Sermon for Sunday, October 29, 2017: “More Than A Man.”

 

 

 

October 29, 2017 – Reformation Text: Jude 3-4

Dear Friends in Christ,

What are some of the big events in the last 500 years? The founding of America and World Wars has affected millions. On a personal level what has been a big event? Marriage, birth of children, job change? I like those but I would also add the inventions of soft toilet paper, hot water heaters, and hell not freezing over when the Cubs won the World Series. How many would also add being called to faith, baptism and the gift of salvation?
Oh, yes our faith. Sometimes that gets pushed down the list, doesn’t it? Today is a reminder that this should make the top, numero uno, the big enchilada, the whole ball of wax. But as we stand two days before the actual 500-year anniversary of the Reformation we have to be a little careful. Many celebrating want to make this about an individual. His face is everywhere from coffee mugs to cake mixes. Even the German people see a marketing bonanza. But do they care, do most people care, do we care about the message of the movement? I pray that we do because this milestone is about . . .
“MORE THAN A MAN”
Jude says in our text, “Contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” Pure doctrine never changes; it is once and forever. We are still not saved by anything we do. We are still saved solely by what Christ has done for us. We are justified; we are forgiven our sins, today the same way as ever – because Christ died for them. And everyone today who believes those words still has eternal life.
Every doctrine grows from this one simple truth. Our doctrine is just as true today as it ever was. In our Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod we confess the whole Book of Concord as the correct exposition of God’s Holy Word.
Do we have the same kind of dedication to the pure doctrine as was on display 500 years ago? Do we – when some congregations admit to the Lord’s Supper any Christian who reads a little blurb in the bulletin and thinks he agrees? Do we – when we think the mission of the Church and pure doctrine are somehow in tension, and we’re willing to trade one for the other? Do we still have the pure doctrine when even conservative Lutherans like ourselves know very well the false doctrines and practices we’re against, but aren’t regularly and faithfully studying the Bible to see what we do believe – and why? Do we have what it takes to be what we were?
Our forefathers in the LCMS had courage to come to America. They left Saxony Germany because they didn’t want to compromise with other churches. They loaded up five ships and crossed the ocean. That took guts. One of the ships didn’t make it – lost at sea with all fifty passengers.
Do we have the same courage that they did? Most of us don’t like to stand alone, do we? We don’t like to be in conflict, especially in our politically correct age where people say, “Who’s really to say who’s right?” Do we have the courage today to do the tough thing, to say out loud, “I have studied God’s Word, and this is what I believe it teaches – and what is contrary to that is wrong? I believe that Jesus is the only way to heaven, and anyone who believes whatever those other religions teach is going to hell?” Do we have the courage to say that, when we know it is sure to get us labeled as narrow-minded and judgmental and unloving? For us, it is much easier than what our ancestors faced, but do we really have the courage that it does take? Do we have what it takes to be what we were?
We do – if we still have the same God. Do we, in our church today, still have the same God? Jude says in verse 4, “Certain people have crept in unnoticed…ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” Is it possible that, without noticing, we could lose the true God?
We don’t really have the same God as the Reformers or the Synod had all these years if we compromise His doctrine. Do we have what it takes to be what we were? Do we have the same God?
Dear friends, the same God who worked the miracle some 500 years ago is here with us today in His Word. The same God who gave the fledgling LCMS the courage to stand in a compromising world, is here with us today in His Word. He is the same God, the one and only God who became a man. Jude says, “our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” The One who knows the pressures and struggles of this world. The one who understands the courage it takes – and understands why we have so little. The One who did what it took to make us what we are – children of God – by dying on a cross. That same God is with us. The God of grace who forgives our faithlessness. Who by His grace, His power, has worked such amazing things through our church – despite our unworthiness. See what this God of grace has done!
Today is about more than a man. It is about a Savior – Jesus Christ. The same yesterday, today, and forever. Thank God for that fellow redeemed!
Amen.

Sermon for Sunday, October 15, 2017: “The Wedding Feast Is Redy – Are You?”

Text to follow.

October 15, 2017                                                                  Text:  Matthew 22:1-14

 

Dear Friends in Christ,

 

Since we live in such a fast food age it is sometimes hard to appreciate a good meal, a real feast of fine food and drink to be enjoyed.  In the 1987 Danish movie Babette’s Feast, two women, Martina and Philippa, named after the reformers Martin Luther and Philip Melanchthon, are now elderly, leading simple lives, having foregone romance and adventure in their youth.  Babette is a former five-star chef from Paris who has served these women as a cook and housekeeper for fourteen years, submitting to their simple lifestyle and bland food.  Babette changes their lives forever when she uses her large prize winnings to prepare a sumptuous French feast for these sisters and their austere religious community.  What happens as a result is remarkable.  Feasting and generosity actually transform lives as Babette gives thanks for all God’s gracious gifts of creation by sacrificing all she had so that this community could rejoice at this feast of finest food and drink.

In our text for today we will see that the banquet to which God invites us – the best of meats and finest of wines – has that kind of life-changing power for us.  This is a banquet seemingly no one would want to miss.

“THE WEDDING FEAST IS READY – ARE YOU?”

Today a man and woman who are getting married send out “Save the date” notices.  In the parable the king had alerted the guests that the big event was coming.  The date is set, the wedding hall is ready, and the food is prepared.  The servants are sent out to invite the invited to the wedding feast.  All is ready.

All the work is done, but no one comes.  This is rude and we can understand the frustration of the king.  Kind of like what happens with RSVP’s today.  People either wait to the last minute or don’t send it in at all.  This frustrates the man and woman because they need a count for dinner.  I work with couples, please send in the RSVP.

In the parable, the servants go out again, but no one pays attention.  One goes off to his farm.  Another to his business.  Still others were indifferent to the point where they seized the servants and killed them.  The king gets angry and exacts revenge. Still, the wedding feast is ready, and so the invitation goes out again.  Now the hall is filled with guests, as many as the servants could find.

Are these guests ready?  Both good and bad are invited; both good and bad arrived.  The king does everything he can to see that all of them – good and bad – are ready.  In ancient Israel, special attire was commonly required at a wedding.  The host often supplied those wedding garments.  The king has provided everything his guests need to be ready.

But as he looks over the gathering, he sees that not everyone is ready.  Amid the splendor he notices one not dressed for the occasion.  He calls him “Friend” but the man has no explanation why he is refusing the clothing the king is offering.  “Cast him into the outer darkness…for many are called, but few are chosen.” (vs. 13-14)

So, then, are we ready for the wedding feast?  God is the King and He invites everyone to the marriage feast of His Son, Jesus Christ.  Jesus’ death on the cross has earned a seat at the feast for every person who has ever lived.

Some will ignore the invitation.  They are too busy.  Too busy with a career to build.  Too busy with their kids activities.  Too busy with outside interests to give the Lord the time to be fed by Word and Sacrament.

Some accept the invitation but on their terms.  They clothe themselves in their good deeds and accomplishments.  They clothe themselves in their good name and pious lifestyle.  They have no excuse when asked why they didn’t clothe themselves in the righteousness offered them in Jesus Christ.

But in his grace and mercy the King extends the invitation.  In Baptism, He provided us garments of salvation that we will wear into eternity.  Garments won for us by His Son’s death and resurrection.  Clothed in Christ’s righteousness, we are ready for the wedding feast.

We live in a casual dress age.  Teachers at school.  Coaches on the court and sidelines.  People in church and at funerals.  College kids in pajamas.  Corporate casual.  But we know there are certain situations when our clothes should match the occasion.  When God the Father invites us to the wedding feast at which his Son will be the Bridegroom, he supplies us with the right thing to wear, the righteousness of Jesus given at our Baptism.  “Nothing in my hand I bring; Simply to the cross I cling.  Naked, come to Thee for dress; Helpless, look to Thee for grace; Foul, I to the fountain fly; Wash me, Savior, or I die.”  You are ready for the wedding feast – clothed in Christ.

Amen.

Sermon for October 8 – Text Only

October 8, 2017                                                                    Text:  Matthew 21:33-46

 

Dear Friends in Christ,

 

We live in a society where everyone has to have the last word.  Politicians in debates.  Blowhards on cable news.  Celebrities at award shows.  But we know it is true in our backyard as well, isn’t it?  In our arguments…I mean, “discussions.”

Having the last word validates our opinion.  Having the last word reminds us that we are right and you are wrong.  Do you ever regret having the last word?  A time you hurt someone with that last minute zinger?  A more regrettable scenario is when we try to have the last word with God.  That can cut us off from the lifeline that we need.  He wants to have a relationship with us, because, finally, when all is said and done . . .

“JESUS IS THE LAST WORD”

God had given his word, which could have been such a blessed last word.  God had spoken to Israel, calling them his special people, giving them his unlimited goodness.  The master of the parable gives a rich vineyard to tenants.  He plants it, puts a nice fence around it, digs a winepress and builds a tower.  If he could have done more he would have.

He then leaves the whole operation in the hands of his tenants, expecting them to labor and give a portion of their fruit.

This is a picture of what God had done for Israel.  In God’s Word His promise was that He would shower them with blessings to all eternity.  He gave His word and He would be delighted for that to be the last word.

The Lord has showered us with blessings like He did with Israel.  I like to sit at my desk and write checks.  Small checks for the summer natural gas bill and internet service.  Large checks for college tuition and our mortgage.  I do not do banking on the computer and Lord willing I will never have to.  I enjoy this weekly exercise because it reminds me how blessed I am.  We as a family have the money to pay all these expenses.  I have been blessed and make more money than I ever thought sitting in my room in Argenta looking at my future in front of me.  Do you see it the same way?  Appreciate the Lord’s gracious hand upon your life?

God’s people rebelled and refused to bear fruit.  So He sent His word again through the prophets.  One after another to receive the fruit.  But they kill and beat and stone.  Any one could have been the last word:  “All is forgiven!  You are still mine?”  Finally, God sent His Son.  Surely this would be the last word and all will be well.

Like we are prone to do, Israel wanted to have the last word.  Time and time again the tenants want the last word.  They reject the last gracious invitation.  They believe they have the last word by killing the son and claiming the vineyard as their own.  This is the tragedy of Israel:  killing the Lord’s prophets and finally killing Jesus.

Doesn’t that sinful desire to have the last word show up in our conversation with God?  “Yes, Lord, I know what you say in the Sixth Commandment but we are really in love.”  “Yes, Lord, I know you promise to provide everything I need, but I am holding back just in case.”  “Yes, Lord, I know you love everyone, but you can’t expect me to forgive her!”

Jesus will have the last word with His opponents.  Jesus gives His enemies one more chance to speak.  He asks – they answer.  They have just spoken judgment on themselves.  Jesus gets the final word.  There is nothing more to say and his enemies know it.

Do we ever try to excuse our sin before a Holy God?  There is nothing we can say.  We stand condemned.

But Jesus truly is the last word.  “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” (v. 42)  Jesus, the Stone, the Son, was rejected and killed.  But in that moment, he spoke the last word:  “It is finished.”  His resurrection proved that death would not be the last word for us either.  Through His death and resurrection, Jesus offers the kingdom to all who believe in Him.

God sent prophet after prophet to Israel.  Christ continues to speak to us.  In the preaching of the Last Word – Christ.  The Word with water in Holy Baptism.  By the Word, the Lord’s Table is the Last Word that delivers to us Christ’s forgiveness of sins.

By faith in Christ, the Last Word, believers do bear fruit, returning the Master his due.  Believers will be known by the fruits we bear in the name of Jesus.  The fruit of the Spirit will prosper in God’s vineyard.

In a world where no one seems to let anyone have the final say, where all beliefs are given equal weight, where bumper stickers demand we “coexist”, Jesus does have the last word.  Jesus finished it all on the cross.  All that is left for us to say is “Alleluia” because the death and resurrection of Christ gives Him the last word to silence all opponents once and for all.

Amen.

Sermon for Sunday, October 1, 2017: “Be Ready to Confess.”

Oct. 1, 2017 – LWML Sunday                                               Text:  2 Timothy 4:1-4

 

Dear Friends in Christ,

 

Man, do my ears itch?  How about you?  Just saying the word “itch” gets us to thinking.  You want to scratch somewhere, right now, don’t you?  It is like two weekends ago both at Holden’s high school football game and Karson’s college football game where they made an announcement that someone had lost their keys.  What did everyone do?  Start patting their pockets, checking their purse.  I resisted, at least, until a few minutes later.

On this LWML Sunday, to say we have “itching ear” disease is a little like saying President Trump likes to Twitter.  Unless you are in a coma, I have just stated the obvious.  Let’s hit the disease head on this morning and  . . .

“BE READY TO CONFESS”

Brother Timothy and Brother Paul worked as Pastors in a time when this disease was spreading.  People were finding church leaders who spoke their language, didn’t call them to account for their sins and changed the truth of the gospel.  They needed each other and the early church leaders so that they would be ready to confess.

It is within the framework of the sermon text of today where I could go off on those removing Christ from the public square, those denying God as Creator and the worldly decimators who think they know what a Christian is all about.

But to me that is not the root of the disease.  People who say they are Christian cause this cancerous growth.  Sure the charlatans of media, academia and Hollywood have their spin, but are they the most dangerous?

As a Pastor of some experience now, people get led away from worship and the church because they start to believe in a different gospel.  A gospel that says believe in a higher being and all your problems will be solved – scratch.  A teacher that says let me entertain you into believing – scratch.  A fellow Christian who stands idly by as you live together before marriage – scratch, scratch.  So-called Biblical colleges who teach that yea you were a monkey before becoming a human being – scratch.  Worldwide white smoke pontificators who care more about global warming than what Christ did on the cross – scratch, scratch, scratch.  Man, do I itch.

Doctrine, the teachings of Scripture, is the only tool for reproving, rebuking, and exhorting.  Yet, doctrine must be taught with long-suffering, knowing that people will not always accept what is taught or that acceptance might take a long time.

That last part – it might take along time – is hard for us impatient people.  But I encourage.  Confess Jesus.  Confess the Gospel.  Confess the truth.  Confess Word and Sacraments.  Confess faithfulness in worship.  Confess marriage.  Confess God as Creator.  Sometimes in our pity, we wonder does it make a difference?  Recently you know that Toni, Holden, and I went back to the first church I served in Texas.  What God allowed me to see in that 30-hour period is that confessing Christ makes a difference even though we may not see it until years later.  Confirmands you thought weren’t paying attention, now confessing Jesus in their lives.  Little shavers when you left now being leaders in their churches.  A young woman with two out of wedlock births now married, husband as elder and involved in their LCMS Church.  It does matter what you confess.  Stop the itching.  God’s Word puts the disease, the devil and the world in remission.  It’s His timing, not ours.

The Lutheran Women’s Missionary League knows a little about timing.  They decided to form at an odd time in history – 1942.  Men were fighting overseas, women were joining the workforce, the challenges were daunting.  Yet on July 7 & 8 of that year over 100 women met in Chicago and established the LWML.  They probably had the “itching ear” crowd wondering why establish a mission society during a war.  They pressed on with their confession of Jesus and the mission of the church.  The League has blessed the mission efforts of congregations, districts, and synod in powerful ways.  They listened to the truth and have encouraged each other.

Our Lutheran confession has always struggled against the intrusion of false teaching.  You can’t have the Law hammer people into the free gift of salvation.  From a purely theological insight we have seen that this week.  The more you tell someone what to do, the less likely they are to it.  You remember childhood, don’t you?  We preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ crucified for our sins and raised for our justification.  Induced by this Gospel, the Spirit of the Lord leads men and women and children to this healing balm that takes away the itch of the world.  I don’t feel the need to scratch, how about you?

In simple words, our faithful God keeps His promises and we pray this Sunday and always that He will enable us to BE READY TO CONFESS.

Amen.

Sermon for Sunday, September 17, 2017: “The Lord Can Transform Evil Into Good.”

September 17, 2017                                                              Text:  Genesis 50:15-21

 

Dear Friends in Christ,

 

As human beings we enjoy stories of sweet revenge.  My dad tells the story of being on the JV basketball team in a small south central Illinois town in the late 1950’s.  The team he was on was pretty good.  They would win some games by quite a lot.  My dad, his friend and a few other teammates were the bench players.  Unfortunately, even in their blowout wins, they would not get a lot of playing time.  The coach liked to keep his starters in the game.

During their last game at home that season, they had another game where they were way ahead.  With very little time on the clock, the coach started to empty his bench and send the bench players into the game.  My dad’s friend took his warm-up off, checked into the scorer’s table, and then proceeded to run not into the game, but straight into the locker room.  The coach stood there dumbfounded.  He had no idea what was going on.  This was the player’s chance to get back at the coach for never getting him into a game.  I laugh every time my dad tells this story.

If someone had the right to sweet revenge it would be the main character in our text – Joseph.  We will get into his story and see how . . .

“THE LORD CAN TRANSFORM EVIL INTO GOOD”

Our text today is actually the end of a long story about Joseph and his brothers.  Joseph was the eleventh of twelve brothers and the most beloved by his father Jacob.  Joseph did some things to his brothers they didn’t like so they conspired to kill him and throw him down a pit.  The brothers made it look like Joseph had been killed and Jacob grieved for his dead son.

Except, Joseph wasn’t dead.  He was sold and served Potiphar.  He ended up in prison but interpreted some dreams for Pharaoh’s cupbearer and baker, and then for Pharaoh.  Pharaoh put Joseph in a place of leadership and he controlled the flow of grain during the famine and the years of plenty.  This is what brought Joseph’s brothers to him.

With that background then, our text, “When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, ‘It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil that we did to him.’” (v. 15)

Do you ever have those thoughts?  You want to get back at someone who has wronged you?  A co-worker takes credit for your work and it puts you in a bad light with the boss.  Later, that same co-worker struggles hopelessly with a project due tomorrow.  What do you do?

A fellow student bullies you mercilessly.  Later, she’s accused of cheating on a test, but you know she’s innocent.  What do you do?

Your sister talks your aging mother into giving her a precious heirloom that she promised you many years ago, and then she sells it.  Now your sister needs help with groceries for her family.  What do you do?

The music director asks you to sing a solo for Christmas Eve.  After practicing for several weeks, he asks his grandson to do it.  Months later, with only a week’s notice, the music director wants you to sing several solos for Easter because his grandson backed out.  What do you do?

Joseph brothers threw him in a pit, let his father think he was dead, and now they come to him for much needed grain.  What will he do?  These brothers had lived with guilt and had never had a good talk with Joseph about what they had done to him.

Sometimes instead of talking with our families or friends, we have the idea that past hurts and sins will just go away if we don’t bring them up again.  They are not confessed and forgiven, just forgotten…for a while.  But if the topic comes up again, the scab is picked and the bleeding starts all over.  Even if we cover it up with “That’s okay,” or “don’t worry about it.”  The healing never happens.

The brothers make up a story about Jacob to Joseph and how the father wanted Joseph to forgive them.  Their contrition is not genuine but a desperate attempt to save themselves.

Do we play this game with a cake or flowers or a trip away?  That’s bribery, not repentance and forgiveness.  We need to articulate the wrong and be forgiven.  Hearing the words of absolution from the Pastor in church, as well as remembering our Baptism and receiving Christ’s body and blood “for the forgiveness of sins,” is hearing the voice of God loud and clear that God has forgiven us through the sacrifice, the cross, of our Savior Jesus.

This is the truth that Joseph knew.  He wasn’t in the place of God, but God could bring good out of evil.  From a blood-stained cloak and the bottom of a slimy pit to a leader in Egypt with his brother’s future in his hands.  He could have gone to the scorer’s table, checked into the game and then kept on running away, leaving his brothers standing there dumbfounded.  But He didn’t.  Joseph explained that the Lord had a purpose in the brother’s evil.  God meant it for good so that this family could be reconciled and many people would be kept alive.

Those who hated and killed Jesus meant it for evil, but God meant it for good, the saving of many souls.  The persecution and unjust treatment and the killing and the burial and the emerging from the tomb were all part of God’s greater plan of ultimate good for you and me.  Our sins are no more!

Jesus speaks to us today through Joseph.  Can we see the good that can come from the evil in our lives?  Do you have relationships still hanging in the balance?  Through the power of the Holy Spirit make that phone call, write that letter, let go of your anger and be reminded of the precious love the Savior has for you.  You have been reconciled to Him and He wants you to be reconciled to others.  The Lord can transform evil to good and we were blessed to see it today.

Amen.