Eighth Sunday After Pentecost
August 3, 2014
Dear Friends in Christ,
In 1538, the Dance of Death made its way into the Bible. In their printing of the Old Testament, the Treschel Brothers included Life after the Fall, a woodcut by Hans Holbein. In his woodcut, Adam is tilling the ground and Eve is nursing a child. Near Adam, however, one sees death, a skeleton tilling the field. Near Eve, death again is visible, an hourglass measuring the limits of our lives. Death is everywhere, hounding our efforts and measuring our days, so that we “labor for that which does not satisfy” (Is. 55:2).
In his woodcut, Holbein was actually creatively appropriating a much larger painting and a much larger tradition. In St. Mary’s church in Lubeck, there was a painting nearly 100 feet long, weaving itself along the walls of a small chapel. The painting filled the walls with life-sized figures…in a chain dance with death. Death was weaving itself in and out of the figures, calling to them to “Come here to the dance.” People old and young, rich and poor, from the pope and the emperor to the hermit and the peasant were invited by Death. “I call everybody to this dance.” Even an infant who cannot walk heard Death’s invitation and was invited to the dance. Gathering for worship, one was surrounded by the figures dancing with death. You never knew when Death might extend his invitation and take your hand.
Although it took so long for the Dance of Death to make its way into the Bible, God’s people have long heard death’s call. Isaiah gives voice to the question that has troubled all people ever since the fall: “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?” Today we answer that question as we examine our Christian faith.
“THE LORD OF LIFE OVERCOMES THE DANCE OF DEATH”
Why do we spend money and labor on those things that we know do not satisfy? Because that is all we are able to do. From the glossy magazines that litter our life to the pop-up ads on our computers and phones to the billboards that hover in the sky, our world is filled with merchants crying out to us: “Come and buy.” Like I was telling my boys the other day they are successful. Those who have kids involved in sports know this. Go into any sporting goods chain and the prices for athletic gear will literally knock your socks off. These companies have successfully marketed to kids that it is more important how you look than how you play. Why? To make the little bit of life that we have satisfying, because, in the end, nothing will last. The computer, the phone, the flat-screen TV, the video game, the dry-fit t-shirt. All will decay. Death will whisper its invitation to “Come” and all our labor will be in vain.
In contrast to the Dance of death, Isaiah gives voice to the Lord of Life. Like Death, the Lord’s call is to everyone (v. 1). No one is excluded. But unlike Death, the Lord’s call brings people life. The life the Lord offers is rich – “wine and milk” in verse 1 and “rich food” in verse 2. It is free – “without money and without price” in verse 1. It will answer the deepest needs of human experience, bringing eternal life to the soul (v. 3). Most surprisingly this call is not new. It reaches into the past of Israel based on God’s covenant love to David. It is one that reaches out to embrace the world’s future as all nations come to this one that the Lord glorifies. Even “a nation that you do not know” and “a nation that did not know you” (v. 5) will join in the feast. In this text, Isaiah issues a call from the Lord of Life and his voice triumphs over the Dance of Death.
This call and promise of prophecy has taken on flesh in Jesus Christ. He came to dance our dance with death, died on a cross, and rose victorious never to die again. Suddenly, the church is surrounded with a chorus of witnesses, who invite the world to life. The Apostle Paul heard this call and made it known to the Jews in Antioch. There he proclaimed the certainty of all of God’s promises made known in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
From the voice of Wisdom calling out to all people to come to the house of the Lord (Prov. 9:1-6) to the voice Jesus raised above the banter of the temple to invite all who are thirsty to come to him (Jn. 7:37) to the voice of John, aged and exiled, closing out his vision of the end of all things with the simple cry of the church to “Come” (Rev. 22:17), this cry of the Lord of Life is sounded. It is an eternal cry of salvation for all. It comes from the one who danced with death, overcame death and the grave, and claimed victory on Easter morning. This is the cry that Jesus will raise on the last day. By the power of his life, He will raise all people from the dead and, by the power of His love; He will call all who believe in Him to enter into the new creation.
Because of the fall, the Dance of Death made its way into the Scriptures. Because of God’s grace in Jesus Christ, the Lord of Life is making his way into our world. In 1538, we have a moment when the Dance of Death visually marked the pages of the Bible. Today, the question is, how is the Lord of Life reaching out from the Scriptures to make his mark upon our world? Where is His call? What does it sound like? How is God, through you, calling out to the peoples who are working and buying that which does not satisfy, those that do not know Him as Savior? Can we share with them what we already know that through the work of Christ this life is rich and free and brings eternal life to the soul? Sure we can. May the Holy Spirit bless as we do.
Ushers and Elders
|Aug 3||Daryle Schempp, Jeff Piper, Lucas Schempp, Mike Field||John Hardy||Ryan Kleiboeker, Travis Henson|
|Aug 10||Gerald Semelka, Steve Davis||Paul Gerike||Brian Dirks, Greg McNeely, Holden Lueck, Theron Noth|
|Aug 17||Charles Nottingham, Gene Fuller, Nathan Kluender, Richard Ross||Craig Culp||Bryan Reichert, Mike Huth|
|Aug 24||John Hardy, Joshua Parry||Curt Kessler||Bud Kessler, Karson Lueck, Marvin Huth, Ryan Kleiboeker|
|Aug 31||David Orr, Jeff Piper, Matthew Holland, Steve Parry||Barry Hamlin||Brian Dirks, Greg McNeely, Holden Lueck, Travis Henson|
|Aug 3||J.T. Piper||Pastor/Elder|
|Aug 10||Pastor/Elder||Isabella Kessler|
|Aug 17||Anna Holland||Pastor/Elder|
|Aug 24||Pastor/Elder||William McNeely|
|Aug 31||Katey Parry||Will Dowell|
|Date||8:30 AM||10:30 AM|
|Aug 3||Toni Lueck||Sherry Parker|
|Aug 10||Caleb Evans||Angelina Isaac|
|Aug 17||Emilia Schempp||Joann Hart|
|Aug 24||Casey Scott||Sheri Piper|
|Aug 31||Jill Holland||Ruth Gerike|
The parable of the unjust steward vexes us. Why would our Lord commend the unjust steward and the sons of this world as He does? It’s because the sons of this world know how to treat something that they think is valuable. They love money and the earthly comforts that come with it. They jump to get the job with higher pay, better benefits, or greater prestige.
Yet all of this, as we know, will fade and wear out. And so, Jesus does not commend the sons of this world for what they love. He commends them for how zealously they love and the lengths they will go to attain it.
Mimic their zeal, but do not become a son of this world. Do not be drawn away by the love of money. The sons of this world are set for destruction, but at least they pursue it with vigor. They know what they want, and they go after it.
We, on the other hand, as Christians, desire the joy of eternal dwellings, but sometimes you would hardly know it. And so, we are accused of lacking zeal for the kingdom of God. For we have not pursued what we supposedly value with the same zeal that the sons of this world pursue what they value. We don’t seek fellowship with the Father like the sons of this world seek the comfort that money provides. We don’t put on purity with the enthusiasm that the sons of this world put on the latest fashions. We don’t invest in the work of the Church, our very salvation, with the same zeal that the sons of this world invest in the markets.
Don’t get sucked into pursing the love of money and what it provides, but what money you do have, use for good works. Use money and possessions, but don’t allow them to use and possess you. God in His grace and mercy gives you many things. You are stewards over what He gives into your hands. You control them. Don’t let them control you. Use what you have been given to serve your neighbor, those who are part of your family, your community, and your church.
Get what you need to eat and drink, a home to shelter your family and clothes that you need. But don’t squander. Don’t waste your excess on things that don’t serve you and your neighbor. Make friends with it instead. Give it to those in need. In so doing, you show mercy. And in showing mercy, you give a picture of God’s mercy to you in Jesus Christ. You imitate the loving-kindness and mercy that God has given you to others. By faith, trusting in the promise that God will never leave you or forsake you and will provide everything that you need, you demonstrate what is of the highest value to you: the eternal dwellings of heaven. Thus, on the last day, Christ will receive you into them.
For Christ is the one Son of light who is the most zealous, the most single-minded. He squanders the possessions of His Father with wanton abandon, not in wastefulness, but for your benefit. For these can’t be wasted. They never run out. And so He lavishes the grace and mercy of God upon you without price, without charging you a cent, without keeping any books, without demanding any accounting of you. Christ takes all that belongs to the Father and gives it to you in abundance. And the treasures He gives never run out, never fade away, but are stored where moth and rust cannot destroy. They are eternal. They never end.
Rather than mimicking the zeal of the sons of this world, trust in Christ, and imitate His zeal and His works, for He gives out not only earthly treasures, but also heavenly ones.
8/01 Georgia Boriack
8/02 Ryne Brewer
8/03 Vicki Miller
8/05 Paul Gerike
8/05 Eric Schneider
8/09 Jeanette Ross
8/10 Bryan Benjamin
8/11 Clayton Piper
8/11 Emilia Schempp
8/12 Brian Dirks
8/15 Jacqueline Kwasny
8/16 Kristina Warren
8/18 Chad Boudinier
8/18 Becky Love
8/22 Kitti Miller
8/24 John Campbell
8/24 Michael Huth
8/07 Deborah Huber
8/11 Andrew Benjamin
8/15 Phoenix Kleiboeker
8/23 Stephanie Schempp
8/24 Paul Gerike
8/25 Eric Schneider
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Have you ever faced a difficult decision that involved many options? You look at it from all possible angles and scenarios. You try to make the best decision with all the information you have available. You pray and then decide… but what you decide does not work out the way you thought it would. You’ve been there, haven’t you?
If you have lived long enough you know of whence I speak. Oh, how we wish that all those decisions would work out the way we want. We want the timing to be right, we want the outcome to be bright, we want to smell the roses when we cross the finish line.
But then the timing is all wrong; the outcome is dark and bleak, and the only thing we smell is the stench of defeat. It can knock us down. It can cause us to hang our heads low. It can bring tears to the surface.
What to do in these situations? First, realize that you did the right thing. You took what you knew at the time and you made the call. It felt right, it looked right; you knew in your gut this was the direction to take.
Secondly, you prayed about it. The Lord led you down a path that He wanted you to go. In the end, the path didn’t lead to what you had hoped, but the Eternal Guide was by your side.
Thirdly, you learned a life lesson. I know we used to despise this when our parents told us this, but it is true. It makes us stronger and wiser for the next time we have a big decision. This is part of maturing in our Christian faith.
When our decision involves our faith then we also are making a strong witness to those around us. Never underestimate the eyes that are on you. This is where the Holy Spirit works.
This one is fresh in my mind. I pray these thoughts help you.
Seventh Sunday After Pentecost
July 27, 2014
Dear Friends in Christ,
Life as we know is full of questions. Some questions are important but not life-changing. Other questions are life-changing: What college will you go to? Will we find a new church home when we move? Will you marry me? Doc, is it cancer?
There are also faith questions. Jesus asks, “Do you love me?” This question is colored by another: “Do you trust me?” These are the sorts of questions that will really change your life, even your eternal life. It’s real life-changing questions that our text today raises. But because God is for us through Christ, we have . . .
“THE ANSWER TO ALL LIFE-CHANGING QUESTIONS”
The first question raised by Paul in our text is simply this: “What then shall we say to these things?” (v. 31a) What things? All things. Lots of things aren’t pretty in this fallen world. What does Paul say about that, “We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (v. 28)
We often quote this to those who are suffering. But the sufferer can hear, “don’t sweat it – it’s going to be okay.” Which really is no comfort at all. The real point of the verse is: “We know that God works in all things.” God isn’t the cause of bad things; we live in a broken world because of sin. The good news is this: God works in all things for our good.
Look at it this way. Try to eat the individual ingredients of a cake individually, things like flour, shortening, salt, baking powder, spices, even sugar and they are not very tasty. But mixed them together and bake and the taste buds come alive. Each event in our life is like one ingredient in a cake. It may not seem good by itself, but when mixed by god with other events, it will surely produce what is good.
Since God causes all things to work together for good, we can’t judge the goodness of God’s work until his program is finished. Ever been hasty in testing the cake batter? The result can be unsatisfactory. Until God’s recipe for our lives is complete, we dare not judge God’s cooking.
Another life-changing question posed is “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (v. 31b) It’s not simply “Who can be against us?” You can answer that one. Disease, taxes, exhaustion, media elites, unbelievers, the politically correct. We can easily list our foes, but that is not the question. “If God is for us, who can be against us?” The thrust of the text, “Since God is for us.” Paul reminds us that since God is for us, it doesn’t really matter who is against us. All of our enemies together are no match for God. Please remember God is for us as you go about your daily business.
Now to the pivotal question: “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (v. 32) How far is God willing to go for us? He has no limit as He did not spare His own Son, but sent Him to the cross because of His great love for us. God is for us!
We have that phrase “all things” again in this verse. The Lord graciously takes away the worry about the things of this world. He goes to the cross so that we can have the joy of living. He hears and answers our prayers. God is for us!
“Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect?” (v. 33) The prosecuting attorney in the courtroom scene turns up the heat with his accusations. Our answer: Since God is for us, what other opinion matters? Every voice that accuses us, even our own voice, holds no court in the presence of a God who spared nothing for us. God is for us!
“Who is to condemn?” (v. 34). Go back to Rom. 8:1: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” The only one with the right to condemn is Jesus and he has already answered the question with the offering of his own life. Sitting next to God is the one who died for us. Our defense attorney continues to speak to us. God is for us!
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” (v. 35a) Paul makes a list: “Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?” (v. 35b). This list can do us no harm if we remember God’s love for us. We die with him to our sin, and we are raised with him. Nothing, “neither death nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (vs. 38-39).
Since nothing can separate us from Christ Jesus, God is for us – the answer to all life-changing questions.
Sixth Sunday After Pentecost
July 20, 2014
Dear Friends in Christ,
Many of you have probably visited or are at least familiar with the “Build-A-Bear Workshop.”The first one got started at the Galleria Shopping Center in St. Louis. Today there are over 400 workshops mostly in shopping malls in 46 states. If you have never gone to a workshop with squirming young people on a sugar high from birthday cake and Mountain Dew, let me tell you the rules. First, you get to choose from over 30 different bear models. Then you take your bear and stuff it, stitch it, fluff it, dress it, accessorize it, and name it. You then have your “berry own bear!” And to prove it, you receive a customized birth certificate. It is your creation. Ta da!
Israel in Babylonian captivity wasn’t building bears; they were building gods. That’s why the Lord reminds them in the first verse of our text that there is only one God. God says to stop building others gods because . . . .
“I AM THE FIRST AND THE LAST”
There is no god besides this God! He is the solid Rock (v. 8). But because of their idolatry, the exiles were slow to believe these claims. Why? They were spending time in Babylonian build-a-god workshops. Isaiah describes the tools of the trade later in this chapter. They were building gods as idols to be worshipped. They would burn half of it to roast meat and be satisfied. The other half would be bowed down to and prayed to so that they would be delivered.
The prophet tells the names of these Babylonian gods, “Bel” and “Nebo” (46:1). Bel is the tile of the god Marduk. He was allegedly the “King of the Universe.” Nebo was the son of Marduk and, as the god of writing and wisdom, was keeper of the Tablets of Destiny. Babylonians believed Nebo gave them knowledge and understanding.
Just as Israel was slow to trust their God, we find ourselves at times in a similar predicament. We delight in, shall we say “creative craftsmanship.” We conceive it in our minds. We build it with our hands. We choose how it looks. We personalize it with our preferences. It’s just what we want in a god. This god likes what I like and hates what I hate. This god shares my opinions and increases my standard of living and happiness. This god gives me what I want and stays out of the way the rest of the time. Luther states in his Large Catechism, “Whatever you set your heart on and put your trust in is truly your god.” (LC I 3)
What are some the idols we are building? Careers, houses, investments, children, government, friends, abilities.
In Isaiah 46:1 the word “idols” is actually translated to mean “pain.” The same Hebrew word is used to denote the pain of Eve in childbirth and Adam’s pain in working the ground. Idols bring the same misery, heartache, and pain experienced by our first parents.
Another Hebrew word that Isaiah uses for idols can mean “nothing.” Isaiah maintains that those who follow idols believe in nothing of substance, care for nothing that matters, seek to know nothing of importance, find purpose in nothing that lasts, live for nothing that endures, and remain alive because when it comes to something to die for there is absolutely nothing!
Why do idols have such power? They have such magnetizing power to imprison us of our God-given humanity because Satan is the spiritual reality behind every addiction, every compulsion, and every obsession. It is no wonder then that David writes in Psalm 16:4, “The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply.”
So what is the answer?
In the context of this massive idolatry, we have a Word from God. Isaiah 44:6: “Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: ‘I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god.’”
All of these titles are embodied in Jesus. He is our Lord and the King of Israel. In the weakness of the cross the Church likewise asserts that Jesus is the “King of the Jews” (Matt. 27:37). There he is enthroned, bleeding, and dying for all humanity. His kingdom is truly not of this world. Jesus is Redeemer because he has come to give his life as a ransom for many.
Jesus is the Lord of hosts because he has great power. He is the ultimate Warrior who defeats every enemy of his Church. The Lord is also “the First and the Last.” Monotheism could not be stated with any more clarity. This title is given to Jesus throughout the Book of Revelation as a testimony that he is God in the flesh.
Because he bled and died in our place, Jesus demonstrates that he alone is able to heal our hurts, forgive our filth, and defeat our death. No wonder the Bible says that idols are nothing and chaos, and only compound our pain because a cross-less god is no god at all. A god who doesn’t suffer, a god who knows no agony, a god who doesn’t die – this is a god without grace, a god who cannot deliver, and a god who offers no hope and no future.
But this is not Jesus. He is crucified, but risen indeed. So it is time to turn in our tools, stop building substitutes, throw away the idols, and never, ever again do business at a build-a-god workshop.
Fifth Sunday After Pentecost
July 13, 2014
Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23
Dear Friends in Christ,
People often use the same words but have entirely different meanings in mind. Johnny Carson, the former host of The Tonight Show, on the day after a World Series in the mid 1970’s, asked band member Tommy Newsom: “Well, Tommy, what do you think of the Cincinnati Reds now?” Tommy answered, “I just don’t like Communists! I don’t care where they live!” And who can forget the classic Abbott and Costello routine: “Who’s on first; What’s on second; I Don’t Know’s on third”? When someone is trying to have a meaningful relationship with someone else, though, such misunderstanding is not funny. It can be devastating. Communication experts tell us that filters often inhibit meaning between the sender of a message and the recipient. The filter of sin can prevent us from a relationship with God.
We need to be active listeners of God’s Word and that is the crux of the matter. How can we better understand what the Lord is saying especially when He speaks in parables?
“THE CHALLENGE OF HEARING GOD’S WORD”
Jesus knows his audience well. He is teaching the disciples and us that even though the Word of God is powerful, in our sinful state we can resist it or even misunderstand it. We cannot by our own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ or come to him; faith is a gift. So what does keep us from hearing?
Jesus says one challenge is the devil. He is like the birds who snatch the seed off the path. We know the devil exists because he can pervert our thoughts even while listening to a sermon. What are you thinking about right now? What you did last night? What you have planned for today? The devil can shorten your attention span and bring thoughts into your minds that have no business inside God’s House.
Jesus says another challenge is your flesh. Our sinful flesh looks for the next spiritual high. As long as things are sailing along we are all for God’s Word. But when problems arise we can be quick to abandon. This is the seed on rocky soil. We avoid suffering and substitute something more in line with our thinking.
Another challenge Jesus puts forth is the world. We have many cares that take away the joy of just listening to the Word. We have the toil of work. We may become concerned about our income or kids or parents. We may have health problems or life decisions looming before us. These all make it difficult to relax and just listen to the soothing voice of God.
These three: the devil, the world, and our flesh are the unholy trinity that challenges our hearing. The meaning to Commandment Three calls on us to not despise preaching and God’s Word. Yet when we fail to listen and understand this is exactly what happens.
But when the Word is heard – oh, what blessings! Jesus said to the Twelve, “But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.” (vs. 16-17)
How does that happen? Jesus answered it this way: “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.” (v. 11) Did you hear that? Hearing and understanding God’s Word is given; it’s a gift.
You have been gifted. Just now. Again. For many it first happened at Baptism as your eyes were opened to see that Jesus truly is the Son of God who came to take away the sins of the world by dying for you on the cross. You continue to hear God’s word that kills the sinner inside and raises the new man to life – just like the seed that dies in the ground and then sprouts and grows and eventually bears fruit. It is the listening to God’s Word and his preaching that does this.
Jesus death conquered the devil, the world, and our flesh. With the Lord’s Spirit we can overcome these and through faith we can meet the challenge of hearing God’s Word.
God, who has given you ears to hear and understand, has also given you abundant, fruitful ears of crop to sow for the spreading of his kingdom. You can be active in supporting the public proclamation of the Word and the administration of the Sacraments in our congregation. You do this each time you make worship a priority for you and your family. You can sow the seed in your day-to-day life. Don’t be afraid to share the truth of God’s Word as He gives opportunity. The Lord says to expect an extraordinary harvest when you do.
So when you have trouble listening to the sermon, don’t blame the message or messenger, but examine yourself. What is challenging you to hear God’s Word? Put to death those thoughts in your heart as the Lord Jesus heals you.
Every chance to hear God’s Word is a blessing. We need the strength and power that it can provide. It does not return void. The account of God’s redeeming us through Jesus’ life, death and resurrection works wonders on us.