Month: August, 2018

“No Loophole”

Pastor Don Mossman / Text: Mark 7:1-13   Theme: No Loopholes

Introduction

Have you ever been in a circumstance where you were confronted by a rule you disagreed with and you tried to find a loophole?  There are books published and on-line classes on how to find loopholes, primarily on taxes and real estate.  EG: Instructor on 1st day at law school.  “This is a class on loopholes.”  Then there are the politicians who amaze me finding loopholes each day, like Rudy Giuliano has said, “Well, it depends on how you look upon “truth.  It may mean one thing to one person, and another to a different person.”  Loopholes

1. Our text reveals clash of law and gospel

2. An intense happening between the Pharisees and scribes and Jesus.

  1. They are looking for evidence to finally arrest Jesus. So they challenge Jesus regarding his disciples and ritual washing before eating.  This wasn’t a  hygienic thing, but a ritual washing according to the centuries old traditions established by Jewish scholars over the centuries.  The reason for these traditions were to build fences around God’s law, thus protecting it from abuse.
  2. The Pharisees asked why the disciples did not was their hands according to the ritualistic tradition of the elders. In answer to the Pharisees’ question, Jesus says, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandments of God in order to establish your tradition.” (Mark 7:6-9).  He cites their use of “Corbin.” (Mark 7:11)  If something was “Corbin,” it was dedicated and set apart for God’s use.  Moses had instructed God’s people to “honor their father and mother”, but the Pharisees as much as negated this command by teaching that Jews could give money to the temple in lieu of helping their parents in need.
  3.  Jesus calls such people hypocrites. That’s not even in the Scriptures!  Your laws, your traditions, your loopholes ignore the written Law of God, the will of God, and are sins.  The conflict, and that’s what it had become, was between the laws of Judaism and the example of the love of God as seen in the promise and plan of salvation by grace and faith alone through the Christ.

2.  An example of love and commitment.

A. The example of marriage highlights God’s love.

  1. Truth is, there are too many of God’s people this morning who have difficulty with this Ephesians 5 reference. The use of the word “submit” will offend some women and therefore be unable to hear the rest of the text.  EG: Student and I were discussing their forthcoming marriage.  She asked if these vows were really serious.  Did she really have to “submit” to her husband?
  2. The word “submit” has taken on negative connotations in this era. In an age of the “Me too” movements, we need to be careful how we use the terms “submit” and “love”, for our culture has turned these words to an individualistic meaning, and often in the negative.  Once married, do men or women ignore these vows to love, honor and cherish?  Loopholes: “It wasn’t my fault”, or “he/she made me do it” or “I just fell out of love.  Even our society has encouraged loopholes here, such as “no-fault divorce.”
  3. What is being expressed here is part of the mutual submission of the Christian to one’s spouse. For a husbands’ role, Paul uses the word love.  A husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church, and that involved dying for it on a cross, a far more radical form of submission.  Husbands are expected to love their wives to the point where they would die for her, even as the Bridegroom Jesus died for his bride the Church.  That’s heavy.  True, but there are no loopholes here.  It is a message of love and commitment that we have been privileged to know and believe, a message of forgiveness and constant care.

EG: Imagine sitting down on a big couch with God and watching a really detailed movie of your whole life.  The sins are there and at each one God says, “I died for that,” “I forgave that, oh yes, I died for that also.”  But there are a lot of good things too, moments when the life of Christ shone in your life.  When those show up, God says, “I saw that, that was great.”  “Oh, yes, you came through that time.  Well done.” 

Conclusion

We all have traditions.  Think Christmas: when to open gifts, special foods, Christmas Eve worship.  And Easter: coloring Easter eggs, chocolate bunnies and peeps.  Some traditions are good, some are bad.  They are good if they guide and help us in our worship and life together as an expression of our lives lived in God’s grace.  They are bad if they twist God’s Word trying to make them a means of working out our salvation or declaring themselves equal to God’s Word.  Today’s text makes it crystal clear to the scribes and Pharisees, and to us.  Paul is saying God’s Word provides the only thing that is needed, the simple good news of the message, “For by grace you’ve been saved through faith.  And this is not your own doing; it is a gift of God.”

sdg

Walk as Children of Light

Text: Ephesians 5:1-2, 6-21       Theme: Walk as children of light / Pastor Don Mossman

Introduction

He was a student who had many things going for him – intelligent, athletic, and a budding artist.  He also had a few bad habits.  On one difficult occasion he was encouraged by the authorities at university to turn his life around or return to his parent’s home.  One evening in my office the young man showed me a charcoal drawing he had done of a young man whose face was bright as if a light was shining on it.  Yet the remainder of his head and shoulders were still in the dark and difficult to make out.  Looking more closely, you could see a reflection in his eyes, the reflection of a cross.  His admission was, “I’m not there yet, but I’m on my way thanks to the cross of Christ.”   I don’t know what had happened to him after finishing college.  But He had direction, and the cross of Christ was the magnet that led the way.  He was walking in the light of Christ.

I.  Shining light in the darkness of life

A.  Jesus walked among those living in darkness

  1. Nicodemus, a prominent Pharisee, saw Jesus as a remarkable person and wanted to know more about him. Not wanting anyone to see him, he determined to come to Jesus under the cover of darkness. Jesus’ advise to him: “You must be born again.  Nicodemus was confused.  “How can one enter his mother’s womb to be born again?  He was struggling, asking, wondering, who is this man? But still, he walked in darkness.   
  2. In our text Paul states, “at one time you were in darkness but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.” The Christian lives in an overlapping of ages, but decisive rescue from the present evil age has already taken place.  Jesus lived among those living in darkness of the day involved in idol worship and its accompanying sexual immorality, in scams, violence and greediness, to those who walked in darkness day and night.
  3. Jesus also knew of and felt a deeper darkness, that of the sin of all the world. Though we are the children of light, darkness still openly swirls around us: sexual sins, pornography, envy, murder, war, terrorism, violence, addictions, not to mention the many frailties that affect us as a result of sin in the world. He took upon himself the punishment of that sin, and darkness swirled around him that Passion Week, a time of deception, betrayal, anger, cursing, blood, and condemnation. And he dies in that darkness for us. 
  4. Though it wasn’t immediately apparent, the darkness is beginning to collapse. Though the power of darkness swirled around Jesus, the darkness of the tomb and death are shattered by the light of the blazing flash of the resurrection.  Now in the reflection of our eyes is the cross, a symbol of Christ’s victory, of our victory.

II.  Shine Jesus, shine

B.  The cross makes all the difference in the world.

  1. Jesus says amid the darkness you are the children of light, the beloved of the Lord.  Thus we walk as children of light, in the Spirit of the Lord.  We let our light shine, so others may see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven.  And as such we need to be about our Father’s business, being filled with the Spirit, speaking the truth, being sexually moral, doing an honest day’s work, sharing our gifts, practicing kindness, tenderness, and forgiving.  Romans 12:1-2, Because of the mercies of God, present your lives as living sacrifices…”  5:1-2: “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.  And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
  2. Of those sanctifying actions we are noted in our text and which we are encouraged to practice, let me speak of one, namely kindness. I am reminded of a bumper sticker some years back: “Practice random acts of kindness.”  My wife and I have tried that in the Woods coffee drive through, careful to tell the server to let us get away before she tells them their coffee has been paid for.  You can and perhaps should do those random acts of kindness, but we also are encouraged to walk in the light of the resurrection, to be at home in the light, not just random flashes of light.   Paul encourages us to be at home with kindness.  Words of kindness, in deeds of love, smiles and a helping hand at the grocery store, visiting the sick, feeding the homeless, the many things God does among us as a congregation, and you do as a natural practice in your life.

Conclusion

I think all of you have heard or know the little children’s gospel song, “This little gospel light of mine, I’m going to let it shine.”  Do you know how the other verses go?  1) All around the neighborhood; 2) hide it under a bushel, NO; 3) don’t let Satan blow it out; 4) all around Washington.   God bless your walk in the light.

 

I Am the Bread of Life

Pastor Don Mossman

Text: John 6:35-51 Theme: I am the bread of life

Introduction

This week many of you will go to the NW Washington Fair in Lynden.  One of the attractions you may find will involve foods offered at the fair.  They will offer some of the fair favorites as the huge plate of curly fries, Dutch poffertjes and pancakes called panekoehen, and of course who can pass up the moowich (two huge chocolate chip cookies with a huge slice of ice cream in between).  Oh yes, new this year will be frog legs and alligator strips.  They say they taste like chicken.

A food staple for all of us is good ol’ bread.  Virtually every country on the face of the earth has some form of bread for sustenance. We are most familiar with our local wheat/white breads, tortillas, English muffins and scones, bagels, cakes and cookies of all kinds.  And those Christmas favorites, yum, as German stollen and pumpernickel, Italian panetonnes, Hungarian poppy seed rolls, British sugar plums and gingerbread, Irish soda bread, to only name a few.

  1. Jesus refers to himself as the bread of life and with good reason

          A.  Confusion as to what Jesus means

You will recall the miracle of the feeding of the 5000.  It was a sumptuous meal for those who were often hungry and not sure where their next meal may come from.  So the next day they seek out Jesus again but he had moved on.  They follow after, and finding him they hesitatingly ask, “Rabbi, when did you come here?”

Jesus knows what they really want is another “happy meal”, and so he says, “You are seeking more bread.  Let me tell you about bread.  I am the bread come down from heaven.  He who eats of this bread will live forever, will never hunger or thirst again.”

What?  Did we hear correctly?  From heaven? The man is bordering on blasphemy.

         B.  Today’s debate on who or what Jesus represents

We live in a cynical world.  People just want to be left alone.  “I have my form of religion, you have yours.”  A majority of the SBNR (spiritual but not religious) don’t identify with a religious faith at all, and if they do, are more likely to be polytheistic, believing in different gods and different ways to approach and appease their god.

Examples: Comedian Jim Carrey: “I am a Christian.  I’m a Muslim.  I’m whatever you want me to be.  It all comes down to the same thing.”  That quote is years old now.  His recent statements about faith remain confusing.  “Christ on the cross suffered terribly and was broken by it to the point of doubt and feeling absolute abandonment.  Then a decision is made – to look upon the people who are causing that suffering, with compassion and with forgiveness.  And that’s what opens the gates for all of us.”  No, Mr. Carrey, you still didn’t get it right.  When it comes to the way of salvation, that‘s not funny.

          C.  The people then and now by nature cannot know Jesus as Savior

Luther: By nature man is spiritually blind, dead and an enemy of God.  By himself, he cannot know the true God.  We need help.  John 6:63, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all.”  John 6:44, “No one can come to me unless the Father draws him.”  John 14:6,I am the way, the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father but by me.”

Jesus uses a double negative to make a totally true point. “Whoever eats of this bread, whoever believes in me, surely you will not hunger, will not thirst again.”  Of this, one should not have any doubt.  This is the life Jesus gives – eternal life now here on earth and for eternity.  When we ate of the bread of life, that is, when we first believed, we gained eternal life, and that climaxes on the last day.

We have present blessings of forgiveness, of victory over sin, death and the devil, of his comforting presence in our lives.  Many of our blessings are also in the future.  When he raises us up on the last day, perfection dawns.

           D.  The Jews grumbled and asked for more signs, so the people could believe his claims. He referred them to Moses and the sign of the manna made available each morning those 40 years in the wilderness.  In addition, he claims, “I am that sign you are looking for.  I am the bread of life.  The manna was really a picture of me.  The people ate of the manna and they died.  Whoever eats of me will not die.  And I will raise him up on the last day.   

John 6:51, “And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”   The life of the world via the cross, his suffering and death.   Yes, Jesus is the living bread, the living water.  He is the food and drink that will sustain you as you wander in the desert of this world until you reach the promised land of heaven.

Conclusion

You may want to bypass the food at the fair.  Anything offered after our church service is good.  Donuts, cakes, cookies and this time of the year, zucchini bread, all good.  But the taste of the bread of life is different.  Eating of the bread of life is believing in Jesus as your Lord and Savior.  And he will raise you up on the last day.

sdg

Our God Rains…for You!

Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 13) / August 5, 2018 / Deacon Rex E. Watt

Exodus 16:2-15 / Ephesians 4:1-16 / John 6:22-35

Our God Rains…for You!

+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen. +

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ

Food.  We can’t live without it…and some of it, we probably shouldn’t live with!  Without food we die.  Our bodies burn the stuff, we oxidize it and turn it into energy which moves our muscles and pumps our blood.  It powers our brains and makes life itself possible.  We need it to live.  Unfortunately our bodies also like to store up some reserves just in case we can’t find the refrigerator tomorrow, and many of us suffer from an excess of those reserves.  Food binds us together.  Our most cherished family times are centered on meals, like Thanksgiving or family reunions.  Not all that long ago, the dinner table was the one time of the day that family sat down together and took respite from the rat race of life.  We celebrate with food.  It is an essential part of joy.  Try throwing a party without food!  Birthdays need that cake.  Christmas needs cookies.  Wedding participants leave the ceremony and go to the reception.  And we all are familiar with comfort food.  We turn to it when we are anxious, sad, or otherwise experiencing a negative emotion.  The image of a young woman dumped by her boyfriend binging on a box of chocolate isn’t far from reality.  It happens.

All of these things that we relate to with food as part of our physical life and being: life itself, community, celebration and comfort; God intends for our spiritual life.  I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “A cat has nine lives?”  Well, it’s not true!  A cat has one life.  Only human beings have, or are meant to have, more than one life.  God intends that you and I have two lives: one physical and one spiritual.  In God’s design, we are to be born, and then born again.  Jesus, earlier in John’s Gospel once told Nicodemus that unless this second birth takes place, one cannot enter the kingdom of heaven (Jn 3.5).

In our Gospel text for today, Jesus begins to teach us about what our true need in life is.  It’s not just food, as important as that is.  It’s the food that endures to eternal life.

We need the bread that gives eternal spiritual life.

To be sure, we need the daily bread that gives us bodily life, and God is not indifferent to this need.  We just read in our Old Testament lesson about God miraculously providing quail and manna to the Israelites in the wilderness.  A few weeks ago we saw Jesus miraculously feeding 5,000 people in another wilderness.  And today, as we travel through this vale of tears we call life, He provides farmers, processors, transportation and grocery stores where we can go and get this food.  We pray in the Lord’s Prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread,” and He does.  We bow our heads at our dinner tables and say, “The eyes of all look to you, [O Lord,] and You give them their food at the proper time.  You open Your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing,” and He does.  Our catechism teaches us, “God certainly gives daily bread to everyone without our prayers, even to all evil people, but we pray in this petition (7th) that God would lead us to realize this and to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving.”  But as Jesus reminds us, we cannot live by this bread alone (Mt. 4.4).  Why?  Because there is more to life than just food.  There is a spiritual dimension to our lives.

When God created Adam and Eve, He endowed them with two kinds of life, bodily life and spiritual life.  They “walked with God.”  But when they sinned by eating the forbidden fruit, they immediately lost their spiritual life; typified by their removal from the presence of God in the Garden of Eden; and in time their physical lives.  They eventually died.  By committing this act of spiritual suicide, they plunged the entire human race into Sin.  And we all die, which the Apostle Paul says is proof that all of us are infected with Original Sin.  Everyone born into this world is born alive in the body, but dead in their soul, separated from God.  The Bible says, “Enemies of God” (Rom 5.10).  Everyone born into this world is in desperate need of being born again if he or she is to enter the kingdom of heaven.

Tragically, we are unable on our own to acquire this bread that gives eternal spiritual life.

The Bible describes natural man, man who has experienced physical birth only, as “…dead in trespasses, and sins…”  (Eph 2.1).  Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 2, “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.”  Just as a corpse cannot raise itself up and come to the table for a meal, so also we are unable to raise ourselves and acquire this bread that gives eternal spiritual life.  Now to be sure, there are some who think they can.  Just look at the question the people asked Jesus in our text after He told them to labor for the food that endures to eternal life (which by the way, He said He would give them), “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?”  They had missed the point!  They are thinking they need to be going about doing something to get God’s blessings.  They had just been fed bread and fish on a remote hillside that they didn’t work for, but was given to them.  Look at the rich young ruler (Mk 10) who came to Jesus asking, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”  Or the Philippian jailer who asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”  (Acts 16)  The answer to all three of these questions is the same: believe.  Believe Jesus.  Yes, there are still people today who think that they have to do something to get right with God.  Yet the Bible tells us that no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by doing works, by observing the law (Rom 3.20).  No, we are unable by our own efforts to acquire this bread that gives eternal spiritual life.  Luther writes in the explanation of the Third Article of the Creed that, “I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.”  This second birth, this new life, this bread from heaven that gives eternal spiritual life is a gift… from God…for you.

Only Jesus can provide the bread that gives eternal spiritual life.

Jesus tells the people, and us, not to “labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life.”  The pursuit of material things, worldly recognition, and the pleasures of this life will only disappoint us in the end.  In the end, they will all be burned up and dissolved (2 Pet 3).  They won’t last.  But the food that endures to eternal life?  That food will last.  That food is not only for this life, but for the life to come.  And Jesus, in a sense, tells us that we don’t really need to “work” for this food.  God does the work in giving it to us.  God, via Moses, gave the people the quail and the manna in the wilderness.  Jesus, God in the flesh, multiplied the loaves of bread and the fish, and through the apostles, gave it to the 5,000.  And now, Jesus says, God wants to give you this bread from heaven.  In fact, Jesus Himself is this “true bread from heaven,” which the Father gives to you!  It is He “Who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” (vs 32-33).  He is the “bread of life,” who gives Himself to you as “the food that endures to eternal life.”  The Giver and the gift are one and the same!  Whoever comes to Him “shall not hunger,” and whoever believes in Him “shall never thirst.”

By the gracious working of God, you, dear saints of Redeemer, believe in Him by the calling of the Holy Spirit through the Gospel.  God comes to you in the proclamation of His Word and gives you the faith to believe.  “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ,” writes Paul (Rom 10.17).  By the gracious working of God, you, dear saints of Redeemer receive the forgiveness of your sins, all of your sins, every last one of your sins, which Jesus nailed to the Cross as He suffered and died in your place, in the words of Absolution.  By the gracious working of God, you, dear saints of Redeemer received the Holy Spirit as the down payment, and the guarantee of your inheritance with all the saints at your Baptism.  And by the gracious working of God, you, dear saints of Redeemer receive the strengthening of your faith, and this very bread from heaven, Jesus Himself, in a very real way every time you partake of His body and blood at this altar.

In Exodus 16:4 the Lord told Moses, “Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you….”  My dear brothers and sisters, Jesus is the true and living bread from heaven.  He rains down abundantly on you each and every day through His word and sacraments so that you may belong to the one Body of His Church, in which you receive every spiritual blessing, and in which your are to “grow up in every way into him who is the head” (Eph 4.15).  What shall we say to these things?  What better response than the cry of our text, “Sir…from now on give us this bread” (v 34).  Or maybe we could paraphrase the Fourth Petition of the Lord’s Prayer, “Give us this day…the bread of life!”   Amen.

The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.