“The Great Debate” — Matthew 22: 15-22

October 19, 2014 Text: Matthew 22:15-22

Dear Friends in Christ,

Let me paint a picture for you this morning and you see where you fit. It’s a family dinner. You are with extended family. There is one person in the group who starts talking politics or social issues or whatever. This does not surprise you because this has been happening for years. How do you react? Do you engage in the debate? Do you change the subject to the weather or something safe? Do you run as fast as you can to the kitchen to help with the gravy? Who are you and where do you fit?
Knowing almost all of you here this morning, I would say we have all three. For those of you who change the subject or skedaddle to some other part of the house I am with you most of the time. Experience has taught me that. At times I like to engage the debate. But think about it this way – do you ever leave that family dinner thinking you really ever changed someone’s mind? Many times it just causes tension and the joy of another family gathering goes right down the toilet.
Jesus got dragged into many debates. The text says, “You do not care about anyone’s opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances.” That should be part of the constitution of all of us. But the problem is He is God and we are not. Oh, how we would love the magic words to put someone in their place. He’s Jesus – Son of God and Savior. You – sinful human being. We are on two different playing fields. What can be done? Come along as we step into . . .
“THE GREAT DEBATE”
Do you remember a great debate when an opponent was silenced? They rarely happen. Here is one that worked. While receiving some tough questions from the press during the Desert Storm conflict, General Norman Schwarzkopf found himself debating with a reporter as to why we didn’t look to the French for more support. Growing tired his quick wit offered, “Going to war without the French is like going deer hunting without your accordion.” Insulted, but not converted, the reporter didn’t ask the general any more questions.
The great debate today is Jesus versus the Pharisees/Herodians. These two groups of people were not usually on the same side. They ask the debate question: “Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” (v. 17) Remember the Herodians are puppets of the Romans and believed taxes should be paid to Caesar or that person was a traitor. The Jews believed paying taxes to Caesar was against God’s will and they shouldn’t have to do it.
So we see the trap. If he speaks against the Pharisees, he’ll show He is a traitor to his own people – the Jews. If he agrees with the Pharisees, the Herodians will have cause for his arrest. Then they could lawfully kill him. In this way the Herodians could carry out the dirty work of the Pharisees. They have to be thinking: “We’ve got him.”
In a simple way, we see ourselves. Can’t we manipulate others to get what we want? Spouses do it. Kids and parents do it. Workers and employers do it. Neighbors do it. Oh, we like to play the game. Herodian or Pharisee? Take your pick, we have been there.
In this great debate, Jesus has an answer. He does not avoid the question or withhold the truth. You and I might be looking for a quick exit. Not the Savior. He proclaims both Law and Gospel. “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (v. 21) Since Caesar is on the coin they are obeying the Fourth Commandment, by honoring the ruling authorities by paying taxes. That is being faithful to God, because He put the government in place. Doing our duty as citizens we are giving thanks to our loving and generous God for his gift of civil governance and peace.
But that is not the end. We are to understand the “give to God what is God’s.” It is to see the Holy Spirit at work in the Gospel. It is to believe that same gospel and to recognize that faith in Christ is the highest worship of Christ, the ultimate “rendering to God.” We receive the bounty of his grace in the Lord’s Supper, Holy Baptism, Holy Absolution. It is to cling to Jesus as the one who paid the tax debt by his suffering and death on the cross for you. The tax bill is paid in full. The bill collector of the grave was unable to hold Jesus. The effects of the debt – death and hell – had no power over him. He rose from the dead to prove that the debt is truly and completely paid.
Jesus won the great debate as only he could do. What does that mean for you and I? Don’t go off running from the great debates of our society. Recently, the Supreme Court took a pass on marriage. This is our great debate because society is on the precipice of falling. Have we learned nothing, sociologically from the breakdown of the family these last 40-50 years? If we add another layer away from God’s design what can we expect?
This is a tough one because it is government that gives me and other clergy the right to marry men and women. It is not official until I sign a piece of paper and send it to the county clerk. So, does God want us to just throw up our hands and give up because people are making these laws? No, of course not. He wants us to engage in the great debate. How do we know that? Because in his Word – our only source of right and wrong – He only blesses one avenue for His creation – male and female. “Be fruitful and multiply.” Science teaches the parts only work one way. The Creator knew this and called it good. When people want to be God they do nothing but mess things up. A gentle reminder – I’m not God, you are not God, the Supreme Court is not God, the pontificators of our time are not God. There is only one true God and He is in control.
In the greatest debate ever waged – Satan against Jesus – Jesus has won. Don’t run to the kitchen to make the gravy, but share God’s Word and keep it at that. The Holy Spirit has to do the rest. Many of you get frustrated and I feel your anguish – I too share it at times. But lean on the Great Debater. The one who loves you so much He doesn’t want to see you perish. The One who cares for you so much that He has promised not to leave you or forsake you. That’s what I take from the Great Debate. I pray you do too.
Amen.

October 19, 2014 Bulletin Announcements

Today is the deadline for items to be submitted for the November Newsletter. Mandy Kluender is our Editor for the church newsletter and any announcements you want to be published in the Newsletter should be submitted to her at mgkluender@hotmail.com.

Next Sunday October 26th, we will celebrate Reformation Sunday.  Holy Communion will be celebrated in both worship services.

Next Sunday:  Because of the harsh winter we had we have blown by the money budgeted for heat/gas for fiscal year 2014 and still have a few months to pay for.  The Church Council voted to include “Energy Needs” envelopes in next week’s bulletin.  If you can give above and beyond your regular offering for this expense it would be appreciated.  We thank the Lord for His many blessings as we work together for His Kingdom.  (And pray for a warmer winter!)

Today is our 2nd Sunday Offering for Reverend Michael Kearney and Seminarian Christopher Suggitt.

Next Sunday is the deadline for items to be submitted for the November Newsletter. Mandy Kluender is our Editor for the church newsletter and any announcements you want to be published in the Newsletter should be submitted to her at mgkluender@hotmail.com.

Annual Voter’s Meeting  Mark your calendars for Good Shepherd’s Annual Voter’s Meeting on Sunday, November 16th following the 10:30 worship service.  More details to follow.

Portals of Prayer  The October – December Portals of Prayer are available on the bookrack located in the narthex.  Large print also available.  Pick up your free copy today.

Food Collection  We are collecting food for the Home Sweet Home Mission.  The box is located in the narthex.  We will do this through Saturday, November 15th, when we deliver the food and serve a meal at the Mission.

Thank you  The church has received a “Thank you” note from Seminarian Chris Suggitt thanking the congregation for your continued support.  The letter is posted on the bulletin board outside of the church office.

Fellowship Hosts  The sign-up for help with coffee/doughnuts is posted on the wall by the north stairwell.  We need an individual/family to sign up each week to pick up the donuts and make the coffee.  If no one is signed up by Friday of each week, the order will be cancelled.  We thank everybody who continues to help with this part of our church fellowship.

Can You Help:  Greetings to all of you, my dear Church family.  I wish to thank each and every one of you for ALL you have done for my family and me:  meals, prayers, other help.  I am overwhelmed by the love shown to me by so many people.  This has been the hardest challenge so far for us and we pray that our Lord will heal and restore me to my family.  Stave IV and secondary cancer is no joke and when I have to sleep, I am left with no choice – go in and lie down or fall down!  Which leads me to my point.  I have had to learn to ask for some help.  So here is my humble request: would any of you have some easy slow cooker recipes you would be willing to share with me?  I am collecting some recipes but would sure love to have some of yours.  If anyone has slow cooked a roast or a ham or chicken in one, please let me know for how long you’ve cooked it.  Please email any recipes or instructions to me at: dogdiva2@comcast.net.  Thank you again for everything!  Love in Christ, Laura Kessler.

The Lutheran Hour  Keep it Simple and Straightforward is the topic for next Sunday.  The sermon text will be from Romans 3:22-25.  The Bible’s message is simple and straightforward: the wages of sin is death but the free gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ, our Lord.  The speaker will be Reverend Gregory Seltz.  Hear this Sunday’s message on the Lutheran Hour on WGN (720 AM) at 6am; WJWR (104.7 FM) and WJWR (90.3 FM) both on Sunday at 3pm.  Also, if you can receive Lincoln, IL radio station WLLM (1370 AM) the program is broadcast two times on Sunday at 7am and 7pm.  Tune in!  You can listen to the Lutheran Hour on your personal computer at RealAudio, www.lhm.org

“The Party of The Year” — Matthew 22: 1-14


 

Oct. 12, 2014                                                              Text:  Matthew 22:1-14

 

Dear Friends in Christ,

 

Mealtimes are often filled with emotions.  Peter knows.  Sunday dinners with his mother, Ada, his father, Fred, and three siblings were always lively, relates Peter.  “On one occasion all of us except mother were in a silly mood, and we began requesting, in rhyme, items at the table.  ‘Please pass the meat, Pete.’  ‘May I have a potatah, Ada?’  ‘How about the salt, Walt.’  This went on for a while but then mom got fed up.  She stood up:  ‘Stop this nonsense right now.  I’d like to enjoy my dinner with some good conversation not this silly chatter.’  Then she sat down, still in a huff, turned to my father, and snapped, ‘Pass the bread, Fred.’”

You are cordially invited to . . .

“THE PARTY OF THE YEAR”

It was on Tuesday of Holy Week when Jesus spoke this, the third of his triad of parables about entrance into the Kingdom.  The king is planning his son’s royal wedding.  When the invitations went out, those invited came up with excuses based on possessions or purchases.

In our busy, consumer-oriented society it is easy to disdain invitations.  When we get invited to a party or dinner we may ask ourselves:  “Do I really need to go?  Will there be a problem if I don’t go?  Will I know people there?”  Those in the parable answered in all the wrong ways.

When we apply this parable to God’s inviting us to eternal fellowship with him, if we decline, there will be a problem.  In our times, ethics are perceived as individual and relative.  Many Americans do not accept God’s eternal values as absolute.  Yet they are.  The Lord’s patience eventually wears thin.  As a people we cannot continually turn our back on God and expect his blessing.  “For many are called, but few are chosen.” (v. 14)

Many are called, you know?  Jesus graphically portrays God as reaching out to people with his inviting grace.  God cared enough to search us out and bring us into His Kingdom with celebration and a feast.  We need to value those times we have in worship.  Our divine services are true foretastes of the eternal banquet.

All who choose to ignore our accountability to God cheapen God’s grace.  In fact grace is costly – it cost the life of God’s Son.  Dietrich Bonheoffer wrote:  “Grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ.  It is costly because it cost a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life.”  To be invited by God to feast at his table of divine grace is the ultimate honor for all human beings.

Welcome the invitation.  Don’t be put off because it is free.  This is not some late-night infomercial.  This comes freely to you because of Jesus covering the cost of your invitation.  Christ has risen and ascended to heaven to host the banquet of all banquets.  God values inviting anyone, even us.  That divine attitude can shape in us the same desire to invite all.

When you got up this morning, perhaps you hesitated for a moment whether you would come to worship or not.  It might be nice to sleep in, or veg out or pursue some other worldly endeavor.  But a small voice suggested you accept the invitation.  That was the Holy Spirit delivering Christ’s invitation to you.

 

Even in our more casual day and age, we know there are certain clothes required for certain situations.  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.  Clothed in Christ’s righteousness, we are ready for the Party of the Year.

Amen.

October 12, 2014 Bulletin Announcements

Today is our 2nd Sunday Offering for Reverend Michael Kearney and Seminarian Christopher Suggitt.

Next Sunday is the deadline for items to be submitted for the November Newsletter.  Mandy Kluender is our Editor for the church newsletter and any announcements you want to be published in the Newsletter should be submitted to her at mgkluender@hotmail.com.

Annual Voter’s Meeting  Mark your calendars for Good Shepherd’s Annual Voter’s Meeting on Sunday, November 16th following the 10:30 worship service.  More details to follow.

Portals of Prayer  The October – December Portals of Prayer are available on the bookrack located in the narthex.  Large print also available.  Pick up your free copy today.

Food Collection  We are collecting food for the Home Sweet Home Mission.  The box is located in the narthex.  We will do this through Saturday, November 15th, when we deliver the food and serve a meal at the Mission.

Thank you  The church has received a “Thank you” note from Seminarian Chris Suggitt thanking the congregation for your continued support.  The letter is posted on the bulletin board outside of the church office.

Fellowship Hosts  The sign-up for help with coffee/doughnuts is posted on the wall by the north stairwell.  We need an individual/family to sign up each week to pick up the donuts and make the coffee.  If no one is signed up by Friday of each week, the order will be cancelled.  We thank everybody who continues to help with this part of our church fellowship.

The Lutheran Hour  God’s Peacemakers for a Troubled World is the topic for next Sunday.  The sermon text will be from Philippians 4:4-13.  Jesus calls and enables us to be peacemakers who share his gifts with others in a broken world.  The speaker will be Reverend Gregory Seltz.  Hear this Sunday’s message on the Lutheran Hour on WGN (720 AM) at 6am; WJWR (104.7 FM) and WJWR (90.3 FM) both on Sunday at 3pm.  Also, if you can receive Lincoln, IL radio station WLLM (1370 AM) the program is broadcast two times on Sunday at 7am and 7pm.  Tune in!  You can listen to the Lutheran Hour on your personal computer at RealAudio, www.lhm.org