Month: October, 2018

Freedom In Christ

Text: John 8:31-38 — Pastor Don Mossman

Introduction

On Wednesday of this week, October 31, you’ll see no end of little ones dressed up in cute costumes knocking at doors seeking tons of candy.  In downtown Lynden, there will be many little ones going from store to store with the trick-or-treat request.  A number of adults go to downtown Front Street just to see the children and their unique costumes.  We will put on our front light and attract like moths the many neighborhood kids who will be looking for treats.  My wife usually buys many more treats than we will give away, much to my sweet-tooth satisfaction.  Trouble is, I never can find where she hides them.

There is another notable occasion to celebrate on October 31 and is the celebration of the Reformation.  It was that date back in 1517 that a young monk named Martin Luther walked the long street from the Augustinian monastery to the Castle Church in Wittenberg and nailed 95 thesis or statements to the church door that served as a city bulletin board.  They were meant for debate among fellow clergy and university educators.  Luther’s concern was the selling of forgiveness of sin via a piece of paper called an indulgence.  Today we acknowledge the ongoing result of that first step to freedom from human efforts in the realm of salvation.  We celebrate, not with fireworks or trick-or-treating, but with the continuing declaration that we are free from sin, death and the devil in Christ alone, by grace alone, through faith alone as revealed in the Word alone.

A. He was that way because he was free

  1. He was no weak-kneed chicken, that Luther. He was bold.  He was fearless.  He was not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  He was no one’s slave.  That’s why he wrote, “We tremble not. We fear no ill. They shall not over power us.”
  2. As you look at Luther’s earlier years, freedom was not foremost in his life. He grew up in a strict household, he was poor and I assume somewhat timid.  When he decided to become a Roman Catholic monk, his father almost disowned him.  As a priest he was not free, having to take direct orders from the pope and superiors.  He feared the possible punishment of officials of government and church; he feared the judgement of God upon his sin.
  3. The RCC as well as the government authorities ordered him to take back what he had said and written under threat of death. He was kidnapped for his own safety. You begin to wonder; what kind of freedom is he referring to?  Yet he exclaimed, “We tremble not, we hear no ill, They shall not overpower us?”

B. It was the Word of God that had makes a person free

  1. Now, 500 years after the Reformation, what we need to recognize it is the Word of God that still makes men and women free. John 8:31-32 says, “If you abide in my word, you are my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” The message proclaimed is that every individual who believes that Jesus is Lord is free from sin, death and the lasting power of the devil.  Don’t let anyone, or anything try to talk you out of that.  Those are the words of Jesus.  It is his prescription for freedom.  Abide in my Word.  That simply and powerfully means, stay in the Word; read, mark and inwardly digest the Holy Scriptures.  And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

C. The search for truth

  1. But what kind of truth is that? Truth to you, or truth to me? You don’t just go out and look for truth amid options that society offers. You certainly don’t want to go on TV and pick out one out of the many talking heads that beckon you to their personal understanding of truth.  And if you believe the present political TV ads as to who’s telling the truth, and who is lying, well, it’s enough to make your head spin.  Giuliani: “truth is not always the truth” (It’s someone’s version of it).”

D. Freedom, real freedom, comes from the Word of God.

  1. What is it then that sets you free? “If you abide in my word, Jesus says, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” The Word of God, the Bible, points you to Jesus the Savior.  He is the only one who sets us free from sin, death and the devil, who died on the cross to end our slavery to sin (see copy of passages…).  St. Paul boldly proclaims our victory over death1 Cor. 15:15: “O death where is your sting, o grave where is your victory…” It is that saving faith that frees you.  Faith in Jesus, who is going to return soon and take you to heaven.

Conclusion

So, we celebrate this day, not with fireworks as perhaps on July 4, but with the message of the Word.  Luther understood that.  He knew that true freedom is freedom in Christ.  That’s why he was so bold and brave.  Luther was no fool.  He didn’t point to himself; he pointed to Jesus.

With might of ours can naught be done, Soon were our loss effected;

But for us fights the valiant one, Whom God himself elected.

Ask ye who is this?  Jesus Christ it is.  Of Sabaoth Lord,

And there’s none other God; He holds the field forever.

sdg

Mission Impossible

October 21, 2018 / Twenty Second Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 24)

Texts:  Ecclesiastes 5:10-20 / Hebrews 4:1-16 / Mark 10:23-31

By Deacon Rex E. Watt

Mission: Impossible

+ 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.

Many of you may remember the television program Mission: Impossible.  In that show, a special agent, Mr. Phelps, received daring and dangerous government assignments.  If you remember the beginning of the show, it always started with a tape recording that said something like, “Your mission, Mr. Phelps, should you decide to accept it is…”  And then, after describing the seemingly impossible mission, the tape would self destruct “in five seconds.”  The show would have you on the edge of your seat as you watched Mr. Phelps and his team pull off the mission.  These missions were certainly difficult, but apparently not impossible, as the team of agents week after week pulled off the “impossible.”

In our Gospel lesson today, we are continuing the story of the rich young man we heard about last week.  In it, Jesus is talking about entering the kingdom of God.  In one case, He describes it as very difficult, like the Mission: Impossible assignments; not really impossible but really, really difficult.  In another, he describes it as truly impossible.  So which is it?  Is the mission just difficult, or is it impossible?

If you remember last weeks Gospel, when Jesus told the rich young man that he lacked one thing: he needed to sell all his belongings, give them to the poor, and then follow Jesus; the text says, “Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.”  Our text for this week picks up right there, “And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, ‘How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God.”  The rich young man’s problem was that he trusted in his wealth.  Trust.  What does that word mean?  Luther tells us that that in which we trust, has become our god.  What do you trust in today?

Are you trusting in your wealth?  Oh, I know what you’re thinking, “I’m not wealthy.  I barley have enough to pay my mortgage, my second mortgage, my two car payments, let alone car insurance, homeowners insurance, my heat, lights, grocery, cable TV, internet and of course my cell phone bills.  Why I hardly have enough left over to pay for my Seahawks or Mariners tickets!”  I know that you’ve heard some of these statistics before, but just to put our thinking about “wealth” in perspective; one article I read this week said that if your family income is $10,000 a year, you make more than 84% of the rest of the world.  And if it’s $50,000 or more, you make more than 99% of the rest of the world.  Kind of sobering isn’t it?  (https://www.oregonlive.com/hovde/index.ssf/2012/08/income_in_perspective_americas.html)

But my question wasn’t, are you wealthy; my question was, are you trusting in your wealth?  Do you spend more time, energy and effort in figuring out how to preserve your income for the future than you do thinking about how you can use what God has given you for your neighbors benefit?  Do you put more into your savings accounts each month than you give toward the Lord’s work?  Money is a good gift from God, but “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils.” (1 Tim 6:10)  The story of the rich young man warns us today about the danger of allowing our riches to get in the way of trusting God who “clothes the grass of the field” (Mt 6:30), and gives all living creatures “their food in due season…who opens [His] hand and satisfies the desire of every living thing” (Psa 145:15-16).  Repent!

Are you trusting in your doctors and/or the medicine you are taking?  People are shocked when the doctor says there is nothing more that can be done.  But the truth is that doctors eventually lose all their patients.  While doctors themselves can be quite trustworthy, the issue here is: are you putting your trust in the physician’s skill and/or resources rather than the One Who put those healing gifts in the doctor’s hands?  Physicians, no matter how good they are, are fallen creatures just like you and me.  To put your trust in them, rather than the God who gave them their vocation, is idolatry.  Repent!

Some people trust in their “stuff.”  You know them.  You’ve seen them.  Are you one of them?  The rich young ruler, exhibiting a common belief of his day, believed that the presence of wealth in his life was evidence that God was pleased with him.  That same belief is all around us today.  The purveyors of the “prosperity gospel” hawk the idea that personal wealth, big homes, fancy cars and even having airplanes is a sign of God’s blessing upon them.  And, of course, if you’d just sow a little (or big) ‘faith seed’ in their direction, God will bless you also!  Hopefully, you’ve never fallen prey to their false gospel.  But is the Mall your temple?  It has lots of little chapels in which you can make sacrifices.  And all those promises which are made in the ads that adorn the windows; they lead you to believe that if you just make the appropriate sacrifice here, you will be happy, fulfilled, or beautiful.  Of course, when we get back home and look in the mirror, we discover that all those promises are empty.  But then we go back, and back again, and again.  This acquiring of stuff, much of it unnecessary, is also idolatry.  Repent!

Maybe you are trusting in yourself; in your own piety.  The rich young ruler trusted in himself; in his piety.  When Jesus answered his question about what he needed to do to inherit eternal life by telling him that he needed to keep the Commandments, he had the gall to say to Jesus, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth!”  How are you doing with that?  Do you think that if you just keep your nose clean and don’t break any of “the Big Ten” that God will be pleased with you?  Do you think that if you just spend a little more time in prayer each day, or read your Bible more each day, or go out and tell three people a week about Jesus that God will be pleased with you?  Do you realize that the Scripture tells you that “…all [your] righteous deeds are like a filthy garment.” ? (Isa 64:6 NASB)

After Jesus told his disciples how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God, the text tells us that they were amazed at his words.  He goes on to   tell them, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person (or any person for that fact) to enter the kingdom of God.”  Upon hearing this, the disciples “were exceedingly astonished” and they said to Him, “Then who can be saved?”  That, dear Saints of Redeemer is the correct question!  Not “What must I do to inherit eternal life” but “who?”  Jesus’ answer is the key to this whole dilemma, “With man it is impossible, but not with God.  For all things are possible with God [even your salvation!].

You see, the truth is that no one can save himself.  It is impossible.  And unlike “difficulties” there are no grades of “impossibility.”  With man, it is simply impossible!  There are no exceptions; no matter what race, no matter how smart, no matter what age, no matter what gender, no matter how rich or poor, man cannot and does not do it, even with a little help from God.

The true Rich Man, your Jesus, has made himself poor on your behalf.  He came to your earth and lived His whole life, tempted in every respect as you were, yet without sin.  Are you willing to believe in the impossible?  The Gospel is the Good News that God does the impossible for you.  He paid the price that was impossible for you to pay.  He paid for your sin, my sin, the sin of the whole world.  In Jesus, God became man so that you and I might be saved.  In Jesus, God died for you.  The impossible is possible with God.

The True Physician, your Jesus, has borne all your infirmities (Mt 8:17), “He himself bore [your] sins in His body on the tree, that [you] might die to sin and live to righteousness.  By His wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:24)  You have died to sin in your Baptism the Apostle Paul writes.  He goes on to say with respect to baptism that if “we have been united with Him is a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him is a resurrection like His.” (Rom 6:2-5)  Each and every Sunday that you kneel at this altar for Holy Communion, your Jesus, your true Physician, gives into your very mouths the medicine of immortality.  Jesus said, “Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” (Jn 6:54)  These are words you can trust.  Jesus won’t lie to you!

My dear Saints, as you listen to this living Word of God that is “sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit…discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart,” and as you continue to live in the grace of God given to you in your baptism; feeding on the body and blood of our Lord Jesus whenever it is offered to you, God will continue to do the impossible for you.  He will continue to drown that Old Adam in you and cause the New Man/New Woman created in Christ Jesus to come forth to the praise of His glory.  Life may seem difficult at times, but remember, no matter how difficult it gets, the Mission: Impossible is Mission: Accomplished because the Lord Jesus, your Jesus, has completed His mission for us.  We are assured of the victory in Christ because He did the Mission: Impossible.

And by the way, this promise of God will not self-destruct in 5 seconds!  Amen!

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

All Things Are Possible With God

Text: Mark 10:17-22                   Pastor Don Mossman

Introduction

Bumper sticker read: FOMO made me do it. (Fear of missing out) Attitude of many.  You only go around once, but if you play your cards right, once is enough.

I.    The common question

A.  The searching young man

  1. The young man in our text had heard about Jesus. He was by all standards well off. Think Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook – 80 billion dollars worth.  He was anxious to have Jesus share a perspective on life and death.  How might inherit eternal life?  He was sincere, and our text says Jesus was impressed by him – he loved him.
  2. What is good about his question is that the young man’s heart has a concern with getting to heaven. Jesus was stern with him, giving him a Law answer. You know the commandments, he tells the young man.  Then he quotes a number of the commandments: Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, etc.  You know the answer to your question.  “Well rabbi, these I’ve done since I was a youth.”  “Alright, then go sell all you have, and follow me.”  So sad.  He left Jesus, for money and possessions were his god.

B. Sickness and death and life after death

  1. It is unlikely that there is a more common question spoken or unspoken that we all have as it pertains to life and/or death. It’s at times “the horse on the dining room table,” as some refer to it. Everyone sees it, acknowledges it, but don’t want to talk about it.
  2. Humanity has asked about sickness and death since the beginning of time. And by nature, humankind will try to answer the questions in order to give satisfaction to nervous hearts.  Many an article and no few books have been written giving imaginations and/or self-made answers or explanations to death and dying. And most often they are answers that never seem to satisfy.  In national surveys, a growing number of people are claiming they are spiritual, but not religious.  Others growing among us are referred to as “nones.”
  3. Peggy Noonan, speech writer for President Reagan and now a weekly columnist for the Wall Street journal, reflected on all the changed we’ve realized in this our secular and confused society when she wrote, “Everyone’s in the dark looking for the switch.” One could add to that without God’s grace, we need to realize there is no switch.  A desperate situation.  So we live in the dark when it comes to spirituality.

II.   The revealed answer  

        A.  With God all things are possible

  1. How is it for us today? There are many of the same temptations for us as in Jesus day even though we live in a different world than that of the rich young man.  We live in a time when nothing seems to make sense.  You can hear it if you listen: the whys, the anger, the lost feeling, and the loneliness.  We can live longer thanks to advanced medicines and life styles, but, in the end, death awaits.  Suffering is not eliminated; we still walk through the valley of the shadow of death.
  2. But we have an answer from Jesus. What is impossible for us to do, it is possible for Jesus.  And our good folk here at Redeemer and throughout the world graciously reach out with kind and reassuring words and a gentle touch of a loving God, be of good cheer, your sins are forgiven.

      B.  Jesus’ answer is the only answer

  1. Family Feud on TV. With Jesus, there is no need to play games. No other answer comes close.  There is only one answer, Jesus.  If anyone is in Christ she/he is a new creation.  The old is gone, and the new is revealed.  It may have at one time looked impossible, but with God all things are possible.
  2. With God, all things are possible. You see, the deep, deep love of God has shown itself in the person of Jesus Christ, his life, death and resurrection. His love and security in reaching out to us through faith opens the doors of salvation, of eternal life.  For God so love the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whoever believes in him will not perish, but have eternal life.  It is his free gift, because he loves you. Always remember, this is his doing, by grace and grace alone, that he saves and secures us in this life to all eternity.

Conclusion

The eye of a needle:  difficulty all my life…   Small doorway in city wall – camel needed to get on knees to get through, or a hyperbole: speaks of the impossibility of a camel… even as a rich man whose god is his possessions.  I go to prepare a place for you.  In my Father’s house there are many mansions.  I will come again and take you to myself, that where I am, you may be also. (Jn 14:3)  What seemed impossible becomes possible.  Jesus breaks down all barriers; the Spirit calls, gathers and enlightens our hearts for Jesus.

 

 

True Faithfulness

Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 22)  October 7, 2018

Genesis 2:18-25 / Hebrews 2:1-18 / Mark 10:2-16

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

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

Dear Saints of Redeemer.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that something has gone terribly wrong in our society with regard to marriage and family.  One only needs to read the newspaper, watch the evening news, or for that fact, just about any network or cable television show these days to see the dysfunction paraded in full view.  After hearing the appointed lessons for today, and considering the crazy, upside-down and perverse culture we’re living in, I have no doubt that some of you, if not many of you, are wondering just what in the world is the Deacon going to do with this text for today.  This is not a comfortable subject.

This is nothing new under the sun.  Even in Jesus’ day people were struggling with these issues.  In our text we see the Pharisees coming to Jesus in an attempt to trap Him.  They ask Him, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”  Now there were two schools of thought prevalent at this time: one was the School of Rabbi Shammai who taught that divorce was only acceptable in cases of infidelity; and the other, the School of Rabbi Hillel who taught that a man could divorce his wife for any reason; such as burning the roast.  They were hoping to entrap Jesus into one or the other point of view.  It would not matter which position Jesus sided with, the other would pounce.  Jesus answered, “What did Moses command you?”  Jesus basically told them to check out God’s Word.  This is good advice.  We should always check God’s Word in order to see what He says on any topic.  If God has spoken, we ought to listen.

The Pharisees, probably those of the camp of Rabbi Hillel, responded, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.”  Well, not exactly.  Deuteronomy 24 says that if a man gets married and finds something “indecent” about his wife (and, of course, the rabbis debated about what “indecent” meant), and if he then writes a bill of divorce and sends her out of his house and she goes off and marries another man and now her new husband likewise divorces her, or dies, then she cannot go back to the first husband.  That would be an abomination to the Lord.  Moses was trying to regulate divorce and remarriage, not permit it!

Jesus responds to the Pharisees by again, getting to the heart of the issue, no pun intended.  Jesus says, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment.”  That’s the real issue isn’t it?  Hardness of heart.  In the original text the word that gets translated as ‘hardness of heart’ is pretty graphic…σκληροκαρδιαν.  Scleroderma, which you may have heard of, is the hardening of your skin.  Sclerocardian is the hardening, the petrification, of the heart.  The problem with all of us is the heart.  In Genesis 8 we hear God’s assessment of man’s heart, “…the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth.”  Jesus told us a few weeks ago that it was from “out of the heart of man [that] come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness.”  That just about covers it for us doesn’t it?  You and I are guilty of at least one, of not all of those sins Jesus lists.  Jesus is basically saying that it is because of our sinfulness that we experience and/or allow divorce.

This isn’t the way God created things to be.  Jesus tells the Pharisees, and us, that God made us male and female.  One for the other.  And when they come together, they are no longer two, but one flesh.  Now we could spend a lot of time on that part of what Jesus says and address the LGBQ, transgender, and gender identity issues of the day; but that’ll have to be a discussion for another time.  The Pharisees were asking about divorce and Jesus goes on to say some profound words that are central to our thoughts today, “What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”  You heard it in the OT reading for today.  Marriage wasn’t Adam’s idea.  Marriage was God’s idea, and His gift to Adam and Eve.  God is the one who joins man and woman together.  He is the actor in marriage.  Adam and Eve’s marriage was perfect…for a while.  Then one day it all changed.

You know the story.  One day Satan came to Eve and said, “Did God really say?”  This is always the first question by which Satan plants the seeds of uncertainty and doubt before he proceeds to flat out contradict God’s Word to you.  His tactics haven’t changed.  He causes you to doubt the gift God has given you.  You begin to wonder if this is really the person you want to spend the rest of your life with.  You may even believe the lie that God has just the right person picked out for you and all you need to do if figure it out.  And if you pick the wrong one, well, just move on and pick another!  My brothers and sisters, this ought not be so!

Now I know what some of you are thinking.  “But you don’t know my story!  I’m the innocent party in this deal!  I didn’t ask for it!”  My dear people, you are now starting to sound like the Pharisees!  Jesus, in our text, is not giving us any wiggle room!  His words are uncompromising, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her, and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”  Divorce and remarriage is simply adultery and contrary to the will of God expressed in the Sixth Commandment.  And I submit to you that this is also a breaking of the First Commandment in that we have not feared, loved, or trusted God enough to accept the gift He had given us.  We have broken faith by despising the vows we took and we have broken faith/trust in God by despising the gift He gave.  We have been unfaithful.

Now, lest you get all hoity-toity because you haven’t experienced divorce I need to remind you that God doesn’t rank sins.  Sin is sin.  You may still be married to your one and only spouse, but if you’ve ever looked at a person of the opposite sex with lust – you’ve committed adultery in your heart.  You may never have hurt or injured anyone in your life, but if you’ve ever been angry with someone – you’ve committed murder in your heart.  And I could go on.  The point is, we all, every one of us stand guilty of sin before God Almighty and deserve nothing but His temporal and eternal punishment.  We have been unfaithful!

But there is One Who has been faithful!  This very person who in our text today is pointing out the errors of the Pharisees, and our sins; this Jesus is the Faithful One.  Our Lord Jesus, your Lord Jesus, came into the flesh to win a Bride for himself, a Bride to whom He will be faithful forever.  If our problem is a hard heart, God in the flesh, your Jesus, has a tender heart.  As God put Adam to sleep and took from his side that with which He made the woman, so your Lord Jesus sleeps in death on His Cross, and His tender heart is pierced.  Then from that heart flows a fountain of blood and water.  For millennia the Church has seen in the water and blood that flow from the pierced heart of our Lord a picture of both Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, by which the Holy Spirit tenderly creates the Bride of Christ, the Church, and sustains her until His coming again.  In your baptism God gave you a new heart.  He made you a member of His Bride, the Church.

Kelsey, from today on, you never have to wonder whether you believe enough, whether you’ve been sincere enough, whether you’ve done enough, whether you ‘really, really meant it.’  Today, God did something for you.  It’s no longer about your faithfulness…it’s about God’s faithfulness.  When Satan speaks into your ear such things as, “Did God really say?” or “You call yourself a Christian and you did that!”  You can brush him aside and say, “Begone, Satan!  I am baptized!  I have been buried with Christ by baptism into death,” as the apostle Paul says, and “if I have been united with Him in a death like His, I shall be united with Him in a resurrection like His.”  Your assurance rests on His faithfulness, not yours.  And that’s the same for all of you, dear saints.

Christ has risen from the dead and ascended into heaven in order to prepare a place for His Bride, the Church, all of you who believe and are baptized.  On the Last Day, He will return and raise all the dead in both body and soul.  Those who believe in Him will join Him in the place He has prepared.  Among those who will be there will be people who sinned against marriage and received the forgiveness that Jesus earned for them on the cross.  People like King David who had an affair with the wife of the most loyal soldier in his army; people like Samson who had an affair with Delilah; people like King Solomon and the patriarchs, Abraham and Jacob, who had multiple wives; people like Saint Augustine who lived on the wild side until the Holy Spirit brought him into the family of God; people like you, and people like me.  The history of the Church is full of people who sinned against marriage and received the forgiveness that Jesus earned for them.  Jesus said, “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mk 2.17)  This includes those who sin against marriage.  Dear saints of Redeemer, Jesus is faithful to you, His Bride, the Church.  He is faithful to the End – and beyond.  That is true faithfulness.  Amen.

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

Pass the Salt, Please

Text: Mark 9:38-50          Pastor Don Mossman

Introduction

I had the opportunity to coach a youth hockey team when we lived in Ann Arbor. MI.  It was an average team with average players who understood what it meant to play as a team.  However, this one game we had this young fellow who was quite possessive of the puck and playing time.  So much so that this one time when he didn’t get the ice time he thought was rightly his, he became angry, complained to his coach, and with hockey stick in hand, stormed off the team bench.  He goes to the locker room, sat down and pouted.  He soon began to realize that he was alone, and that his teammates weren’t following him.  They were on the ice playing the game they loved and hoped to win without him.  What he was doing in fact was hurting the team by his arrogance and self-importance.  By the way, we lost the game.

  1. Confused followers

A.  Arrogance and pride

  1. This true story reminds me of Jesus’ disciples in our text. They had had the experience of preaching among the people, healing the sick and casting out demons.  Now they approached Jesus saying, “There was this guy who was casting out demons in your name, so we told him to stop, because he wasn’t part of our group.  You can thank us now or later.”

2.  There they were, sulking, expecting Jesus would say, “Well done. I know this is a closed club, and no one should interfere with what we are doing unless they get our permission.”  Jesus’ surprising response was, “Don’t stop them.  Anyone not against us is for us.  What you should be doing is giving the man a cup of cold water, rather showing arrogance.”  Do whatever you need to do in order to serve that person.  Don’t be so haughty, don’t be angry, don’t be conceited, and don’t point fingers at them, thus putting stumbling blocks before a follower of Jesus.

B. The analogy of the church as a body and stumbling blocks.

  1.  Jesus reminds us again and again that our place in God’s kingdom is the result of the God’s gracious calling in His Word through which the Spirit of God converts, convicts, and consecrates hearts to Jesus. We have been redeemed, restored, forgiven.  And so are your brothers and sisters.

2.  Therefore, you need to be dead serious about preserving the same and avoiding temptations for you and especially those who believe to wander, wiggle and wobble from the truth. Jesus says via a hyperbole that it would be better to lose a hand or a leg or an eye rather than have the whole body be dragged into hell.  In other words, your commitment to the family of faith is to be a very deep commitment.  It’s like saying, “I’d give you the shirt off my back, or “he would give you his right arm for you.”  You either do the cleansing or God will do it for you.

3. Therefore in this battle to avoid the pitfalls of the devil, you need to be fully aware of those who surround you and let your light shine that others can see the difference in your lives in comparison to those of the world. Therefore, in order to be that witness, there are parts of our lives that are off limit.  There are web sites we need to avoid, activities we dare not indulge in, things we must cut-off from my life.  And in doing so, not put stumbling blocks before your neighbor and your neighbor’s faith.

2.  Salty followers

A.  Have salt among yourselves, and be salt for your brothers and sisters.

  1.  My forgiveness is in His hands. He is in control.  It also means that God works where and when he pleases. The gift of the Spirit and household of faith in Christ are a potent antidote to our sinful condition.  Where Christ is present, there you will find Jesus touching the hearts of people.   And Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection has not only redeemed our souls, it also preserves us and keeps it in the one true faith.

2.  Spiritually, it’s who we are. Jesus: You are the salt of the earth.  You are, not should be, or work toward being, salt.  If you are salt, and you are in Christ, you have certain qualities that make a difference in other people’s lives.  Your saltiness permeates that which touches your life, that which surrounds you.  And you need to be serious about sharing that saltiness.   If you lose your saltiness, you will be thrown away, having lost your usefulness.

Conclusion

That young boy that erupted off the players’ bench and cried within the dressing room later calmed down.  After talking to him about his actions were disturbing his teammate and the team itself, he saw the importance of being a team player, and doing those things that made the other players better individually and as a team.

We are as a community of faith, the salt of the earth.  As such, we affect each other in word and deed.  You are called to follow Jesus, and thus by a life of self-sacrifice you protect the faith, you support and build the faith of brothers and sisters.  I need your saltiness.  Pass the salt, please.