations.”  God has not clothed us with His armor and given us the sword of His Word that we might remain in the pew.  But that we might remain in faith as we go out into the world.


Whether we are young or old, healthy or fighting disease, whether we are rich or poor, all of us have had and will continue to have opportunities to stand up for Jesus.  One day we will no longer need the armor of God; the battle for us will be over.


But as long as we draw breath on this earth, we need to “fight the good fight of faith” so that not only can we stand against the devil but just as importantly so that we will one day stand on the golden street in the glorious city of God, our heavenly home, where we will behold our Eternal God and there sing His praises for all eternity.


So, brothers and sisters, how goes the battle??????????????????????????????  Are you even in the battle??????????????????????????????????????????????
Amen.



May the peace of God which is beyond all human understanding keep your hearts and your minds in and on Christ and Him alone, now and forever. Amen.





























​August 22, 2021                                                                           13th Sunday After Pentecost

 

Let us pray:  O most Gracious God, bless the meditation of our hearts, turn our minds to the truth of Your Holy Word.  Grant that we might in this hour be moved to that place where we will more and more live as Your children seeking always to follow our Lord Jesus Christ in whose name we pray. Amen.

 

 

Grace, peace and mercy be unto you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ

 

 

 

The Bible has two primary doctrines, as we know, ---the Law and the Gospel.  The Law is the Lord God Almighty’s holy will.  The Ten Commandments are Law.  The Law tells us and even more than that, the Law demands what we are to do and what we are not to do, what we are to say and what we are not to say, and even what we are to think and what we are not to think.

 

For example as we hear in Philippians, “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-- think about such things.”

 

The first primary doctrine is the Law which is directed to the activities of mankind.  The Law always accuses our old sinful self.  Even one violation of one commandment, like a little white lie as lies are often referred to, even though there  is no such thing, or some gossip, taking the name of the Lord in vain, one act of disobedience toward our parents.

 

No matter how slight we consider our sin to be, that one sin condemns us to everlasting separation from God and keeps us from the eternal paradise of heaven, for as the Scripture tells us, “Whoever keeps the entire Law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it.”  Further we are told in Ezekiel, “The soul who sins shall die.”

 

That means that when we sin, “even a little”, we are as guilty under God’s Law as any serial killer or any heathen. And, each one of us has broken God’s Law. Time and time again, we sin.  You know it.  I know it.  And most assuredly, most importantly, God knows it. 

 

We deserve nothing less than God’s punishment and banishment, both in the here and now and in eternity.  That is the good, perfect, holy and just Law of God and the Law kills.

The other primary doctrine of Scripture is the Holy Gospel.  This is the Good News of God in Christ Jesus for the forgiveness of all sins.  This is God the Father’s gracious gift of salvation because of what His only-begotten Son did when He suffered and died on the cross and rose again from the dead. 

 

The Gospel makes no threats, issues no demands and forces no obedience.  It is God’s sweet, comforting, soothing message of complete pardon, full forgiveness, eternal life and the bestowing of salvation by and through His Word.  Given through Baptism, and sustained in the Lord’s Supper, the forgiving Word gives, grace, mercy, peace, joy and life. 

 

These doctrines, simple to know in terms of what Jesus said, were not, and are not at all easy to understand and acknowledge as true.  The teachings were hard to take and many were offended by what Jesus said about Himself and why He had come into the world.  So what causes people to be offended at Jesus?  The Law or the Gospel????

 

This causes us to examine the scandal of Christianity. The offense is not the Law.  For we find forms of the Law outside of Christianity.  Human nature as it relates to God seeks to earn God’s favor by doing something and by being “good”.

 

Cain sought God’s favor by making an offering.  His offering did not get the job done.  Cain failed.  Judas sought to undo his sin by an offering in the temple.  But his faithless act only condemned him further and led him to die in his sin and suffer eternal death.

 

Even for those within the pale of Christendom, it is the natural inclination to try to earn one’s salvation. Indeed there are many attempts to turn the tables on God by putting Him in a position where He owes eternal life to the individual.  Entire religious systems are built around a form of the Law, including Roman Catholicism.

 

Many religious groups demand that a God-pleasing decision be made.  Adherents of another religious group are obligated to do penance to earn forgiveness and salvation.  Still others slave under the ladder-climbing litany of progressive elevation. And even some here today believe that salvation is tied to church attendance and putting some coins in the offering plate.

 

In the midst of all this, people just like you and me, people whose days in this world are ticking off, which includes every human being, people ponder what eternal place will be ours when our last day on this earth is checked off. 

The natural question is, How much does God’s gift cost me?  What must I do to “earn” God’s grace?  The question was put to Jesus in these words, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”  Just tell me what I must do to be right with God. 

 

You see, people are not offended by a system of laws.  What astonishes people is that they cannot do it, they cannot earn it.----------------- Why not??

 

Because, if eternal life and salvation are to be earned, then the Law of God demands perfection from our first breath to our last breath.  We reply, “no one is perfect.”  God replies, “No, not one of you is perfect.”  If a law had been given which could make people alive then righteousness would indeed be by the law.

 

Brothers and sisters, the scandal of Christianity is not the Law, it is the Gospel.  Jesus proclaimed the Gospel and “On hearing it, many of his disciples said, "This is a hard saying. Who can listen to it?"  

 

First there is the scandal of who Jesus is.  This is the offense of the incarnation of the Son of the living God.  Jesus is the One who came down from heaven, He is the one and only perfect man, the only one ever born without original sin.  Despite what the church in Rome teaches, Mary was not sinless.

 

Jesus is the One who is “God of God and very God of very God.” Who was born of a virgin for our salvation.   He is God with us.  This is the Gospel and it offensive to many in the fallen world.  Many of His disciples said, “this Word is difficult.  Who is able to listen to it?”

 

Second is the scandal of the work of Jesus.  This is the offense of what Jesus came into the world to do.  Many want Jesus to be a new law-giver showing us how to accomplish our own salvation.  But this is not why Jesus came into the world.  He came not to be a law-giver but a sin-bearer.  In that work, He paid the eternal price for the sins of all mankind, and therefore He bore the penalty for us also.

 

The Son of the living God satisfied the wrath of the Almighty Father in order that we might eat and never be hungry, that we might drink and never be thirsty. He descended into hell so that you and I would never spend a split second in that never-ending torment.

 

This is the Gospel and it is offensive to many in the fallen world.  Many of His disciples said, “this Word is difficult.  Who is able to listen to it?”

 

Next is the scandal of the Resurrection.  Jesus  speaks of His ascending back to heaven and knowing that the disciples were grumbling about this and about His teaching that he would die and rise on the third day, He says to them, “Does this offend you?” 

 

That is, are you scandalized at this?  This is the Gospel and it offensive to many in the fallen world.  Many of His disciples said, “this Word is difficult.  Who is able to listen to it?”

 

Fourth is the scandal of the Word of God.  People are offended that God works through His Word and His Word alone to bestow faith.  God also gives through that Word forgiveness, salvation and eternal life.  As Jesus said, “The Words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.  Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” 

 

The Gospel, the Good News, is that salvation is not by or because of our works, but only by the grace of God alone, through faith alone in Christ alone. 

 

There is the Word of Christ in the floodwaters of Holy Baptism wherein we are in the words of Scripture, “justified by grace becoming heirs of eternal life.”  There is the Word of Christ in the Holy Communion wherein He says, “Take eat, this is my body, take drink, this my blood poured out for the forgiveness of sins.”

 

This is the Gospel and it is offensive to many in this fallen world and sadly, this also occurs within the congregation of those who call themselves Christians.  They leave the Lord when they change Baptism from the Gospel in which God bestows His grace to a law which mankind is fulfilling.

 

They neglect the true, clear Word of God in the Holy Sacrament of the Altar denying the Real Presence of the Lord where we receive forgiveness, life, salvation, peace and joy and they turn it into no more than another Law where we remember Christ’s death.

 

It is little different with many people today than it was when Jesus said that His Words are Spirit and Life as well as when He spoke the truth that “no one is able to come to (Him) unless the Father has enabled him.”

 

In Scripture we are told that “many of (Jesus)disciples turned back and no longer followed him.”  Oh, how we see the reality of those words yet today.  Look at the church and you see this taking place because people are “offended” scandalized by the Gospel. 

Lonely pews in the Sanctuary bear witness to the fact that many have gone away.  Places at the Lord’s Table are empty. This should not surprise us for our Lord said, “when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?" Well there are certainly are many churches where He would not find true faith. For one cannot have true faith and accept that which is in contradiction to God’s Holy Word.

 

And what of those who have not left but still believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and follow Him?  What of you??  Listen, for it is Jesus, our Brother, our Lord and our Savior who is speaking.  He asks a question even of the faithful as they behold so many others leaving the presence of the Lord and abandoning the Body of Christ.

 

We are told in the first chapter of John, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  We know then that the Word is Jesus, so Jesus not only asks this question of those who have left the presence of the Lord by failure to worship and those who have left him by failing to partake of the Lord’s Supper often as He commands, but He also would put the question to those who have left His Word.

 

It is a question which Jesus put not only to His disciples, He also puts the question to each one gathered here today, “You do not want to leave too, do you?”  What a soul-searching question and it is also asked of those who still claim membership in this congregation and yet they are not faithful in worship.  

 

Let us understand that even though we might come to worship every week, if we accept any teaching which is in contradiction to either the Law or the Gospel, we have already left the Lord.  For as Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, (then, and only then,) you are really my disciples.”

 

Let each one of us hear the question once again from the lips of Jesus, as He says to us, “you do not want to leave too, do you?”   

 

God grant that we might ever respond in the words which we proclaim every week in our liturgy, and we should echo every day of our life, “Lord to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.”  Indeed, to whom shall we go, Jesus alone is the way, the truth and the life. He said so and it is therefore the Truth.

                                                                                                 

Amen.

 

May the peace of God keep your hearts and your minds in and on Christ Jesus and Him alone, now and forever. Amen

















August 15,2021                        (John 6:51-69)            12th Sunday After Pentecost

Let us pray:  O most gracious Father in heaven, we pray that in this hour we might be assured of the forgiveness of our sins.  Feed us with Bread from Heaven that our souls might be filled and that one day we might enter the paradise of heaven to live with you and the Holy Spirit and your only-begotten Son in whose name we pray. Amen.

Grace, peace and mercy be unto you from God or Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.


Our message this day is from the inspired, inerrant and infallible Word of God as recorded in the appointed Holy Gospel, the 6th chapter of St. John, hear again the words of the living Savior from verse 54, “Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
This far our text.


From all eternity and forever, the Lord God Almighty, is in His heaven.  From the Bible we perceive that heaven is up---up there somewhere.  For a time and until time is no more, mankind---man, woman, child, is on this earth.  From this experience, that is, from our life, we understand quite clearly that we are not in heaven, but rather we are down here and heading even farther down.


For awhile, but not forever, we today, are down here.  God is in heaven, up there.  Unless history ends in our lifetime, it will not remain that way forever, for it is most certainly true, it is a guarantee that on a certain day, whether that day be today or a day in the unknown future, we will lie down and for one reason or another we will be unable to arise. 


And, if we are not able to raise ourselves up from even six feet under the ground to stand once again on this earth, is there any possible hope that we will one day physically be with God in His heaven---up there??


Left to us, the answer is, no.  Even if we assemble all our resources and exert the greatest exercise of our wills and think only positive thoughts, and speak a million nice words, and do all the good works possible, we still will not be able to raise ourselves up to heaven.  As Jesus said, “No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven-- the Son of Man.”

Even if we could send a crew into the air beyond the atmosphere of the earth, the rocket will never reach heaven. 

 
You might recall that a Russian Cosmonaut said on his return that he was certain that heaven and God did not exist because on his trip he never saw heaven or God. The problem was that he did not go far enough because such a trip is impossible.  


We are well aware of the deadly, downward plunge of rockets and also the fall of mankind.  Our best efforts at reaching heaven miss the mark and left to ourselves our aspiration to someday be with God in His heaven---up there--- is beyond us.
No one is able to ascend to God.  We certainly know that and every day we are being convinced of it.  Therefore if you or I or anyone else is going to be with God in His heaven, then God must come and make it happen. 

 
Does God want us to be with Him in heaven?  Does God want to make this happen for all people?  The answer is in our text for today as we consider “Jesus---the Living Bread from heaven.”


The words of our text are the words of Jesus and in His words there is the Good News that is intended for all people to hear and believe and have. Not one of us alone and not all of us together could ascend to be with God.  The Lord knew this from eternity and so He put forth the plan for our salvation and the salvation of the world before the foundations of the world came into being through His Word.
Before time ever began, we are told in Scripture that the Lamb of God was slain from before the creation of the world.  The plan was that the Son would be the One who would come down and be the Savior of the world.  It would not be the Father, it would not be the Holy Spirit, our Redeemer would rather be the Lord Jesus Christ.


Throughout history the minds of mankind have conjured a god or gods which they have taught came down into this world. The mythical gods of Greece and Rome came down to stir up trouble, to mettle in the affairs of man and to engage in competitions with one another where the people were simply pawns on a chessboard or puppets on a string. 


And this is exactly what we are left with when leave the truth of God’s Word.  The flight from truth is always in the direction of myth or more precisely falsehood.
But the Good News of the Son of the living God coming down to the earth to be Immanuel, God with us, is not myth.  Rather this Gospel, like all the words of Holy Scripture, this Gospel is doctrine—true, unwavering and eternal doctrine. 


It is true that God’s Son came down from heaven, was incarnate by the Holy Spirit and made man. He was born of a virgin and given the name “Jesus” which means Savior.


When He was about thirty years of age, Jesus, the eternal Son of the eternal Father and also the Son of Man taught in a synagogue of Capernaum saying to those assembled in His presence, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh”


There from the lips of Jesus we are told that He is sent from heaven, that He has come down to give Himself for the life of the world.  This living Bread came down from heaven to expose His flesh to whip so that by His stripes we might be healed.  


He poured out His blood and gave His body as the perfect sacrifice for all our sins. In response, we are told in our text, that the “The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat" 

 
It is a question of reason and in it there are two assumptions, one wrong and one in the direction of what was right.  Their first assumption was that Jesus was only a man.  He did not appear different than other men.


His hands were the same as any other carpenter who swung a hammer and drove a spike.  His head bore beads of sweat.  His feet were covered with same dirt as any other person who walked the dusty roads.  He became tired, He was hungry.  He felt the pain of the whip and the crown of thorns and the nails driven into His body. 


The people who were arguing among themselves were looking with their eyes at a man and not hearing with their ears the Words of the Almighty God.  They got it wrong and like so many today they imagine a different Jesus, one who is only human, but Jesus is Jehovah, He is God.


The second assumption is leading in the right direction.  They, in effect, say, “Look in order for anyone to eat His flesh, He will have to die and be a sacrifice.  Is He going to sacrifice Himself?  For unless that takes place, how will this man be able to give us His flesh?”


Being a sacrifice is exactly why Jesus came to the earth.  Jesus then says to the people, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.”  


The question then becomes, how is the Lord able to give us His flesh to eat?  The answer is, that He gives us His Word.  In the first chapter of the Gospel of John we are told, “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.’ 

 
And anyone who believes those words, has eternal life.  This is the very reason the Living Bread came down from heaven.  In Scripture we are told, “Christ, our Paschal Lamb, has been sacrificed.”  He has been sacrificed and yet He is not dead.  


He is risen from the dead and lives and reigns to all eternity.  In these words from the Book of Hebrews, “when Christ was offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, (then it was that) He sat down at the right hand of God.” 


Therefore listen, listen to the Savior speak such wonderful news for those who trust in Him, for those and those alone who have faith in Him, “Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”  


Another way of saying this came from the mouth of Jesus after His resurrection, when He said, “He that believes and is baptized will be saved.” 
Or, as we are told in Romans, “don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection.


In Holy Baptism we were buried into Christ’s death; That being so, we have already been raised spiritually.  We have already been raised from spiritual death.  We are spiritually alive and the second death has no power over us.  
By God’s grace, our bodies shall also one day be raised to life eternal in heaven, not by our power but by God.  We have the certain promise from God’s Word that the Lord Jesus Christ “will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.”

 
That being so, we do not have to concern ourselves with ascending to heaven because our Lord also gives us this promise, “I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”
Heaven is our eternal destiny and it is proper that you and I should desire to leave this world and be with our loving God, even as we are told in Second Corinthians, “We are confident…. and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.”


For as long as we are in this world, not only will we have trials and troubles, sickness and sorrow disappointments and sufferings of all kinds, but more importantly we will never love God the way we should, we will never give Him the proper praise; in this life we continue to do that which is against God’s Word because we are still in a body of sin.


But once we enter the portal of heaven, we shall behold the living God and then we will not only be free from all the adversities, the pains and suffering of earthly life, but then, then at long last and for all eternity we shall love God the way we should, we will give Him all the praise and all the glory. 


And, in heaven, we shall partake of the Living Bread from Heaven, who once descended to the earth so that we might be delivered from the earth.
“The hope of heaven is like the sun which as long as we keep it before us, casts the shadow of our burden behind us,” someone has said.  That being so, rather than becoming entangled with and enticed by this world, let us ever look forward to our eternal home—up there--the city God has prepared for us. 
Amen.


May the peace of God which is beyond all human understanding keep your hearts and your minds sin and on Christ and Him alone, now and forever. Amen.
















August 1, 2021                (Ephesians 4:1-16                10th  Sunday After Pentecost     


Let us Pray:  Heavenly Father, when we hear the Law preached fill our hearts with godly sorrow realizing that we have dared to offend You. Make us despair of any attempts to merit eternal life.  When we hear the Gospel comfort us with the assurance of forgiveness.  Bless here and everywhere the preaching of the Law and the Gospel for the sake of Jesus. Amen.


In His great high priestly prayer, Jesus prayed, “May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” This prayer Jesus prayed on the night when He was betrayed and yet in the face of the great agony which He was about to endure, He prayed this prayer for you and for me. It was a prayer which was offered in love for us. As the Son loves us so the heavenly Father’s love has taken hold of us through Jesus.  There is only one Jesus and one Father. In Holy Baptism, the Father has made us His own children and by His grace we confess One true faith.  When doubt is cast on any aspect of our faith, or if our faith is contradicted, in the least, this is heresy and with heresy comes division. We can look in the distance and see this happening or we can look closer to home among ourselves and see this happening.  We see congregations torn apart by petty arguments.  Others are bitterly divided over Christian preschools, building programs and new hymnals. Families and friends are divided, the pious are offended and the very souls of the weak are imperiled. Grace peace and mercy be unto each one of you from God or Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 4, our text for today directs us to church unity, to how we should live what we confess and so our text begins with these words, “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called,  with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,  eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. ”Threats to the Spirit-given unity are all around us, but the greatest act of being without love is to deny, distort or compromise the truth.  In opposition to that, we are told in our text, “Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.”  


We must take the threat of false doctrine seriously.  The stakes are very high, in fact, eternal life itself, is in the balance.  Before the Ephesians heard the Gospel, they never knew were they stood with God.  They tried everything possible to bridge the gap between themselves and God.  They tried living moral lives.  They indulged in mystery cults. They tried the speculation and wisdom of Greek philosophy.  Bu no matter how sincere their efforts, no matter how much good they did, they could not overcome that wall of sin that separated them from the holy, sinless God. Some of us know how they felt.  We sometimes think that we are good people.  We want to live positive lives.  But then we also realize that all our human efforts, good living and positive thinking are to no avail. God remains silent and we feel alone.  At times we feel that we are making progress as we seek to move closer to God, but then it is that our hearts whisper the truth spoken by St. Augustine, “Thou hast made us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee. ”Our loving God understands how we feel and so by His inspiration these words of the second chapter of Ephesians were written, “because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--not by works, so that no one can boast. Now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. ”Here we find comfort, peace and freedom.  In these words God frees us from uncertainty and from the endless grind of trying to make sense out of life and death by our own efforts, hear the blessed words again and note that it is all God’s doing---Out of God’s love He made us alive, by His grace, God has saved us.  Life and salvation are not earned, they are the free gifts of God. We know that in the Bible the number seven stands for completeness and so listen to our text, “There is one body and one Spirit--just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call one Lord, one faith, one baptism,  one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”
Seven times the number one is used to drive home the point that true oneness, complete unity with God and within the church is possible only through the one True God. God the Father has given us His Son, the Word made flesh and the Son has given His life that He might also give us the forgiveness of our sins.  Luther says that we deal with this gift of the forgiveness of sins in two ways; how it is achieved and won and how it is distributed and given to us.  Christ has achieved it on the cross, but He has not distributed it there. Luther correctly notes that God delivers His gift in the Word and Sacraments and He does so continuously until the end of the world.  When the delivery system is attacked the unity of the church is destroyed.  For Lutherans, the problems of disunity must be addressed at the point of Word and Sacraments.  When a church damages or destroys the delivery system for the forgiveness of sins by the misuse of the Word and Sacraments any hope of true unity is destroyed. The resurrected and ascended Lord Jesus Christ has given His church the gift of apostles and prophets to make sure that it would continue receiving forgiveness until the end of the world.  These men were inspired by God to write, “the holy Scriptures are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.”To this day the gift of Holy Scripture remains our only source and norm for doctrine. The primary doctrine being what we just heard that we have salvation through God-given faith in Christ.  And the gifts keep coming.  Christ gives the church of every generation the office of the holy ministry—pastors and teachers who according to our text are “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.”  I am to preserve the unity of the Spirit through the preaching of God’s Word in its full truth and purity and when that is done then according to our text, this is done  so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.  Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ “Nevertheless, having said that, it is the lay people who are to preserve the unity of the church.  If you leave the task of preserving the doctrinal integrity to the clergy alone, it will not be preserved, souls will be lost and the church will die.  
Unity will be preserved only when you listen intently to God’s Law and Gospel and when you come on a regular basis to the Lord’s Table to receive the assurance of the forgiveness of sins  and witness to the unity of the faith.No one can look into another person’s heart, but unity can be seen, observed, kept and preserved in the outward confession of faith.  This is why the Lutheran Church teaches and we as Lutherans agree that “it is sufficient for the true unity of the Christian church that the Gospel be preached in conformity with a pure understanding of it and that the sacraments be administered in accordance with thedivine Word.”In these days of blurry denominational lines, of the disintegration of belief in the Bible as God’s inspired, inerrant and infallible Word, it is ever more difficult to maintain unity, but it is ever so necessary. Few issues have received more attention in recent years than church unity.  Dialogs, mergers and even schisms have occurred on both the denominational and congregational levels.   Developments on the national level go virtually unnoticed by the majority of people, but when the unity of the local congregation is shattered, the effects are felt by all.To keep a balanced perspective it is helpful to remember that the church in every generation has had to struggle with the problem of disunity.  In addition to studying the Bible, it is helpful to observe how our forefathers dealt with the problem during the time of the German Reformation.  Let’s go back to Luther. It is hard to imagine what was going through his mind as he secretly left the Wartburg Castle and returned to Wittenberg.  He had to return. The church was in an uproar.  Misguided reformers were teaching false doctrine, causing chaos, instigating riots, and destroying church property. So Luther went to the parish, entered the pulpit, looked out at the people of Wittenberg and said, “The summons of death comes to us and no one can die for another.  Everyone must fight his own battle with death by himself, alone….therefore everyone must himself know and be armed with the chief things which concern a Christian. First, we must know that we are the children of wrath; and all our works, intentions and thoughts are nothing at all.  
Second, we must know that God the Father has sent us His only-begotten Son that we may believe in Him and that whoever trusts in Him shall be free from sin and a child of God…Here we should all be well versed in the Bible.  Next, we must have love and finally, we must have patience. ”Luther displayed an incredible trust in the power of the Word of Truth, to be more precise, He trusted beyond all trust in the power of the Law and the Gospel.  And so it was that tranquility was restored in Wittenberg.  Arguments at voters meetings, personality conflicts, disputes over policy, secret meetings, angry words thoughtlessly spoken, scandalous living, nonchalant attitudes toward doctrine, all threaten the unity of the church. And beyond that we cannot pretend to have unity with those with whom we are not united, for such is hypocrisy.  It is the One Holy Spirit working through the One Word of God that empowers those of the One faith to follow these words of our text, “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, ”People and religious groups which teach and believe that the Lord’s Supper is simply a memorial to the death of Christ, that the entire Bible is not the Word of God, that evolution is how the world was created, that abortion and homosexuality are acceptable, that it is okay for women to be pastors, that one may be saved without faith in Christ, that it is okay to pray to saints, that Jesus is not God, that we all believe in the same God, no matter what we call Him, that God will save all people, that faith means going to church once a month or so, All such doctrines are falsehood, they are abominations in God’s eyes and with such people we cannot have unity because they are not one with God and for us to pretend that we are one with them is a mockery of God’s Word.  The Scripture admonishes us to "watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned.  Keep away from them."  By God's grace we know the truth and we cannot exchange that truth for a lie. 

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The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod

Trinity Lutheran Church