Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Presents


LUKE 2:7

They wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manger.

In the name of Jesus:

The Time is almost here! After weeks of Christmas lists, Christmas sales, shopping, weaving through masses of people, waiting in lines, purchasing and wrapping presents, the time is almost here! Its Christmas Eve and soon the presents will be under the tree, and the boxes with brightly colored wrapping will be ripped off of the gifts, to reveal what is inside. And if your family is like mine, the gift recipient will take the time to show the gift for all to see, thanking the giver, and at the same time making plans on how to best use the gift.

Christmas is all about the gifts. What you give and what you receive. On this special night, we pause and reflect upon God’s great gift to us, the gift of His Son, the Christ child.

Anticipation was building that first Christmas Eve. Ever since the fall of Adam and Eve into sin, God had promised The Gift. And oh, how the children of Adam and Eve would need this Gift. For Adam and Eve were created had fallen from grace. Theirs was a perfect world, the world WAS their oyster, they were placed in a perfect world, a Garden in which they were to tend and keep. Their only instruction was to trust, to trust in God and obey His command. To take each moment and live in each moment in faith: loving God by gratefully receiving what they had received from Him as a gift: the gift of fellowship with the Maker and Creator of all things. Their call was to live out their lives in the Garden in simple childlike trust, for God had said not to eat of a certain fruit of a tree, Adam and Eve were to simply trust, and obey.

Yet, in their disobedience, they were banned from the Garden and their relationship with God was severed. Perfection was replaced with sin, trust replaced with doubt, worry, anxiety and fear. Life as they knew it was now ending in death as a punishment for sin. Sin always pays off with death. Always. Yes, Adam and Eve still had life here on earth, and they could still enjoy the physical gifts which God had blessed them with, but they had now fallen from God’s grace. They possessed no spiritual gifts. Their souls were now sinful; their entire beings were in bondage to sin. Relationship with God---gone, communion with God---severed, life with God----non existent. The parents of the human race had separated themselves and the entire human race from God. The world, in which God had created, to be in harmony with Him, was not. It was broken. No human being could repair it. Truly it would take a miracle, a gift from God, if you will, to reconcile God with man.

But God had a plan, His plan. Before He created the world, God knew what would happen. He knew that Adam and Eve would forsake Him and live for themselves. But out of love, God STILL created Adam and Eve because He wanted a relationship with the beings He created. God would spare no expense to make this happen. God had no plan B, rather, it was His eternal will and a part of His eternal plan that He would send One who would do battle for Adam and Eve and their descendants. Before God created the world God had determined that he would save the world through the blood of His Son, Jesus. For as John writes in his Gospel: In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. God’s plan was set into motion even before the world began. And God revealed this plan to Adam and Eve after the fall, as He promised One who would crush the head of the serpent.

God had promised this miracle, this Gift, this Savior. And so, throughout the pages of the Old Testament, Jesus is proclaimed. God made the promise not only to Adam and Eve, but to each generation of prophets and people. To Abraham God said that He would bless the nations. To David God promised a King to take his place on a throne which would last forever. It was through His prophets that God promised that at the right time He would present Himself in Christ to save His people. A virgin would conceive and bear a Son; His name would be Emanuel which means God is with us. Through the prophet Isaiah a Child would be born, a Son given, His name would be Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, and Prince of Peace. Elsewhere, this One who was to come would bear the sins of the world; by His stripes sinners would be healed. God promised, the anticipation continued to grow, and God’s people waited for the unveiling of God’s gift. And God’s people heard God’s promises, and looked forward to that time, all the while the anticipation was building, and God’s people were waiting in joyful expectation. Even as children look forward to Christmas morning to see what presents are under the tree with their name on them, so too God’s people of old looked forward to that time when God would unveil the Gift of His Son.

And so, at that right time, when Quinerius was governor of Syria, Caesar decreed that the whole world would be taxed. And in that time God spoke, not through prophets, but through angels which spoke to shepherds, watching their flocks at night: To you is born in the city of David a Savior, He is Christ the Lord. The shepherds went to see this One who was promised of long ago, God’s present, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. The angels sang praises to God at what God was doing that first Christmas. God sent Jesus, His only begotten Son, on Christmas. Christmas is the day when God became man in Christ. Cynics will suggest that Christmas is really a pagan holiday that no one really knows when Jesus was born, that the leaders of the Church celebrated Christmas on a pagan holiday, so as to detract from our celebration of Jesus’ birth. Satan likes to take half truths and turn them into lies.

You see, the early Christian Church chose December 25 not because it was a pagan holiday; in fact the early church took great strides in attempting to veer away from paganism because of persecution. The date was chosen because in rabbincal thinking, Jesus was conceived and died on the same date. Historians of that time figured that Jesus died on March 25; hence it would make sense that He would be born nine months later on December 25. This is why we celebrate Christmas on this eve. As we celebrate Christmas in the darkness of winter, God’s Word brings to mind that Jesus is truly the Light of the world, the Light of God sent into the darkness of our sinful world to show us the love of God for all. And this is the true meaning of Christmas! For God sent His only Son, as His gift to sinners born and conceived in sin. God’s greatest gift, His greatest present was His presence in His Son Jesus Christ. God was in human flesh reconciling the world to Himself. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us for a time, and we beheld His glory, the glory of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth….The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. [10] He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. [11] He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. [12] But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, [13] who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. [14] And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1).

The Light of the world became human flesh to enlighten our sinful lives to the grace of God. From the fullness of Christ each of us has received the grace of God, His love, His gifts, His truth, His life. God’s long awaited Gift to you is His Son, Jesus. And He comes, not wrapped in colorful paper, with a bow around it, but He comes in humility. Wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger, laid in a feeding box made from a tree, to be later raised up on a tree called the cross, so that He would be the life and salvation of all. Jesus, God’s Son, was nailed to the tree to be cursed by God, so that you might know and possess God’s love, His forgiveness, His life, in Christ.

And these gifts are given to you this Christmas, and every Sunday when you attend worship. We can very really say that Christ is present with us in worship, for where two or three are gathered together in His name, Jesus promises to be there, right in our very midst. And Jesus offers Himself tangibly in His Word and Sacraments. In a world that struggles to know if God exists, if God is present, if God speaks today and if God cares, God tells us that He does, and He is present with us in His Word and Sacraments.

The Holy Scriptures is God’s very voice and very word to us today. Some people believe that the Bible just contains the Word of God, and so, they then pick and choose in the Bible what they want to believe, to fit their own lifestyle. But God Himself says in His Word that His Word is truth. The Holy Scriptures are the inspired Word of God and God breathed, God’s very voice to us, revealing to sinners where they have fallen short of God’s will, and God’s grace in Jesus Christ. For while the Law was given to Moses, God sent His Son into the world to reveal the love, grace, and truth of God, that God wills that all be saved in Christ.

In Baptism God speaks His voice, calling you by name so that you would have a new identity. The old things that you have done, including all of your sins and transgressions, have been washed away in Baptism. The Old sinful self has been drowned and died, so that a new person, by the power of God’s spirit, will rise in you. You are a new creature in Christ! God is present in Baptism and gives you new life. God speaks to you in your Baptism and says: YOU ARE MINE, MY FOREVER CHILD, and that absolutely nothing will ever separate you from His Love for you in Christ.

And in the Holy Supper which we call Holy Communion, Jesus is present again, in, with, and under the bread and wine for the forgiveness of your sins. Jesus gives His gifts to you in forms of bread and wine, to give you Himself, for the assurance of your salvation. The Lord’s Supper is Jesus’ gift to you, His comfort food for your soul that you might know for certain that He still loves you and will always love you and be with you, even until the end of the age.

God’s gifts, His presents to you this Christmas is found in His Son Jesus. Today God’s Good News is that to you is born the Savior, He is Christ the Lord. You will find Him lying in a manger. And God’s gift to you each Sunday is His Son, Jesus. And you will find Him speaking to you in His Word, and giving you Himself in Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Soon we will open presents. But the greatest present, the greatest Gift if Jesus. God’s Gift is that He gives us Jesus in Word and Sacrament. And this is the best present we can receive.


Thursday, December 17, 2009

Holy Works

In my devotions today I read a portion of Luther's explanation of the Fourth Commandment.  It deals with holy works, and I thought that it was food for thought for you who read this blog.

"143] Now, what a child owes to father and mother, the same owe all who are embraced in the household.
Therefore man-servants and maid-servants should be careful not only to be obedient to their masters and
mistresses, but also to honor them as their own fathers and mothers, and to do everything which they know is
expected of them, not from compulsion and with reluctance, but with pleasure and joy for the cause just
mentioned, namely, that it is God's command and is pleasing to Him above all other works. 144] Therefore they ought rather to pay wages in addition and be glad that they may obtain masters and mistresses to have such joyful consciences and to know how they may do truly golden works; a matter which has hitherto been
neglected and despised, when, instead, everybody ran, in the devil's name, into convents or to pilgrimages and indulgences, with loss [of time and money] and with an evil conscience.145] If this truth, then, could be impressed upon the poor people, a servant-girl would leap and praise and thank God; and with her tidy work for which she receives support and wages she would acquire such a treasure such as all that are esteemed the greatest saints have not obtained. Is it not an excellent boast to know and say that, if you perform your daily domestic task, this is better than all the sanctity and ascetic life of monks? 146] And you have the promise, in addition, that you shall prosper in all good and fare well. How can you lead a more blessed or holier life as far as your works are concerned? 147] For in the sight of God faith is what really renders a person holy, and alone serves Him, but the works are for the service of man." (Tappert, pg 385).

Indeed, how can we lead a more blessed life than to love Christ and seek to serve Him in all we do?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Thanksgiving Commandment



“The whole commandment that I command you today you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land that the LORD swore to give to your fathers. 2 And you shall remember the whole way that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. 3 And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word [1] that comes from the mouth of the LORD. 4 Your clothing did not wear out on you and your foot did not swell these forty years. 5 Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the LORD your God disciplines you. 6 So you shall keep the commandments of the LORD your God by walking in his ways and by fearing him. 7 For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing out in the valleys and hills, 8 a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, 9 a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper. 10 And you shall eat and be full, and you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land he has given you.

In the name of Jesus:

In the history of America and of the United States, there have been many Thanksgiving proclamations. In 1779 President George Washington wrote that it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge God’s goodness and mercy, to be grateful for His benefits, and that the citizens of this country should have a day of public thanksgiving and prayer so that all would unite in giving thanks to God for His providence and protection.

Later, other Presidents would issue similar proclamations, recommending the citizens of the United States to give thanks to God. That is all any one President or person can do, that is, recommend that human beings give thanks to God. No human being can force another to be thankful. It must come from the heart. That is why these Thanksgiving proclamations are carefully worded, so as to not give offense and so that others will not take offense. But this is not the case when God speaks. God does not recommend that His creatures give thanks, He COMMANDS that they give thanks. His voice THUNDERS FROM HEAVEN ABOVE, calling on His creatures to remember His bountiful goodness, and then God demands thanksgiving. He commands and demands that everyone remembers and gives thanks.

But do we? If we are honest, we fail to give thanks to God, more often than not; we take advantage of God and expect more. We wolf down a meal to feed our hunger rather than pausing to remember who gave us the food so that we might give thanks. We pray to God for healing and help in times of need, but are too busy to set time aside to come to worship and remember and give thanks. We use and sometimes abuse the resources that God gives us, spending our money on frivolous things, and then complaining that we don’t have enough, instead of recognizing that God is good and His mercies lasts forever.

This is why God commands we give thanks, because we fail to give thanks. Like the Israelite people of old, we have forgotten what God has done. In our text for tonight, Moses recounts before his death the history of what God had done for His people. God reminds His people through Moses that: “that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. 3 And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word [1] that comes from the mouth of the LORD. 4 Your clothing did not wear out on you and your foot did not swell these forty years.”

God tested His people, and they were found wanting. They were not thankful to God for what He had done. God had every right to demand that His people remember, and because of their sinfulness, God had every right to punish those who broke His commands. Moses failed to go into the Promised Land because of his pride and sinfulness. Aaron died before entering the Promised Land because he made the calf out of gold. And others who complained and forgot about God’s benefits were similarly punished.

And so it is with us today. God disciplines those whom He loves. He chastises us in our forgetfulness and gluttony. Just as a father will correct a son out of love so that the son will follow in the paths of wisdom, so too God tonight calls us to repentance. He shows to us this Thanksgiving the hardness of our hearts, He reveals to each of us the times when we have not remembered God’s mercies, when we have taken God and His love for granted, and the times when we have hoarded His blessings rather than sharing them. Even as God has punished those who broke His Law and failed to give thanks, so too tonight God promises to punish all who break His commandments. We have failed to keep one and keep all of God’s commands. We have listened to our sinful hearts rather than God and have loved the world in place of God and our neighbor. We really and truly deserve no good thing from God, only His anger and His punishment.

But, thanks be to God, God IS merciful to those whom He loves. God showed mercy and showered His blessings upon the Israelite people on the way to the Promised Land, for God spoke that “For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing out in the valleys and hills, 8 a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, 9 a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper. 10 And you shall eat and be full, and you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land he has given you.” None of the Israelite people deserved this, God provided it because He was merciful and forgiving, loving His people with an everlasting love.

And God loves YOU with an everlasting love. Even though we are sinners, God so loved us and the world that He gave His one and only Son, Jesus Christ. God saw His creatures fall from grace and in need of a Savior. God earnestly desires that every sinner be saved from sin and Hell; He seeks to save those who are lost. And so He sent His Son to lead His people to the Promised Land of eternal life with God. The trail was blazed by Christ, who is the Way to eternal life. He came to pave the way to the Promised Land, living His life in perfect love and thanksgiving to God, placing God first in His life and loving sinners even to the point of death on the cross. By His shed blood you are forgiven, you are saved, not by your efforts, but by the work of Christ. His gift of eternal life is a free gift, paid by the Savior Jesus. Thankfully, God in Christ has done everything needed so that we would be saved. Through His revealed Word the Spirit reveals to sinners their shortcomings and transgressions, and in the story of God’s Good News of Christ the same Spirit creates faith and sustains faith. You have been claimed as God’s child in the washing of your Baptism, you are fed with the Body and Blood of Jesus, and you have tasted the goodness and the mercy of God in Christ, of sins forgiven, of God’s providence and care, of His protection and provision. You have tasted and seen in your own life how good and loving God is, you have tasted that the Lord is good and that His mercy endures forever.

This day, God calls you to remember and give thanks. His commandment to those who are in Christ is not a burden, but a blessing. For we have seen and witnessed what God has done. We have remembered not only God’s mighty acts of mercy in the past, but His mighty acts of grace today. We remember that we have been bought with a price and that all that we have and all of who we are is of a free gift of God’s love for us in Jesus.

We remember what God has done for us this day, and we are humbled. Who are we, to receive these bountiful blessings? We in and of our selves are nothing. But God loves us in Christ. In Him we live, move, and have our being. Sinful as we are, we humbly confess our sin beseeching God to be merciful and gracious. If the Lord would remember sins, who of us could live? But He is faithful and just and forgives sin and cleanses us from all unrighteousness, including those times when we forget His mercies. And for that, we can truly give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, His mercy endures forever.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Your Important Right

November 3 is an important day in America. It is your opportunity to vote. Every Election Day is an important day, so exercise your right to vote on November 3.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Why I find preaching so interesting....

I am on John Stott's daily mailing list. His ministry sends snippets of quotes from his writings and Bible commentaries to those who are interested. John Stott is now retired but he has been, and in my mind remains, one of the giants of the Church for this generation. His thoughts for today include the challenges of communicating the Good News of Christ to a people of a different culture. Even though he writes in the context of cross cultural communication in the mission fields of Africa, his words apply to the homiletical task. He writes:

"How can I...take the Gospel from the Bible which was written in the cultures of Judaism and the Greco-Roman world....and communicate it...without either falsifying the message or rendering it unintelligible? It is the interplay (of cultures) which constitutes the exciting, and yet exacting, discipline of cross cultural communication." From "Culture and the Bible" (Downers Grove: IVP, 1981, pg 40).

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Encourage One Another


“But exhort one another every day as long as it is called today, that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”

In the name of Jesus:
My wife, Luann, has a saying which goes like this: “History is prologue”. The meaning is simple, if you know a little history; you can have an indication of what may happen in the future. I look at this saying, history is prologue, and takes it to mean that you learn from history, from the experiences of others, so that you can grow and benefit from their trials and errors. Life is full of trials and errors, and in the terminology of our text for today, it is filled with discouragements and disappointments. Discouragements abound in life. Things which can go wrong often do go wrong. It is not Murphy’s Law, it is realism. A realistic look at life will take into account the disappointments and discouragements that will inevitably occur along life’s way.
God’s people have faced disappointments and hardships in the journey of life. The Children of Israel, even though they were chosen by God to be His people, had their share of hardship. That is not to say that they were not blessed by God. The children of Israel under the leadership of Moses were released from the bondage of their captivity in Egypt. Their release from bondage did not come easy. Pharaoh would not listen to Moses and his plea to let God’s people go. Pharaoh hardened his heart to God and His word. So God used Moses to do great things in Pharaoh’s sight, ten plagues were sent by God to show the power of God to the unbelieving Pharaoh. But Israel was still in bondage; their labor and hardship were increased.
God kept true to His word, He kept His promises to His people and through the Exodus God delivered His beloved people. He led the children through the parted waters of the Red Sea, safely to the other side. Pharaoh and his army pursued in vain, the waters of the Red Sea swallowed God’s enemies. His people were saved. And yet, some complained, saying that it was only wilderness in front of them and it would have been better to stay in Egypt than face the hardships of the wilderness and desert.
In spite of the bitterness and complaining, God provided for His people, leading them through the wilderness, by fire at night and a cloud during the day. When they were hungry, God sent manna and quail from heaven. When they were thirsty, God led them to springs of flowing water. God saved His people and continued to provide for them. But it was not enough.
God, as we see in the Book of Hebrews, was provoked. He was angered at His chosen people. Why? Because they complained bitterly to God, they did not see what they had; they only saw what they thought they didn’t have. They complained about their journey in the wilderness, because the journey was hard and it was long. They became discouraged in their journey. The writer to the Hebrews says that they, God’s children, went astray in their hearts, building a golden calf, worshipping the idols of their enemies, and wanting to become more like the nations surrounding them rather than the people of God that they were called to be. And so God dealt with His people. He disciplined them so that they would turn to Him in faith. However, they did not enter into God’s promised rest. They did not live to see the fulfillment of God’s promises, so a new generation would then learn to not only trust in God but follow Him into the Promised Land.
The tale is the same in our age as well. Many people today have heard of God’s mighty acts in history. Many have tasted and seen the goodness of God. They have become God’s children in the waters of Baptism. They have worshipped and communed at the altar of God. They even have experienced the grace of God today in that they have received the blessings and provisions of God in their lives. And yet, even as God was provoked in the past, even now He is not pleased.
Why? Because His own have lost sight of who they belong to and what God has done for them. It is true that the journey of life is long; man is born of a woman and lives 70-80 years in life. The human life is filled with disappointments and discouragements. The journey of following Jesus in life is difficult, Jesus says that the way is narrow, and sadly, many have lost their way.
Some have become discouraged and have given up the faith and the Christian walk. Others have gone astray, leaving the faith and following the gods of this world: money, pleasure, fame, popularity. They have sought to become like the world rather than live out their faith as the people of God. They have become interested in being popular or hearing the plaudits of man rather than the word of God. They absent themselves from the hearing of the Word, and the reception of the Lord’s Supper.
Will they ultimately receive their heavenly reward? That is left for God to decide, judge not, lest we be judged. And yet, Jesus says that you know a tree by the fruit it bears. Note what Martin Luther says in his Large Catechism concerning Christians who absent themselves from worship and the reception of the Lord’s Supper: that there are those who think that they are such strong Christians that they need not go to church or the Lord’s Supper. They become quite brutish and finally despise both the Word and the Sacrament. Now it is true that no one should be forced to go to the Sacrament, but it must be known that such people as deprive themselves of, and withdraw from, the Sacrament so long a time are not to be considered Christians. For Christ has not
Instituted it to be treated as a show, but has commanded His Christians to eat and drink it, and there by remember Him. And, indeed, those who are true Christians and esteem the Sacrament precious and holy will urge and
Impel them unto it.
Now it is not our purpose or intent to brow beat those who call themselves Christian and do not take part in the life of the church. Rather, we are called to be the voice of Christ. Jesus never forces or coerces anyone to follow Him, He merely invites and encourages. This is what our text says today: “But exhort one another every day as long as it is called today, that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”
God calls His children to be encouragers of brothers and sisters in the faith, particularly those who have fallen away from the faith. This is in accordance with God’s will, for the Bible says that God wants all to be saved and come to know the truth of His love and salvation for all in Jesus Christ. Jesus is God’s only begotten Son, God’s faithful witness to sinners as to the heart and mind and will of God. To know Jesus is to know the Father, for Jesus and the Father are one. The Father’s heart and nature towards sinners is revealed in Jesus, He who knew no sin who became sin for all of us. God doesn’t condemn the sinner in Christ; rather He condemns Christ to save the sinner. Faith receives God’s salvation in Jesus. Faith receives God’s good and gracious invitation to a new life with Him in Jesus.
God invites us and every sinner to come to Him. Through the prophet Isaiah God invites: “Come now and let us reason together, though your sins are like scarlet, they shall they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” (Isaiah 1:18). God is ready and willing to forgive all sin. If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and cleanse all from all unrighteousness.
God has cleansed you in the precious blood of Jesus shed on Calvary’s cross. That cleansing is given to you in Baptism, where you have become God’s child. You have been given new life, an eternal life with God in Jesus Christ in your Baptism. You have been given a new life in Christ so that you would walk daily with Jesus, journeying with Jesus until you reach your heavenly home. In the midst of the discouragements and trials of life, and they are many, you know them all too well, Jesus is ever present to give you strength for the journey. He daily speaks to you in His Word. Today He gives of Himself in the Sacrament, for the forgiveness of your sins and the strengthening of your faith, all so that you will leave with God’s peace knowing that He is on your side. As you live for Him He contends for you, working all things out in your life to your good and His glory. God’s challenge to you is to be faithful to your Savior, to strive to enter your heavenly rest, so that you may hear the beautiful words of the Master: Well done good and faithful servant, enter now into your heavenly reward.
This is why we contend for the faith, why we seek to be faithful to Christ, and this is why we exhort and encourage others to be faithful to Jesus as well. We live our lives not to brow beat, not to find fault, not to nag, or even give a sinner a guilt trip. We live to proclaim Christ and Him crucified and raised again. We come in the name of Christ to share the power of Christ in and through us. We continue not to lose heart, but to invite, encourage and plead all sinners to come and be God’s friend in Jesus Christ. For those who are wearied by the journey we seek to give them the strength that comes from Jesus. We know that the devil always opposes the Christian, seeking to drive the child of God from Jesus, seeking to separate them from His peace and love. This is why we continue to encourage and invite, giving of ourselves to Christ’s cause and work. Now is the day of salvation, now is the time for all to believe. Now is the time that God gives us to work, to strive, to encourage, to invite all to believe in Jesus, so in keeping with God’s good and gracious will of seeking and saving the lost.
During a championship prize fight, the trainer said to the battered fighter between rounds: “"Champ, you’re going great! He ain't laid a glove on you!" The fighter responded: “"Well, you better keep an eye on the referee then, because somebody in this ring is beating the daylights outta me."
There are brothers and sisters who feel like a battered fighter, losing the fight for the faith. Still others don’t even know that they are in a battle. But we know differently. Satan is alive and well. As Luther writes in his Large Catechism: ““We Christians must be armed and daily expect to be constantly attacked. No one may go on in security and carelessly, as though the devil were far from us. At all times we must expect and block his blows. Though I am now chaste, patient kind, and in firm faith, the devil will, this very hour, send such an arrow into my heart that I can scarcely stand. For he is an enemy that never stops or becomes tired. So when one temptation stops, there always arise others and fresh ones.”
We need encouragement, and so God gives it to us in His Word and Sacrament. And He sends us out that we might be encouragers to others, inviting others to hold fast to Christ, in whom there is eternal life.

Working to Find Rest

HEBREWS 4:1-13

Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. [2] For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. [3] For we who have believed enter that rest, as he has said, "As I swore in my wrath, 'They shall not enter my rest,' "although his works were finished from the foundation of the world. [4] For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way: "And God rested on the seventh day from all his works." [5] And again in this passage he said, "They shall not enter my rest." [6] Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, [7] again he appoints a certain day, "Today," saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted,” Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts." [8] For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. [9] So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, [10] for whoever has entered God's rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. 11] Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. [12] For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. [13] And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

In the name of Jesus:
One man challenged another to an all-day wood chopping contest. The challenger worked very hard, stopping only for a brief lunch break. The other man had a leisurely lunch and took several breaks during the day. At the end of the day, the challenger was surprised and annoyed to find that the other fellow had chopped substantially more wood than he had.
"I don't get it," he said. "Every time I checked, you were taking a rest, yet you chopped more wood than I did."
"But you didn't notice," Said the winning woodsman, "that I was sharpening my ax when I sat down to rest."
Today we are society that longs for rest. For wholeness and well being. We think that we can find this rest apart from God. Weekend publications in the paper invite us to find diversion from the mundane of life. We think diversion is rest. So we live for the weekend, and its diversions. A night out on the town. Or the chance to catch up on things at home. Or an opportunity to do what we want to do. Seeing as we work all week for someone else or something else, the weekend becomes “my time” where I can do what I want. And so we seek the diversion, we try to find our rest. Now, mind you, diversions are not evil. They are good, and can be God pleasing, but if we allow these diversions to become our rest, while forgetting the rest that God alone can give and that is what we really need, well, then the diversions become idol worship. And this is what happens, people have replaced God with the diversions of the world. All the while, we are left spinning our wheels, wondering why we never have enough time in a day, still anxious over the trials, temptations, and stresses of life. Some turn to substance abuse to cope, other seek more diversions, toys, things. There is still a gnawing inside. We are still a people who need rest, who want rest, but we are unsettled, we can’t find rest.
God promised to His people of the Old Testament rest. But they would not submit to God’s way for rest. They turned to the riches of the world, trusting in popular opinion, worshipping of other gods, turning their back on God and the rest He had in store for His people.
God said that these people would never find rest. They would never enter His rest. There was a rest for the people of God. Their hopes and dreams were in the Promised Land. But on their journey to that land they lost their way, placed their faith in worldly things rather than God. In the end, they were denied that rest that they longed for and sought.
We are on a journey, a journey toward the Promised Land called heaven. A land flowing with milk and honey, a land of peace and contentment, a land whereby we will truly be at rest, no more problems, no more trials, no more sin, no more temptation by Satan, no more death. Heaven is what every human being craves. But we are separated by God because of our sin. We have loved ourselves, the world and its ‘things” we end up selling what we have to gain the world but in the process, we are in danger of losing our souls and the rest we long to have. God warns us not to love the world and its riches. But isn’t that exactly what we do? Hence, we are a people who want peace but have no peace, a people who want to be free from stress but cannot cope with stress, we are burdened with our sins and we can not find a way to save ourselves.
God’s good news, though, is that there REMAINS a Sabbath rest for the people of God. He says to strive to enter that rest, to work hard at obtaining that rest. But, and here is the irony, that rest doesn’t come from our own efforts, ability, or anything that we might or can do. That rest is a gift of God in Christ. It is not earned nor deserved; it comes from having faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior.
Jesus lived a life of contentment, a life of obtaining, not the things of this world, but rather buying back the world which was lost due to Satan, death, and sin. The world in its present state is wasting away, and yet, God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son to be the payment price to buy back the world from sin, Satan, and death. In His life Jesus lived for sinners and in His death His blood was the purchase price for the souls and lives of sinners, so that by His stripes and shed blood sinners have become children of God, receiving this as a gift of God by faith, simply trusting in Christ as Lord and Savior.
God gives rest in Christ. God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself. God forgives the sins of all on account of Jesus. God’s rest is given and extended to all who believe in Jesus; for only in Jesus does a person enter into the rest that God gives. Only in Jesus can a person have the peace which He alone offers. God says in the Third Commandment to “Remember the Sabbath day, by keeping it holy. What does this mean? It means that as God’s people God calls you to pay attention to it, stop and rest on the Sabbath, to keep this day special from all of the other days. How is this done? Simply it is done by resting from all of the activities of life and worshipping God. It means that on Sunday you do not despise the preaching of God’s Word or the study of it, but you hold God’s Word as special and you hear and learn from that Word.
What does that Word reveal? Only that a person is justified freely by God’s grace through faith in Jesus. You are justified in Christ. Yes, it means that you are forgiven and now have a right relationship with God. The fruit of being justified by Christ is the peace you have with God. To be justified by Christ certainly means that you are forgiven. It means that you not only escape the punishment for your sins, but that you also have now a positive relationship with God. This relationship is a wholeness, a unity of well being, it is salvation, consisting of oneness with God and consequently with others. In the modern vernacular, it means that when you have faith in Christ God has put your life back in order. You have your act together. You are whole, at one with God, at peace with Him and others, because of the relationship you have with God in Jesus Christ.
The writer to the Hebrews says that we must work to enter that rest. Strive to enter the rest. So much in life is all about striving to get stuff which will rot and decay and die. Store up, rather, as Jesus says, treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy and where thieves will not break in and steal. Work at seeking and receiving the rest God wants you to have. Strive to enter into God’s rest. Prioritize your life so that the things of God come first. Set goals that place God at the center of your life and set goals which will enable you to find your rest. That very well may mean clearing your schedule and actually scheduling in worship, Bible study, and prayer time. If you find it hard to find rest, schedule in time with God and keep that appointment.
Two very practical ways to find your rest is to daily remember who you are. Daily remember that you are baptized, that God has washed away your sins and given to you a new nature, a new life in Jesus. Instead of just thinking of Baptism on Sunday, begin to incorporate it into your everyday life. Begin each day remembering your Baptism; begin each day in the name of the Triune God whose name you are baptized into: make your beginning in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Daily confess your sins, repent of them, and ask God for forgiveness in Jesus Christ. Pray that God would empower you to turn from sin and every evil in your life. In doing this, you would be striving to enter that rest.
But also begin each day by resting in God. Begin each day in the Word. One Christian has said that he is in the Word before he goes out into the world. Helps abound to get you into the Word: Portals of Prayer, Good News Magazine, are just two resources we have for free at our church. Daily you and I need to hear God’s Word spoken to us in His Word. For as we hear His Word, the Holy Spirit strengthens our faith in Christ, we believe more firmly in Christ, and we grow secure in the knowledge that Christ has prepared an eternal rest for us in heaven. There really is rest for the people of God, and that rest in found through faith in Jesus. Just as God kept His promise by leading His people in the Old Testament to the Promised Land, so too He keeps His promise today to lead us to heaven, and He instructs us to follow in the way that He leads, and that way is Christ.
A low cost airline has made this phrase its trademark: Want to get away? When you are looking for a place to rest, look no further than Jesus; Jesus has said “"Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. [2] In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?” Jesus has prepared that place through His innocent life, suffering, death, and resurrection. Jesus is the only way to God, and the only path upon which we travel to find our rest.

Monday, October 12, 2009

My Testimony

All too often you hear Christians speak of wanting to give a testimony. If you listen carefully, there are alot of pronouns in their speech, the speaker keeps speaking about I and me. Is there a way when testimony can be utilized? I like what John Stott says about testimony, in a book entitled Preacher's Portrait. Stott writes: "So much so called testimony today is really autobiography and even sometimes thinly disguised self-advertisement, that we need to regain a proper Biblical perspective. All true testimony is testimony to Jesus Christ as He stands on trial before the world." (From the Preacher's Portrait, London, Tyndale Press 1961, page 57).

This is the proper way to speak of testimony, to lift high the cross of Christ, to be determined, in the Apostle Paul's words, to know nothing less than Jesus Christ and Him crucified. If we are to give a testimony, or boast, let it be about Jesus!

Sunday, October 11, 2009


Be sure to listen to Redeemer Reflections LIVE at the Fairfield County Fair Monday at 4:30 pm. I'll be interviewing Charles Elsea on the vocation of law. You can listen on 90.9 fm, WFCO. The Web site is Stop by and say hello.

Friday, October 2, 2009

David Letterman

I couldn't sleep last night so I watched the news on 10TV. The news anchors told the viewers to stay up and watch Letterman because he had a shocking confession. So, I did what all pastors are called to do... I listened to his confession. I was struck by a number of things: his nervousness, the audience's laughter (were they uncomfortable, did they think that this was funny?), and by a phrase that Letterman used in his confession. I quote: "I am just a towering mass of Lutheran mid western guilt" To which he thanks the audience for their applause.

I have good news for Dave, and all who are "just a towering mass of Lutheran mid western guilt." I hope and pray that somehow he and others will hear (or read this). Lutheranism is not just about Midwestern guilt, but also the grace of God in Jesus Christ. God's good news is that He sent His Only Son, Jesus, to pay the price for the sin and guilt and death that comes from man's separation from God. Dave, I hope that you remember that Lutheranism is not just about the Law and the showing of sin, but also the grace of God in Jesus Christ. Please listen to the grace of God in Jesus: For the wages of sin is death but the free gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ. For you have been saved by God's grace, through faith in Jesus, it is not of works, so that if you boast, then boast of the Lord. Come, let us reason together, though your sins are as scarlet, they will be white as snow.

You see, Dave, God's grace is for you in Jesus Christ. It is for all of us. When you are plagued by guilt, go to Jesus. In Him there is forgiveness and hope.

For if you confess your sins, God is faithful and just and will forgive you your sins and cleanse you from all unrighteousness.

Dave, you may have felt better saying what you said last night, but there is another way, the way of Christ. I pray that you will not suffer mid western guilt over this but find forgiveness in Christ. And that is worthy of applause.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


This is TELL: The Essential Lutheran Library. With thanks to Cyberbrethen, you see here what CPH is marketing as books every Lutheran needs to remain a faithful Lutheran. Left to right are pictured: The Lutheran Study Bible, Lutheran Service Book, The Small Catechism, Treasury of Daily Prayer, Lutheran Book of Prayer, Reading the Psalms with Luther, and the Lutheran Confessions. These books are essential to a Lutheran's library for these books simply and concisely explain the Scriptures so that a sinner may come to faith in Jesus Christ and remain in the faith.
Why is it so important to be a Lutheran and remain a Lutheran? A Lutheran believes in the Bible, possesses faith in Christ as Savior, and seeks to cling to Christ throughout his or her life. In a world which denies Christ, and in culture which raises experience and reason over and against Christ, these books will help you center your faith on Christ, the solid Rock and Redeemer.
Mom always taught me that you are what you eat. In Seminary I was taught that you are what YOU READ. If you want to remain a Lutheran, read Lutheran books. If you want to center your life in Christ, these books will assist you. For more information on TELL, go to These are books that every Lutheran, wait, I mean EVERY CHRISTIAN should read.

THE Lutheran Study Bible

THE Lutheran Study Bible ( not to be confused with Lutheran Study Bible published by Augsburg Fortress) is out and it is AN OUTSTANDING Bible. Well worth the investment. I am amazed at the information within this Bible. I heartily recommend EVERYONE to get this Bible, especially my son, Mark, who will find this Bible filled with so much information that he can't help but get an A in his religion classes at school.

Sermon: Two Kinds of Wisdom

JAMES 3: 13-4:10

Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. [14] But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. [15] This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. [16] For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. [17] But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. [18] And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
[4:1] What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? [2] You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. [3] You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. [4] 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. [5] Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, "He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us"? [6] But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble." [7] Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. [8] Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. [9] Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. [10] Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

In the name of Jesus:

There is a story about a woman who had been trying for years to persuade her egotistical husband to change his ways. He was obsessed with being number one. He never stopped talking about being first in sales at the office. He proclaimed that he was first on the list for the next promotion. He had to be first in line to buy tickets for a game and also the first to hit the parking lot after the game.
One day this man's long-suffering wife watched with interest as he stepped on one of those fortune-telling scales. He dropped a coin in the slot and out came a little fortune-telling card that read: "You are a born leader, with superior intelligence, quick wit, and a charming manner. You have a magnetic personality and are attractive to the opposite sex."
"Read that," he said to his wife with a hint of gloating. She did, and then turned the card over and said: "It has your weight wrong too."
We live in a time when people are in love with themselves. In fact, it would be correct to say that many people are in love with anything and everything but God. These are harsh words to hear as Christians, but the writer of James tells us that there are two types of wisdom prevalent in this world. Two types of wisdom which are opposed to one another, two types of wisdom of which one is correct and the other is wrong, two types of wisdom, one of which deals with the truth and one revels in lies. As Christians we need to discern these two types of wisdom so that we might listen, believe, follow, and live according to the correct type of wisdom, namely, the wisdom of God.
James tells us that there ARE two types of wisdom. The first type of wisdom is not from God and not of God. It is a sinful, worldly wisdom which is characterized by lies, deceit, and arrogance. Listen to God’s Word through James: “But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. [15] This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. [16] For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.” We see this in our culture where the common conventional wisdom seeks out the glory of self and self satisfaction. It is evidenced in the worldly patterns of deception, hurtful words, selfishness, and other evil behaviors. The passions of the flesh manifest itself in relationships with others: quarrels, jealousy, coveting and sinful ambition where the individual places himself or herself above others. These passions of the flesh are sinful and can lead to death. Just look at Cain and Abel. In jealousy and envy Cain killed his brother Abel. He thought more of himself than he did of God, His Word, or his dear brother. So also, sin crouches at the door of your hearts. You are conceived and born in sin. You have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. You have been jealous, said hurtful words, and have been more interested in worldly things than the things of God. Even as the people of Israel were an adulterous people, in that they were unfaithful to God so also you have been unfaithful to God. You have coveted wealth and your own glory at the expense of God. You have sought to replace God’s ways with worldly ways. You have been more interested in worldly things than the things of God.
Today, pollsters are given time on media outlets, in order to show the snapshot of American opinion at that particular moment on a particular topic of interest. Pollsters ask opinions of people on elections, on policy, and on products. Pollsters such as Gallup and Barna have concluded that based on their research, America is NOT a Christian nation. Its people rely on a worldly wisdom rather than the wisdom of God.

America is simply a "nation of biblical illiterates." Only four in 10 Americans know that Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount. A majority of citizens cannot name the four Gospels of the New Testament. Only three in 10 teenagers know why Easter is celebrated. Two-thirds of Americans believe there are few, if any, absolute principles to direct human behavior. Religious illiteracy is on the increase. Many today rely on self, thinking that the individual is the center of the universe, that it is up to the individual to determine one’s own destiny, and that God is merely our helper.
Many Christians deny the existence of the Holy Spirit and Satan. One in five denies Jesus' physical resurrection and believes he was a sinner. Earlier surveys of mainline Protestants revealed that barely half of Lutherans, Methodists, and Presbyterians believe in the devil, but 56 percent of Lutherans and 49 percent of Methodists believe in UFOs. One-third of Methodists and Presbyterians have faith in astrology. While nearly three-fourths of all Americans believe in hell, hardly any believe it to be their likely destination in eternity.
Former Secretary of Education William Bennett concludes that "We have become the kind of society that civilized countries used to send missionaries to."
This may seem harsh, but facts are facts. Americans have been so busy pursuing the American Dream of the good life than the pursuit of the Kingdom of God in Jesus Christ. Americans have been more willing to pursue a worldly wisdom apart from God rather than the wisdom that comes from God. The call of James today in our text, the call of God to you, is to repent. Repent, that is, turn from worldly wisdom and rely on the wisdom of God.
God’s wisdom is marked by humility. Not a false sense of humility, but a deep seated humility rooted in Jesus Christ. The wisdom of God is revealed in the humility of Jesus. Just listen to the Apostle Paul as he writes: “5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Phil 2:5-8).
Why did God’s Son humble Himself? Jesus humbled Himself in life and death so that your sins would be forgiven. Jesus paid the price for your forgiveness in His life, death, and resurrection, with the purpose of that you would be His own and live under Him in righteousness, innocence, and blessedness forever. To be God’s own means that you will be God’s child and live under and influenced by His wisdom. It means that you have been marked in Baptism as a child of God, so that Jesus is your Leader and Source of wisdom and life. It means that you live, not according to the fleshly desires or the desires of the world, but that you turn from sin and live for God.
This type of living is holy living, a living that is set apart for God. Jesus has set you apart, so that you can show the world the difference of being a child of God in Jesus Christ. The Christian faith we believe in and the Christian life we live is diametrically opposite to the lifestyle seen in the world today. Christianity is mocked and scorned. Christians are told to think for themselves. But Christians are captive to the cross and the Word of God! Note what Paul writes in I Corinthians: “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. We preach Christ who is the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
This power of God is given today in His Word, the Holy Scriptures. The Bible is God’s Word to us and for us. God’s Word is sharper than any sword, cutting the heart to expose sin so that the healing balm of God’s forgiveness in Christ can be applied. It is able to make us wise unto salvation; it is a lamp for our feet and a light for our paths.
Today people look for wisdom is the spectacular things which the world seemingly offers. Experience, emotion, persuasive speech is valued more highly than God’s word. But God reveals His wisdom and gives His gifts in the Word.
Our faith rests not in the wisdom of man but in the power of God revealed in Jesus Christ. Our wisdom is folly and foolishness to this world and the present age. Secular man does not and cannot understand this wisdom from God for their hearts are blinded by sin and unbelief. If the world could come to an understanding of the wisdom of God, Jesus would have never been crucified. God reveals His wisdom and imparts His wisdom by the power of His Spirit working in and through His Word. For: “ The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.”
You have the mind of Christ so that you might show the love of Christ and His wisdom to a world lost in sin. God exhorts you: “that by your good conduct show Christ’s works in the meekness of wisdom. For His wisdom is pure, peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. Christ has been given to you and lives in you so that your lives would be a harvest of righteousness giving glory to God.
Do not be deceived, my friends. The times we are living in are evil. The end is drawing near. God has warned us in His Word that these times would be coming, “when people will not endure sound teaching, and that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.” This is of the devil, so resist these things.
God’s call is clear: Do not submit to the wisdom of the world. Submit yourself to God. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Seek God’s wisdom where it can be found, call upon Him while He is near. Seek first His wisdom and His kingdom. Humble yourself before the Lord, and He will then exalt you. Amen

Sermon for September 27, 2009

JAMES 5:16

“The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”

In the name of Jesus:

I have always wondered about this passage. Not that I have doubted God and His word, but these words have always been a mystery to me. The prayer of a righteous person has great power. Why is that? Prayer is powerful to be sure, but why? Where does prayer get its power? It is in the person, his righteousness, in the words that are used? What is it about the prayer of a righteous person?
Prayer has great power, but that power is not found in the person or in the person’s righteousness. What person has power to change things? I mean, to really change things? As the world teeters and totters in a recession, does any one person have the power to change things for the better? Can the power of words affect things in a positive manner? The simple answer is no. Just look around at all of the words that people have spoken since the recession began. No one word of a human being, nor series of words have changed things for the better. The recession is still with us.
Look also at the state of institutions affected by the recession. Businesses struggle to balance the books. People are affected by the decisions that are made. No one word or words can change the outcome. One doesn’t say cheer up and then one’s outlook is brightened. Words certainly mean things but simple words, said by humans, avail nothing.
This stark reality hits home in death. When a loved one dies, no words can bring that love one back to life. When death comes to someone’s door, the news and the reality hits hard. Words may comfort, but they do not change the reality of death.
So it is not the mere words of prayer that changes things. Power doesn’t rest in one’s ability with the English language. No matter how verbose a person is, things will not change for the better. Nor is it the righteousness of the person who prays. After all, who is really right with God because of his or her own works? Look at what the Bible says, that our righteousness is like filthy rags! There is no one righteous, not one! For all have sinned and fallen short of God’s expectations, each and everyone of us has sinned, and that which we earn because of our sin is death. Sin pays off in death. So it isn’t the righteousness of the person who prays that changed things, or is powerful. We are indeed powerless to change things! The power of prayer is not found in our words, our righteousness, our deeds, our works, or even our well meaning good intentions. So why is it, and how is it, that the prayer of a righteous man has great power?
The power of prayer lies not in anyone of us, but in God! For God so loved us that He sent the Righteous One in our place, in life, suffering, death, and resurrection. As Paul says wretched people that we are, who WiLL save us? Thanks be to God, God HAS saved us in His Son Jesus Christ. God was in Jesus Christ, reconciling the world to Him. Jesus was righteous in His life lived for us, in the payment of His life, offering Himself up unto death for us, and His offering was accepted before God in the resurrection. You and I have been bought with a price, not with silver or gold, as Luther says, but with the precious blood of Jesus, all so that we would be His own and live under Him in His kingdom, serving God with our lives in innocence and blessedness. The power of prayer doesn’t rest in who we are, but in who Jesus is. The power of prayer doesn’t rely on who we are, but on WHOSE we are.
You and I belong to God. For in the waters of Baptism God has washed away our sins. In our Baptismal waters God has given to you new life in Christ. You have been saved: “not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, [6] whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, [7] so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:5-7).
There is power in prayer because prayer turns away from self and to God. Luther put it well: we are beggars, all of us. Nothing in our hands we bring, simply to the cross we cling. And so we cling to God in Jesus Christ. We cling to Jesus for forgiveness, and He gives it. We cling to Jesus for hope, for our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness. We cling to Jesus for the things we need in this life, and He gives us what we need for He is the Bread of Life. We cling to Jesus to lead and guide and so He does for He is our Good Shepherd. We cling to Jesus in the challenges and changes of life, and we find peace and stability for Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. We cling to Jesus as we live our lives in the midst of sin and death, and He gives us eternal life for He is the Resurrection and the Life. We cling to Jesus for we are a lonely and despairing people without Him, and He promises to be with us always even unto death. Yes, we are beggars, really beggars, and in our prayers we beg God and He hears and answers us, because of The Righteous One, Jesus. We ask God in prayer and He answers, for our God is an ever present Help in time of trouble.
What is it that troubles you today? Know that God hears you in Christ. There is power in prayer because our God is powerful and able to save. He has saved us, and so we pray .

In Jesus’ Name,


Sermon for September 13, 2009

ISAIAH 56:7 b

“For my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”

In the name of Jesus:
Once there was a pastor who had a parrot. All the parrot would say was "Let’s pray, let’s pray." The pastor tried to teach him other things but to no avail. The pastor learned that one of his elders had a parrot. Now the elder’s parrot would only say: "Let’s kiss, let’s kiss." The pastor decided to invite the elder and his parrot over to his house. When the elder arrived the pastor put the parrots into the same cage to see what would happen. The elder’s parrot said, "Let’s kiss, let’s kiss." The pastor’s parrot said, "Thank you Lord, my prayers are answered."
You may have heard the saying: a family that prays together stays together. Why is this true? Well, as we draw closer to God in prayer, He draws us closer to Him. It isn’t magic, it is a reality. When people pray with the purpose that God intended, then God unites His people. Just look at the context of our Bible passage this morning. Isaiah preached to the exiles in Babylon that they could have hope, because God was going to do something spectacular. Now the people were in exile of their own choosing. God had chosen Israel to be His own people. They were brought to the Promised Land; King Solomon built a Temple where God would dwell and where God’s people would come to worship. Sadly, though, God’s people forgot about God. Their love of God grew cold and their interest in God’s Word waned. They lusted after the things other nations had, they wanted to be like everyone else, and had no interest in being the people of God that God desired them to be. Soon, the Temple worship was replaced by Baal worship and the worship of foreign gods, which were not real. God became fed up with the lack of devotion, so He allowed His people to be swallowed up in their own desires. Have it your way, God replied. If you want to live without Me, then your wishes will come true. The friends of Israel, the nations of Babylon and Assyrian, suddenly turned their backs on God’s people and sought their destruction. The people were taken as captive, the Temple destroyed, and the Promised Land became rubble.
Prophets such as Elijah, Elisha, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Isaiah, and others called the people to repent. Some of the prophets called for repentance even when the people were in the midst of forsaking God. Others preached repentance during the exile. Their message was simple and consistent: Turn from loving the world around them and turn in faith in God. Quit relying on anything and everything else and start relying again on God. Fear, love, and trust in God above anything and anyone else.
God showed mercy to His people. He forgave them. Oh, to be certain they were punished. There were consequences for their actions. But God had mercy in that at the right time in history, God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, born of the Virgin Mary, to suffer the consequences of sin by giving of Himself in life and in death. Christ came to do the will of the Father who sent Him, to live His live in perfect love and devotion to God’s will, to proclaim forgiveness to those who were in bondage to sin, and to defeat Satan on the cross of Calvary. Jesus was God in human flesh, the very Temple of God residing on earth, the Son of God interceding for sinners in life, death, and in His resurrection, offering forgiveness and life to all by believing in His Name. Jesus interceded for all in His high priestly prayer and on the cross through His words of forgiveness and accomplishment. God has in His Son Jesus Christ repaired and restored a relationship with Him. God wills that all be saved in Jesus Christ, in that He has put away all sins on account of Jesus. People from every tribe, race, language, and people are acceptable to God on account of Jesus’ intercessory life, death, and resurrection. Jesus has made His Church a people for Himself in the waters of Baptism. This congregation has, by God’s grace, become a House of Prayer for all who believe. This House is the Place where God speaks in His Word, the Place where God washes away sin in Baptism, and the Place where God feeds His people in His Supper. This is the Place where God dwells, where He comes in Word and Sacrament, and where all people may come to worship God, to give Him thanks and praise, and to pray for God’s grace and many blessings.
God unites in prayer because and answers prayer because of Jesus. Proud people who think that they do not need God’s help have no need to pray. Arrogant people who trust in their own efforts and works and not Christ’s see no reason to pray. Self sufficient people who rely on anything and everything but God will not pray. And so, God does not hear nor answer prayer, for their words are empty and their faith is hollow.
But God hears the person who prays in Christ. The Bible says that the prayer of a righteous person avails much before the Lord. Why is that? Simply put, the righteous person doesn’t trust in himself, or the things of the world. Righteous people are beggars, pure and simple. They place no faith in anything but Jesus.
Martin Luther said it well of our spiritual state. “We are beggars, all of us.” How true that is, particularly today as our economy has been in a recession. Economic times have not been easy, that is an understatement. Typically as Americans, we like to blame our troubles on whatever political party we don’t belong to. But to do so misses the point. Have you noticed that we are in a global recession? The problems we face others are facing around the world. This is not a problem that is unique to the citizens of the United States of America! People around the globe are being affected. The larger question, I believe, is to what end? What is God trying to tell us? What lesson is He trying to teach us? Have we not also been swallowed up in our own desires, because we have forsaken God?
Jesus talks a lot about money in His ministry. The Bible is replete with messages about finances and money. Money is a gift of God. It is the LOVE of money that is the root of all evil. Jesus says you can’t serve God and Money, you will either love the one or hate the other, and you can’t serve two masters. I don’t think that this is a coincidence that people are plagued with money problems today. People have been swallowed up in their own desires because they have not sought God and have thought that they have not needed God. Money and riches have replaced a fear, love, and trust in God!
We have fallen into the trap as well. We have sinned and God calls us to repent. Just as the people in Isaiah’s day had worshipped other gods, our gods have been our retirement accounts, our bank accounts, the stuff we have accumulating in the garage, we have trusted in wealth rather than God!
So on this Rally Day God’s message is simple. It always is simple, Jesus says if you have ears to hear, and then listen. Repent. Turn from the love of the world and return to God. God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself. He does not forsake His children, but forgives them in Christ. Receive His forgiveness. Live in that forgiveness! Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness. The things of this present age are wasting away. Store up for yourself the treasure that Christ has and you will be blessed. You have nothing without Jesus. You are dust and will return to dust. All that you are and have depend on God’s blessings in Christ. Seek those blessings, pray for those blessings, receive and then share those blessings, for God’s house is a house of prayer, not a house of money! God’s purpose is that we rely not of self or money, but on Him. Let me repeat that to be clear: GOD WANTS YOU TO TRUST HIM COMPLETELY!
We begin our Fall Campaign in prayer. We are not parrots, rather we pray from a deprived heart and soul. We have nothing good within us. All we have is Jesus. And so we beg. We are beggars. We beg God for His mercy in Jesus. We beg God to forgive us. We beg God to feed us. We beg God to bless us. We beg God that His Word will take root and bear abundant fruit. We beg God that as we have been blessed, we too might be a blessing. The purpose of our prayer is to ask and seek the will of God. That His will be done, and so we pray, so we beg, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Sermon for August 23, 2009


32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.
In the name of Jesus:
A psychiatrist advised a henpecked husband to assert himself. "You don’t have to let your wife bully you," he said. "Go home and show her you’re the boss."
The husband decided to take the doctor’s advice. He went home, slammed the door, shook his fist in his wife’s face, and growled, "From now on you’re taking orders from me. I want my supper right now, and when you get it on the table, go upstairs and lay out my clothes. Tonight I am going out with the boys. You are going to stay at home where you belong. Another thing, you know who is going to tie my bow tie?"
"I certainly do," said his wife calmly. "The undertaker.”
Our text for today is the well known passage from the pen of Paul, under the inspiration of the Spirit, on the topic of marriage. I have chosen just one verse, verse 32, which reads: “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the Church.” Marriage, Paul states, is a profound mystery. That shouldn’t surprise us in this day and age, with the recent debates on the definition of marriage and the misunderstanding as to the roles in marriage. Scripture defines marriage as the union of husband and wife and that the husband is the head of the wife. One would think that this would settle the issue, but it sadly doesn’t. Why wouldn’t this settle the issue? Because the world, in its sinful state, doesn’t understand marriage nor the things of God. Today, in the human scheme of things, marriage is the union of two people. Modern, secular wisdom, promotes an ideology which, it is said, is based on love. Love between two people. Love between two consenting adults. Unless you have been living on a different planet, you know that the big push today is for same sex marriage. Same sex marriage proponents argue that, since two adults can consent to live together, they should then have the ability to be married. Liberal so called Christian denominations agree. You don’t have to look far to see so called Christian churches endorsing same sex unions today, under the guise that, seeing as God is a God of love, it would be cruel to deny same sex couples the same rights to marry as heterosexual couples have. They even argue and go so far as to say that it is the Christian duty to work toward same sex unions, because this is the loving and merciful thing to do. Christianity seeks to serve one’s neighbor, and seeing that the gay community is part of the world’s population and a part of our communities, it is imperative that Christians seek to endorse same sex unions.
This type of thinking and reasoning is down right sinful and an abomination to God and His Holy Word! It takes God’s Word lightly, changes God’s Word to fit the whims and occasion of the day. These proponents of same sex marriage have a warped view of Christianity and of God’s Word, and of the estate of marriage. Sadly these people have the loud voices today and the rule of thumb is that whoever can scream the loudest gets the most attention. Those of us who stick to God’s inerrant Word are called unloving and even worse! And sadly, our culture and society is slowly beginning to accept the ideas of same sex unions, as proponents of same sex unions slowly yet persistently wear down their opponents so as to achieve their goal. It is much like the example of how to cook a frog. You remember how to cook a frog, don’t you? You place the frog in a pot of lukewarm water. Slowly you turn up the heat, and the frog boils to death, without even realizing it! So too, opponents of God and His Word, proponents of same sex marriage and homosexuality persistently turn up the heat, wearing Christians and society down, until they achieve their agendas.
Now much can be said and probably should be said about this state of affairs, but I will try to limit myself due to time constraints for the Sunday message. Our text deals with this issue straight on. Paul says marriage is a profound mystery. It is a mystery that needs to be revealed to sinful minds and hearts. Sinners can not get their arms around this mystery of marriage because their wills are bound to sin, their eyes are blinded by sin, their ears are closed by sin, and their reason captivated by sin. One of the reasons why our society is going down this road of same sex marriage is because the fool says in his heart that there is no god! Humanity is dead in trespasses and sins and God’s truth is not in the sinner’s heart. The truth of God and His will must therefore be revealed to sinners, and God reveals His will in His Holy Word.
You have known from your youth that God has inspired holy men to write down the Word of God. God breathed into His prophets and evangelists His will which is without error. We call this Word the Holy Scriptures, the Bible, God’s holy and inerrant Word. God reveals to humanity that all have sinned and fallen short of His glory, that all have sinned and fallen from God’s grace. And yet, God has mercy on the sinner, and desires not the death of the sinner, but that sinners turn from their sinfulness and repent, believing in God’s Word. God’s call to sinners is to repent, to change the direction of their lives, seeking not their own will, wisdom and glory, but the wisdom, will, and glory of God.
And what is this will of God, simply this, that all people be saved and come to know the truth of God’s love in Jesus Christ. God wills not the death of the sinner, but that all turn to Him and live. He seeks the salvation of the sinner, and He has accomplished salvation in the person and work of Jesus Christ, God’s only begotten son, who lived His life in love by giving Himself in life and death, so that sinners would be forgiven. Sin is paid for; salvation IS accomplished, because of Jesus’ innocent life, His suffering, death, and resurrection. You have been saved by a free gift of God, through faith in Jesus.
This relationship that God has with sinners is described by God Himself as likening to a marriage relationship. Throughout the Scriptures God calls compares His love to one of a groom, and He calls His Church His bride. The sad story of the Old Testament is one of how God created Israel to be His own people, one whom He would always love, and yet, Israel repeatedly rejected God and His love for them. It wasn’t enough to be the people of God; they wanted to be like all of the other nations, worshipping idols, listening and following the conventional wisdom of the day, all the while rejecting God and His mercy. In the book of Hosea, this relationship is typified in the relationship between Hosea and his wife Gomer. Hosea loved Gomer, but Gomer was found to be unfaithful. She was a prostitute and continued to prostitute herself and reject her one true love in her husband, Hosea. And yet Hosea loved Gomer and did whatever he could to bring her back to himself.
So too God has called humanity to come to Him in love, for He has loved sinners with an everlasting love. His Son Jesus, who knew no sin, became sin for the world, suffered Hell and damnation for all, so that all who believe would be forgiven. Sadly today, sinners seek conventional wisdom and popularity, all the while rejecting God and His will. Humans today continue to be unfaithful to God, prostituting themselves and rejecting God who truly loves the sinner. And in love God calls the sinner to repentance.
Marriage, therefore, is to be a living example of the love God has for people. God binds himself in love to the sinner on account of Jesus. God will always be faithful. He has shown this faithfulness in Jesus. And just as God has shown His faithfulness in Jesus, so too now marriage is a Godly estate, whereby married couples are to reflect the love God has for them in Christ.
This takes place within the Christian home and in the Christian marriage. As both husband and wife have been washed in the blood of the Lamb, they are to reflect this love in their lives as husband and wife. Both husband and wife are to have specific, God given roles and responsibilities which are to be carried out in the marriage estate. This is God given and God driven, it is the expressed will of God. The husband is to be the head of the wife, and the wife is to submit to her husband. But what does this mean?
It means, in the light of Christ, that the husband is to be head of the wife even as Christ is head of the Church. Unlike the story which I told in the introduction, the husband has the God given responsibility to model and reflect the love of Christ to his wife. Look at Jesus, and how He loves and loved His bride, the Church! How did Jesus show His love for the Church? Jesus loved the Church so much that He sacrificed Himself for the life of His Bride. Husbands are given the God given role to love their wives so much that they will be willing to die for them even as Jesus died for His bride, the Church. The husband is to love his wife so much that he thinks not of himself, but of her, placing her interests before his, living his life in service to his wife and family. He does so freely, out of love and not coercion. So too, the husband loves his bride because his will has been renewed in Baptism and the Word. He loves his wife, not because of feelings, but because he is motivated by the love of Christ. He loves his wife, not because he feels like it, but because it is his duty to love his wife, even as Jesus loves the Church.
To “rule” his wife implies that there is an oneness between the husband and wife, treating his wife as he would treat his own body. No one ever abuses his own body; therefore his wife should not be abused, at any time or in any way. The husband really isn’t taking good care of himself unless he is taking good care of his wife, which is a part of his own body. If he lives for himself, he lives to the determent of himself and his wife. But, if he lives to bless his wife, then he will be blessed.
God speaks honestly and pointedly to husbands here, taking seven verses to explain the role the husband has in the marriage. He is the head of the home, and as such, God says that the buck stops with the husband. God holds the husband accountable. He is to love his wife, as Jesus loves the Church.
And yet the wife is not without responsibilities as well, for the woman is to love her husband as the Church loves Christ. Let me put it to the wives this way, and I ask this question in our pre martial counseling sessions. Women, if you had a husband who would love you enough to be willing to die for you, how would you respond? Without exception, when I ask women in premarital counseling this question, the answer is always, “wow, if he loves me that much, he must really love me.” And the response is that wives will love their husbands in return.
Do you see how this works? Just as Jesus loves us so much that He died on the cross for our sins to forgive us, for He is our only Lord and Savior, so too husbands are to be Christ like and love their wives from their heart, sacrificially, as Jesus loves His Church. And even as the Church loves Jesus because of His sacrifice, wives are to respond in love to their husbands.
The estate of marriage is a Godly estate, between a man and a woman, it has been ordained and established by God and God will not change nor compromise this estate. Christians are called, not to change the estate of marriage by acquiescing to the pressures of a sinful culture to allow same sex marriages. Rather Christians are conform to God’s will, by repenting of sin, confessing sin, receiving forgiveness in Christ, and then powerfully living out God’s will in the estate of marriage. And His will is expressed concerning marriage in our text for today. "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." [32] This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. [33] However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.” Amen

Sermon for August 16, 2009

JOHN 6:68

Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.

In the name of Jesus:
There was once a Mexican bank robber, Jorge Rodriguez, who operated along the Texas border around the turn of the century. He was so successful in his thievery that the Texas Rangers deployed a whole extra posse along the Rio Grande to try and stop him. Sure enough, late one afternoon, one of the special Rangers saw Jorge slipping quietly across the river into Mexico. So he trailed him at a discreet distance until the bandito returned to his home village. He watched as Jorge mingled with the people around the town well and then went into his favorite cantina to relax.
The Ranger slipped in and managed to get the drop on Jorge. Pointing a pistol to his head, he said: "I know who you are, Jorge Rodriguez, and I have come to get back the money you have stolen from the banks in Texas. Unless you give it to me, it is my intention to blow your brains out."
There was, however, one flaw with the marvelously conceived and (to this point) exceedingly well-executed plan. Jorge Rodriguez spoke no English and the Texas Ranger spoke no Spanish. They were two adults at a verbal impasse.
About that time, an enterprising little Mexican approached the Texas Ranger and said: "I am bilingual. Would you like me to translate for you?" The Ranger nodded, whereupon the bilingual Mexican told Jorge Rodriguez who the Ranger was and why he was pointing a gun at Jorge's head. Nervously, Jorge answered back: "Tell the big Texas Ranger that I have not spent a cent of the money. Then tell him to go to the town well ... face north ... count down five stones ... find the loose stone ... pull it out ... reach behind ... where he will discover the money. Please tell him quickly."
Nervously, the Ranger inquired: "What did he say? What did he say?" Leading the bilingual Mexican to respond in perfect English: "Jorge Rodriguez is a very brave man. He says he is ready to die."
Not a very trustworthy sort do you think? I don’t think I would be telling any secrets to that person! But that raises in my mind this question, just WHO is trustworthy today? Who is worthy of our trust, for this life and into eternity? Sadly, many don’t trust in others today. Having been burned by others, they would rather rely on self rather than someone else. Much like the ad that ran in the newspaper which read: “A newspaper carried the following help-wanted ad: "Need co-author for a book on self-reliance."
Who needs a co-author for a book on self-reliance? This is a contradiction that hits home, doesn’t it? We have been described as the most individualistic people on earth. We celebrate the loner and the non-conformist. But in our pursuit of self-reliance, we have ignored our need for someone else, the need to belong. Part of the God’s design was that we would need others; we would need God and others in our lives. We have a need to be in communion with God and with other people.
But because of sin, that communion is fractured; it is beyond our ability to repair it. Our lives show our separation from God and from one another. We think that we can solve all of our own problems, including but not limited to our problem with God. If only we can get our act together, we think, and then God will act differently. If only I would do something good in my life then God would love me. We think we can act apart from God, and by our actions influence God’s will and nature towards us. But we can’t.
Not many people enjoy going to the doctor, but in London, 1994, a 63 year old man needed surgery but could not overcome his fear of doctors and hospitals. So, he did in his mind what was the next best thing, he performed surgery on himself. Tragically he got an infection and died. The coroner wrote in his report: “Unfortunately his drastic remedy went wrong. A simple operation would have solved his problem.” Just as the man didn’t trust hospitals or doctors, many people don’t trust God. In their self reliance they destroy themselves. In our sinfulness we destroy ourselves. God threatens to punish sin and we deserve His punishment, for we have all fallen short of God’s will for each of us. We are, as we confess in our common confession at the beginning of our worship service, a miserable lot, we are poor, miserable sinners who deserve no good thing from God.
We cannot go to ourselves, or to any human being who is trustworthy enough for our lives here and into eternity. But there is ONE who is trustworthy, whom we can go to and will provide our every need. This One is Jesus. God’s only Son, sent from heaven to be our Savior. Jesus is trustworthy because He is God’s Son, the fulfillment of God’s promises to send a Savior. Jesus is trustworthy because God is trustworthy. God has kept His promises in Jesus.
When humanity fell into sin through Adam and Eve’s disobedience, God promised a Savior: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel." When Israel was searching for when and in what manner this Messiah would come, God promised that: “ But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days,” and “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” This One, God with us, would do God’s work in that: “Behold, my servant shall act wisely; he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted. [2] For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. [3] He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. [4] Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. [5] But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. [6] All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. [10] Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand., for he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.”
This One of whom the prophets of the Old Testament pointed to is Jesus. Jesus reveals Himself to the God’s promised one, when He says: “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."
Jesus today offers Himself to you, in His Word, and in His Supper. Here He guides you, here He feeds you. He does this so that you will have everlasting life, not by trusting in yourself, but by trusting in Him. In Baptism the Holy Spirit has given to you faith in Jesus. That faith is nurtured and fed today. That faith clings to Jesus for help in time of need, for the forgiveness of all sin, and for the certainty of eternal life.
The disciples followed Jesus, in spite of the majority leaving Him. Jesus asked His disciples in the midst of the world rejecting Him: “Do you want to go away as well?" But Simon Peter knew better. He trusted in Christ. Having been brought to faith in Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit, Peter confessed: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, [69] and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God."
You have come to know that Jesus is the Holy One of God. You have tasted and seen that the Lord is good and that His love never ends. God now calls you to share this message with others. To share this good news is called evangelism, it is good news that we share because we know that God keeps His promises in Jesus. We are beggars before God’s throne of grace. As beggars, God calls us to point other beggars where they can obtain eternal life. Only in Jesus can this happen. Only in Christ is this possible. By grace you have been saved through faith, so that you may tell others of what Jesus has done for you.
Why would anyone reject this gift of Jesus? God brings us to faith, and He gives us the means to keep us in the faith, His Word and Sacraments. Many come belong to Christ and His Church with good intentions. They take membership classes, become confirmed members in the church and state publically that they will always believe in Jesus. But where are they? They drop out due to lack of interest, a lack of love for Jesus, and because discipleship and following Christ is too much of a commitment. We see it on Christmas, Easter, and on special occasions where people are caught up in the emotion of the day, and then are not to be found the remainder of the year. The question Jesus asked His disciples is one He still asks today: Are you going to leave Me as well? More pointedly, the question is asked today: To whom can we go? Is there really anyone else or anything else we want to exchange for Jesus? Can anyone offer a better alternative?
The answer is no. Jesus’ offer still stands in the 21st century. He keeps His promises now and forever. I like how David H. C. Read, a Christian clergyman, has put it: “I have heard, as a pastor, hundreds of reasons for quitting the church, but never has anyone said to me, I'm leaving the church because I've found someone better than Christ.'
"Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, [69] and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God."
Lord, make us faithful even as you are faithful.