Posts by Mark

The Baptism of Jesus

 

First Sunday after the Epiphany / Baptism of Our Lord

Isa 43:1-7 / Rom 6:1-11 / Lk 3:15-22

Deacon Rex E. Watt

 

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

Prayer for blessing on the Word.

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

Kids grow up fast, don’t they?  While the adjustment to having a newborn in the house is sometimes daunting, I have yet to hear a parent say, “I just wish they’d grow up faster!”  It usually goes something along the lines of, “They’re already walking?  They’re already driving?  Oh my gosh, they are graduating…where did the time go?”  Our pericope readings for the past few weeks have been like that.  A few weeks ago, we were at the manger peering in on the baby Jesus.  It just seems like yesterday the Magi were bringing the young child gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  Today, we find Jesus all grown up!

The Bible doesn’t tell us much about the childhood of Jesus.  Other than the story of him in the temple talking with the teachers of the Law when he was twelve years old, what we’ve read over the past several weeks is about all we know.  Jesus’ childhood and growing up years were probably pretty unremarkable, pretty quite, pretty unassuming.  That is about to change.  Today we read about the event in Jesus’ life that marks his entrance, the beginning if you will, the manifestation, the revealing, the Epiphany, of why Jesus came.

We are in the season of the Church Year called Epiphany.  Do you remember the meaning of the word, “Epiphany?”  It is an uncovering, a revealing.  Something has been hidden, or unnoticed, and now it is revealed.  Sometimes we use the term in the sense of “Aha! Now I get it!”  We say that we’ve had an epiphany.  A question that I’d like you to keep in mind as we travel through this season of Epiphany is, “What is God’s Word telling me about Jesus that I would not have known, thought about, or considered before?”  Our text for today is about Jesus’ baptism, so we want to be asking the question, “What is this text telling me about Jesus that I haven’t been thinking about before?”

Have you ever wondered, “What is Jesus doing here?”  John was baptizing with a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.  People were coming to John from all over confessing their sins and being baptized by him.  Jesus had no sins.  He did not need to confess anything.  Why in the world was Jesus coming to John to be baptized by him?  Shouldn’t this be the other way around?  Shouldn’t John be getting baptized by Jesus?

Jesus is here, for you!  He comes to John to be baptized not because he needs to confess anything.  He comes to John to be baptized in order to become like one of us.  In the waters of the Jordan, he is not washing away any sins he has, he is having the sins of the world washed onto him as part of the “great exchange” that the Apostle Paul refers to in 1 Cor 5.21, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”  In Jesus’ baptism by John, Jesus is identifying with us poor sinners.  Only sinners need to be baptized.  Jesus is taking onto himself the filth of our sin so that he can carry it to the cross where he will pay the ultimate penalty for your sin, my sin, and the sin of the whole world.

Picture with me, if you will, a pool of water where a shepherd stands and bathes his sheep who are covered with the dirt, filth, grass and dung from months of being out in the fields.  Sheep after sheep come into the pool with the shepherd and he washes each one until they are spic and span clean.  The water is a mess.  Then he spots one beautiful, totally clean lamb waiting its turn.  Should he wash that lamb?  If that lamb steps into the water, it’s going to take on all the muck floating around in that now filthy pool.  John said to Jesus, “I shouldn’t baptize you.”  And Jesus said to John, “Yes, you should!”  Your Jesus, circumcised on the eighth day shedding his first blood for you; presented in the temple at forty days old keeping the Law for you while still an infant; now steps out in public, for the first time that we know of, and so completely identifies with us, lost and condemned persons that we are, that he takes on the burden and guilt of all of our sins.

And when he does, the most incredible thing happens.  “The heavens are opened, and the Holy Spirit descends on him in bodily form, like a dove, and a voice from heaven says, ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.’”  God Almighty, the creator of the universe, by voice which was heard by all who were standing nearby, and by a sign, seen by all who were standing nearby affirms that his son, Jesus has begun to do all that he was sent to do.  The heavens, which were shut to mankind after the Fall into Sin are now opened.  The Spirit of God who hovered over the waters at creation and came and went upon people of the Old Covenant now rests upon Jesus to be given to whomever he will.  And the voice of God, which has been silent for 400 years is heard once again.

So what does all this mean for you and me?  When we compare Jesus’ baptism with our baptism, we see this “great exchange” at work.  In Jesus’ baptism, he is identifying himself with you, me, and every other sinful human being who ever lived or will live.  He takes on our sins, and becomes one with us.  In our baptisms, we are joined to Christ in a death like his, receive the forgiveness of our sins that he paid for on the cross nearly 2,000 year ago, clothed with his righteousness which he gives to us freely as a gift, made heirs with Christ and receive the Holy Spirit as a guarantee of our inheritance.  Needless to say, it seems to me that we, poor miserable sinners that we are, get the better deal in this exchange.

Returning to our question that we asked at the beginning of our time together, “What is this text telling me about Jesus that I haven’t been thinking about before?”  What is the “epiphany” in this text?  Let me suggest a few:

When Jesus came to be baptized by John, he did it for you.  This is not just an historical note about something that happened to Jesus.  The sinless Son of God, the second person of the trinity, the savior of the world, came to John to be baptized, for you.

This Jesus, whom God declares to be his beloved son at his baptism by John, declares you to be his sons and daughters in your baptism.

As God has now made you his children, he makes you full heirs of his kingdom.  Children inherit from their parents.  God gives you his Holy Spirit as the down payment, the guarantee, of your inheritance.

As you have been united with Jesus in a death like his, as the Apostle Paul wrote, you dear Saints will certainly be united with Jesus in a resurrection like his.

“When you pass through the waters, [he] will be with you”  “He called you by name, you are [his].  No matter what you go through in life, your Lord Jesus will be with you.

Dear Saints of Redeemer, God your father, at your baptism, opened heaven for you.  He gave you his Holy Spirit to enlighten your eyes to see the work he was doing, forgiving you your sins, he also gave you ears to hear his voice anew: “You are my beloved son/daughter; with you I am well pleased.”  Amen.

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

The Mystery Revealed

Texts: Ephesians 3:1-12; Matthew 2:1-12  — Pastor Don Mossman

Introduction

I recall the time a student made an insightful statement in one of my classes.  Try as she might, she just didn’t understand the theory we were discussing.  Then she said, “Oh, now I get it.”  My response?  “Great.  You’ve just had an epiphany.”

It’s satisfying to finally understand some things after having wrestled with the mysterious for some time.  Albert Einstein is quoted as saying, “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious.”  It enables us to dream, to imagine, to see things we could never otherwise see.  For example, the Scriptures proclaim that, “the heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above shows his handiwork.” (Ps. 19:1)  I am told, and hang onto your hat, that there are some 10 billion galaxies scattered through the visible universe.  And when I gaze up at the stars on a clear, dark night, I am amazed at the mysteries that go into God’s creative work.

Our lessons for this Epiphany Sunday speak of a Light that sheds belief or understanding of mysteries previously unknown.  Isaiah (Is. 60:1-3), often said to be the Gospel of the Old Testament, speaks of the Light promised, the light shining on the darkness of God’s people around the world.  St. Paul sheds translucent light on the inclusion of the Gentiles peoples.  Indeed it was and still is to a great extent, a mystery too deep for humanity to grasp unless the Spirit grant it.

I.  In the darkness of sin

     A.  Herod was an evil man (Matthew 2:1-12)

  1. Herod was a wicked man. He was insecure, suspicious of anyone who would even think of taking his throne.  When he heard that the Magi were asking questions about a newborn king, the Scriptures say he was greatly troubled, together with all Jerusalem.
  2. I guess so! Because of this suspicion, he had one son killed, a brother-in-law, his own wife, and others of his royal court because of uncontrolled suspicions of someone wanting his throne.  In response to the inquiry of the Wise Men, and to eliminate any challenge to his throne as he saw it, he had every male baby up to two years killed in and around Bethlehem.  He was as spiritually dead as a stone.

     B.  Description of our society

  1. Peggy Noonan, American author of books on politics, religion and culture, is quoted as saying that in this our society, “Everyone’s in the dark looking for a light switch.”  Perhaps that is too extreme a view for some of you, but it bears similarity to our society today.  Another insight: bumper sticker: “I’m lost! Where am I going?”
  2. So it is in the lives of many in this world. The law in the form of the Ten  Commandments or that written on the hearts of men and women are ignored or trampled upon.  Living in the darkness of sin they cannot see or deal with the seriousness of their sin.

III.  The Light of God

        A.  The real star of Bethlehem is Jesus

  1. We have every reason to rejoice this 12th day of Christmas, for when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, that he might be the light to lighten both the Jewish and the Gentile peoples around the world. We read as to how these Wise Men were very intelligent and were able to interpret the meaning of a new star, which is something no one else in the world was able to do.  They looked at the star and it was revealed to them that the promised Messiah had come.  Not even the Jews knew that.
  2. In our lesson in Ephesians, Paul speaks of the fact that he would never have been able to understand the promises of God if they hadn’t been revealed to him. The first of these “mysteries” as he called them, was that the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together with one body, and shared together in the promise in Christ Jesus.
  3. Now this was a very counter-cultural thing for a Jew like Paul to understand. It wasn’t easy coming to understand that God’s grace is for Gentiles also. It took direct intervention by Jesus on the road to Damascus to reveal God’s intended truth.  Yet, it shouldn’t have been surprising, for these “mysteries” are consistent with the many OT prophesies that Peter, Paul and the rest of the Jews should have been familiar with.  God’s grace was intended for all people throughout the entire world.  God’s love knows no limits and it recognizes no boundaries.  Jew/Greek, slave/free, male/female – it is inclusive.

Conclusion

The Hubble telescope repeatedly reveals new mysteries of the heavens.  My jaw never ceases to drop when I look upon the glorious, beautiful, amazing handiwork of God.  I don’t understand it all, yet I marvel at it and its beauty.  God’s wisdom is even more beautiful.  How can he show love to people like me who have done nothing to deserve it?  The answer is God’s Son Jesus.  His love is constant, unfathomable and limitless.  And I am ever so grateful for that epiphany.

The Mystery in the Manger

Christmas Eve – December 24, 2018  — Deacon Rex Watt

Luke 2:8-20

 

+ 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. Amen.

The contrast is striking.  While every year the Christmas retail season starts earlier and earlier and the hype gets more and more intense, the first Christmas was not an intense affair at all.  If anything, it seems to be quite calm and quiet in comparison to today’s festivities.

Now in our culture, you cannot blame people for trying to make a buck.  Ethel Merman, the famous actress/singer of a generation ago, belted out her signature song, “There’s no business like show business,” and she was right.  Show business is fine in its place.  But show business has no business in God’s business.  Christmas has its entertainment side and its retail side, but we have not come here tonight to be entertained.  We are here on God’s business.  And God’s business is to call a halt to all the busy-ness of our hectic lives and this hectic season so that we might discover anew the good news of great joy that was proclaimed so long ago to shepherds on Bethlehem’s plain: “Today… a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord” (Lk 2:11).

As Mary looked down at the tiny baby wrapped is swaddling cloths Scripture tells us that she, “treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.”  What were all those things?  It wasn’t the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, for those didn’t come until later.  It was the words spoken by the angel to the shepherds, who in turn had told them to Mary and Joseph.

Could it really be that the Lord, the God of hosts, who feeds all creation, who opens up His hand to satisfy the desires of every living thing, could come as a helpless infant boy?  “Good news of great joy that will be for all people” (Lk 2:10), the angel had announced.  This was no pipe dream.  These words were from the very mouth of God.  Her firstborn son was none other than the long awaited for Messiah, the promised Redeemer, God in human flesh and bone.  No wonder Mary kept all these words and pondered them in her heart.

You and I can do no less on this holy night.  For when all is said and done, there is nothing else to say or do that could add the smallest luster to this day.  This is the Mystery in the Manger: God in diapers, here among us.  God in a crib – who some 30 years later will be God on a cross, made to be sin for us that He might remove forever the curse of sin and the sting of death.

This little baby, so cute and innocent, so meek and so mild, came for one purpose, and one purpose only.  He came for you, and he came for me.  Those cute little feet, with those tiny little toes (you know, the kind that we take ink prints of and put up on our nursery walls or on infant

t-shirts), would soon walk the dusty paths of this earth, be anointed with tears, and be pierced with nails for you, and for me.  Those cute little hands, with those cute little fingers, would soon be fashioning furniture, healing the blind and the lame, feeding the multitudes, and be stretched out and nailed to a cross for us.  Those swaddling cloths will be exchanged for a tunic that will be stripped away from his body, which will then be beat, spit upon, flogged, and crucified for you, and for me.  That cute little head will have a crown of thorns mashed down upon it causing blood to flow from head to toe for us.  That cute little mouth with those reddish rosy lips cooing in the cool evening Bethlehem breeze will before long cry out, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” as He hangs on the cross paying the penalty for your sin, for my sin, for the sins of the whole world.  Soon after that He will utter His final words, “It is finished!”

Finished!  Hmm.  Soon, in a few hours actually, the world will be finished with Christmas.  Everything will fade away.  The glitz and the glitter will soon be packed up and put away to be stored for another day, another year, actually.  The excitement of children and the happy glow of all that we’ve come to expect from this holy night is illusive and fast fleeting.  All too soon it’s come and gone.  But not this: Treasure in your heart the Mystery of the Manger, God made flesh for your salvation.  He comes for every soul distressed, and lonely, and grieving.  He comes for every wounded mind and heart.  He comes with peace that passes all understanding, with forgiveness, life, and salvation.  He comes for you…and you…and you…and you.  (Sigh) And for me.

Amen.  Come Lord Jesus.

 

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

The Beauty of Love

Text: 1 John 4:10   Theme: The Awesome Beauty of the Love of God — Pastor Don Mossman

Introduction

Away in the Manger, a favorite Christmas carol.  While in AA, I was a member of a Lions Club that had the tradition during the Christmas season of going to a lower income retirement residence to distribute a gifts and sing Christmas carols.  I was volunteered to choose and print a number of familiar Christmas carols.  One I chose was “Away in the Manger.  However, somehow the resulting title came out “Away in the Manager.”  Manager?  I had some explaining to do.

I.  Naughty or nice

     A.  Just look at the words.

  1. Now you might also call me a Grinch (or a Scrooge) by my choice of a non-favorite Christmas carol. That would be “Santa Clause is Coming to Town.”  Why you ask?  Well, let me explain.  (Read portions of lyrics)  I find it a little creepy that for 364 days of the year Santa Claus is checking on our bad deeds.  For youngsters, that can be a bit terrifying.  That applies to adults as well.  Yes, all those naughty things you’ve done are being recorded and brought up to the North Pole and Santa.  And he’s checking it twice!  Scary, isn’t it.  (Today he probably uses twitter, text, email, or Instagram…)
  2. And to top it all, there is apparently “Elf on the Shelf” characters that are Santa helpers.  Each night they zip up to the North Pole while you are sleeping to tell Santa about those “naughty” things you’ve done in thought, word, and deed, and thus earning those dreaded lumps of coal in your stockings.

     B.  We don’t need Santa or his elves to check who’s been naughty or nice.

  1. We’ve all been naughty, that is, we have failed to live the lives of God’s people who speak of Jesus as Lord and Savior. In our busy lives, some which may resemble chaos this time of the year, we forget the reason for the season.  It happens.
  2. Sign in kitchen “Love spoke here…” Family of four young children plus two adults.  Apparently, they needed the reminder among the children as well as adult parents.

II.  The love of God that erases all sin.

      A.  Reassuring Christmas cards

  1. We received a picture Christmas card from our son, daughter-in-law and three-year old granddaughter. Simple, yet expressing love.  Their daughter appeared comfortable, happy, and loved, yes, so very loved.  And there was no way that she could fully know the height, the depth, or width of the love that she generated in the hearts of parents and extended family. Yet she lived securely in the glow of that love.
  2. That’s the way it is with God’s love for us. We acknowledge the love, we welcome it, we speak of it, and it is warm and deep and real.  It is as beautiful as in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world…”   And with us, there is no way we can fully know the depth of the Father’s love or us 24 x 7, every day, every hour, a love that doesn’t change or diminish.  Christmas expresses and shares a picture of that beautiful love in the person of Jesus, born of Mary, born to the world.  See LSB, #425, When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, verses 1, 3 and 4.  “Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.”    

      B.  A love that does not diminish.

EG: Some months ago, I went into my stash of handwritten letters that I had received from my wife when we were dating.  Yes, I still have them.  I’ve read a few of them to her after dinner in the evenings.  On occasion my wife would say, “I said that?  No way!”  Letter after letter reminded us both of the love that we received from each other then and the love we now live in.  (By the way, all the letters I had written to her, she threw away.  Seriously!)  And we have had to be reminded of that love a few times in our lives.  As Shakespeare said in A Midsummer Night’s Dream “The course of true love never did run smoothly.”

  1. Our Lord Jesus will take your sins to the Father and say, “Here’s what I found, and here’s what I am going to do with them. I am going to pay for them, and take their names off the naughty list and place my name there instead. In exchange I will give them mercy, forgiveness, peace of heart and mind, and the promise of eternal life.”
  2. So today we bask in the beautiful love of God, a love that never wavers, flickers, or goes out. There is no one whom he doesn’t love, no one who has been so naughty that he would turn his back on them or deliver a lump of coal in the manger. No one!

Conclusion

In place of “Santa Claus is coming to town”, substitute “God loves me dearly.”  Read 1st and 4th verses.  Nobody telling on you or gossiping about your naughty behavior.  You are loved dearly.  Toss the elf on the shelf out the window.  Free up your children.  Free yourself.  “Unto you this day in the city of David is born a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.”

sdg

 

Are You The One?

Third Sunday in Advent, December 16, 2018 — Deacon Rex Watt

Zephaniah 3:14-20 / Philippians 4:4-7 / Luke 7:18-35

 

+ 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.

Have any of you read the Judith Viorst book, “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day?”  In it, little Alexander is having the worst day of his little life.  One thing after another goes wrong for him.  He went to sleep the night before with gum in his mouth and woke up with gum in his hair; when he got out of bed, he tripped over his skateboard, and then dropped his sweater in the sink while the water was running.  He could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.  Later, at school, his teacher Mrs. Dickens liked Paul’s picture of a sailboat better than his picture of an invisible castle.  At singing time, she said he sang too loud; at counting time she said that he left out the number 16.  At lunchtime, he discovered that his mother had forgotten to give him dessert.  It was just one thing after another, all day long.  It was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.  Little Alexander didn’t have much reason to be Gaudete.

Have you had days like that?  I know I have.  Days in which it is impossible to Gaudete, to rejoice.  In our text today, John the Baptist doesn’t seem to have much reason to rejoice.  He is in prison.  John had been placed there because he called out Herod for committing adultery with his brother’s wife.  Prisons in those days weren’t like prisons today.  There were no TV’s, beds or showers, toilet facilities, libraries, internet access, medical care, or three hot meals a day.  Prison was essentially a dark, dank dungeon where you’d be chained to a wall, left to waste away.  If, and when death came, it was a blessing.

There are two schools of thought about John’s question to Jesus, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?”  One view believes that John is expressing doubt about whether Jesus is truly the Messiah or not.  The other view believes that John could not possibly have such doubts given his earlier proclamations about Jesus.  “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on Him…And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God” (Jn 1:29ff).  This view believes that John is sending these two disciples to Jesus for their benefit, not because he didn’t believe.  While the text doesn’t explicitly say which of these two views is correct, I tend to think that John is like you and me.  He was born of sinful flesh just as you and I were.  He has the Old Adam in him just as you and I do.  When we have terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days; weeks, months or years, we sometimes struggle in our faith, don’t we?  Why should we think John is any different?

I think John was struggling in his faith because he had the same expectations as the rest of the people concerning the Messiah.  While his earlier preaching did point out that Jesus was the Son of God, he also talked a lot about the axe swinging at the root of the trees; the wrath to come; the winnowing fork clearing the threshing floor and separating the wheat from the chaff; a baptism with holy wind and fire.  All that language was in line with the expectation of a coming Messiah who would rescue the people of Israel from the Roman rulers.  But Jesus wasn’t cooperating.  Jesus was going around and preaching about liberty to the captives and the oppressed.  He wasn’t raising an army; he was eating with tax collectors and sinners.  Are you the one, or shall we look for another?”

Jesus answers John’s question by His actions.  “In that hour He healed many people of diseases and plagues and evil spirits, and on many who were blind he bestowed sight.”  Then he told John’s disciples to go back to John and tell him what they had seen and heard, quoting two passages from the book of Isaiah: “the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the good news preached to them.”  Jesus pointed John back to the Scriptures to answer his question.  Scripture doesn’t tell us what John’s response to these words was.  Did he smile?  Did he shed a tear?  Did he dance for joy?  Maybe, like Mary, he quietly pondered these things in his heart.

The most important thing Jesus says in His response to John is, “and blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”  That word “offended” in the Greek means “scandalized.”  Jesus is saying, “Blessed is the one who is not scandalized by me.  Blessed is the one who does not stumble over my unwillingness to use power, my apparent weakness against the forces of darkness, my victory hidden in defeat.  Blessed is the one who believes what is written of me in spite of what he sees around him, who sees life in my death, who sees kingdom in my cross.”  Dear Saints of Redeemer, today listen to what Jesus says to John, and to you.

John’s struggle with doubt gives encouragement to all Christians, for all Christians struggle with doubt.  Doubts can have a variety of causes.  One of those causes is unmet expectations.  One reason we have doubts about Jesus is that He turns out to be different than our expectations.  Some of us expect Jesus to be the provider of all good things that we want: the giver of bling.  Some expect Jesus to be the healer of all that besets us or ails us, whether physical or emotional: the good therapist.  Some want a Jesus who is a social justice warrior.  Others want a Jesus who is a good moral example.  When you listen to some so called contemporary Christian music you might even think Jesus is your boyfriend.  You may be struggling to make ends meet.  Always seeing more bills to pay than resources.  You may be wondering why your Jesus isn’t supplying your every need.  Maybe that cancer has come back, that injury isn’t healing, your feelings of inadequacy or depression won’t go away.  You may be wondering why your Lord hasn’t relieved you of your suffering.  You look around the culture today and wonder where is God in all this mess.

Dear Saints of Redeemer, rejoice!  Gaudete!  As we heard from Zephaniah this morning, “The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst.”  This little baby, whose birth we will be celebrating in a little over a week from today is not only the King of the Jews, but is in fact the King of Kings.  Do not be fooled or scandalized.  Beneath the weak little legs of this Babe of Bethlehem is the power to crush the head of the devil.  Attached to the little thumb being sucked on, is the hand that will be nailed to the cross for your sin and for mine.

Everyone wants to have a little Jesus in a manger with their Nativity sets at home, but no one wants a crucifix (a cross with a body on it) displayed, either in their home, or God forbid, in their church.  My friends, you cannot have an empty cross until you have an occupied cross.  This little baby Jesus, who’s first coming we are getting ready to celebrate, came for one reason and one reason only.  He came for you!

He came to take away your spiritual blindness and give you eyes to see so that you would turn from darkness to light; He put His fingers into your ears so that you would hear the good news preached to you and believe; He has lifted your drooping hands and strengthened your weak knees so that you may no longer be lame but walk as children of the light; He has cleansed not only your leprous diseased flesh, but washed you with the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit; and He has raised you up with Him and seated you with Him in the heavenly places.  He did all this for you by His birth, life, death, burial and resurrection.  He is the one who is in your midst today.

With joy we listen to His Word…words we heard earlier today: “The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down” (Psa 146:8); “The Lord, is in your midst; you shall never again fear evil” (Zeph 3:15); “He will quiet you by His love” (Zeph 3:17); and, “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Php 4:7).

Blessed is the one who is not scandalized by the cross of Jesus.  Blessed is the one who has not seen yet believes.  Blessed is the one who sees the dawning Day in the darkness.  Blessed are you, trusting that Jesus is the One, who came, who comes, and will come again.  You need not look for another.  “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.”  Come Lord Jesus!  Amen.

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

Pointing to the Messiah

Text: Luke 3:1-20   /  Pastor Don Mossman

Introduction

It was like any other day at the mall, people hurrying around, shopping, buying, chatting, eating at the food court and sipping on their Starbucks coffees.  Then all of a sudden a young woman stands up and begins singing, Joyful, Joyful, We Adore You. Then a tenor adds his voice, joined by harmonizing voices all around the food court.  Then going up the escalator were four tenors, singing O Come All Ye Faithful.  They were joined by some 30 other voices arranged around the eating area.  By now, a large crowd had gathered to watch and listen.  Go Tell It on the Mountain was the next.  “Go tell it on the mountain, that Jesus Christ is born.”  As the crowd took pictures and videos of the flash mob, the choir began to sing O Holy Night.  It was at this time that costumed Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus made their way through the crowd to the central area.  Some onlookers had tears in their eyes; others huge smiles.  A spontaneous applause followed, and the people then slipped into shopping mood and dispersed.

For many in the food court, the carols of Advent and Christmas had warm and familiar meaning, but for others it was an unfamiliar story.  The carols pointed to Jesus.  Go tell it on a mountain, that Jesus Christ is born.  Indeed!  The flash mob was a voice in what one might called a wilderness, busy shopping mall prior to Christmas, pointing to the Messiah.

1. Another voice that God sent to the world

    A.  The voice of John the Baptist

  1. We hear the voice of John the Baptist, who spoke of a life to be lived in preparation of the coming of the promised Messiah. It was a real voice of a real man in a historical moment in time, asking the people to prepare their lives for the coming the Lord.
  2. Church officials came out to John to question him. Who was this man? They were expecting perhaps Elijah or that of the Messiah.  Malachi 4:5 says it this way: “See, I will send the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes.”  But John knew who he was, and he knew who he was pointing to, who was to follow him.

    B.  Today John the Baptizer puts us all on our backs and forces us to look admit the truth, we need of help in our spiritual lives.

EG: A few weeks ago, I was attempting to clean the gutters at my house of the leaves that had gathered there.  Most of you know the rest of the story.  I made some nice friends at the ER.  My wife, God bless her, was prepared to love me to the end!  Her words were, however, “That was a dumb thing to do.  Read my lips.  No more ladders.  Challenging words!  There are men out here I’m sure who have heard the same story.

  1. We are not the savior of our little world; and we are not in control of our lives, spiritual or physical. We are sinners.
  2. Those are difficult words. We are broken, flawed, and fragile human beings. It is as we confessed earlier- we are “poor, miserable sinners” before the sinless God.  And that sin will have to be acknowledged and paid for.

II.  The voice of God

      A. By faith you are what the voice of God ultimately says you are in Jesus.

  1. You are God’s redeemed and rescued child. You are the one your Savior draws near with the voice of grace and truth saying, I love you, I forgive you, I will protect you.  That’s what John’s voice declares to you.  You are a sinner, saved by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ – with a purpose in life. That’s who you are.

EG: If you’ve ever been to a McDonald’s Playland or a Chuck-e-Cheese, you know things can get a little chaotic for the kids.  This one youngster was afraid to get involved in the playground chaos.  So, Dad figured out a way to help his son.  He went in there with him.  Through the tubes, up the poles, in the ball pits, up the stairs; he stuck with his son.

      B.  In this challenging world we live in

  1. You’re that little child. Jesus is like that Dad. He’s right there in the middle of all of it with you.  Whether it’s sitting in a dentist’s chair or the doctor’s office, or with strings of lights that burn out right after you put them in the spot that’s hardest to reach, or through stress through finals and computer crashes, colds and flu, depression or cancer, even death and chaos, Jesus stands right there with you!  Right in the middle of your life is your Redeemer, your Savior, the miracle of God with you.

Conclusion   On a nine-foot tall painting by Matthias Grunewald entitled The Crucifixion, which was painted as an altar piece in Isenheim, Jesus is depicted on the cross with a collapsing Mary and St. John holding her up to this right, and Mary Magdalene kneeling, looking up to Jesus.  On his left is shown a lamb shedding its blood into the cup of blessing.  The lamb reminds us of John’s statement, upon looking upon Jesus, “Behold the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.”  To Jesus’ left is John the Baptist with an open book, pointing to Jesus.  The print behind reads, “I must decrease; he must increase.”  Thank you, John, for pointing us once again to the Messiah.

Blessed is He Who Comes

First Sunday in Advent /December 2, 2018 / Deacon Rex E. Watt

Jeremiah 33:14-16 / 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13 /Luke 19:28-40

+ 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.

When you were on a road trip with your family, did your kids ever ask, “Are we there yet?”  It seems that children march to a different drumbeat of time than parents do.  All they know is that they are on the way to Grandma’s, or maybe Disneyland, and they just want to be there.  They are not interested in the journey.  Their only focus is on the destination.  The Church and the World are like that too.  They march to different drumbeats.  To the world, it’s already Christmas.  And in case you haven’t noticed, it’s getting earlier and earlier each year.  I can remember when the first Christmas decorations in the stores came out after Thanksgiving.  Then they started showing up before Thanksgiving.  This year, I’m pretty sure I started to see stuff show up in the stores before Halloween!  It seems that they cannot get enough of Christmas.  But a Christmas without Christ is no Christmas.

But for the Church, it’s not Christmas yet.  Christmas is still four weeks away.  It’s Advent.  And by the way, in the Church year, Christmas officially starts at the Vigil of Christmas, known as Christmas Eve, and lasts for 12 days, beginning on Christmas Day.  Do you see how the Church and the world march to a different time?  To the world, Christmas is this ever increasing time of shopping that culminates on Christmas day.  The day after is called Boxing Day.  And while there appears to have been some sort of charitable basis for the establishment of Boxing Day, it seems to have devolved into the day you pack up all the Christmas decorations (since Christmas is over) and get on with life.  But for the Church, it’s not Christmas yet.  It’s Advent.

So, what is Advent?  Advent comes from the Latin word “Adventus” which means “coming, or arrival.”  It is the season of the Church year during which we turn our attention to the “coming” of Jesus.  You may be wondering about the texts for today’s readings.  If Advent is about the coming of Christ and precedes Christmas, shouldn’t we be hearing about the Virgin Mary; Bethlehem; a star; a manger?  Why are we reading about Jesus riding on a donkey into Jerusalem?  Dear Saints of Redeemer, the readings for this First Sunday of Advent lay the foundation for what we are going to hear for the next four weeks, and beyond.  They speak of Jesus’ coming to us, and for us; past, present, and future.

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah.  In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.”  The next verse following our Old Testament reading says, “For thus says the Lord, ‘David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel…’”  Jeremiah wrote these words some 600 years before the birth of Jesus.  Jesus came, as promised, to fulfill the promises God the Father made with His people.  Those promises began all the way back in the Garden of Eden, after Adam and Eve’s fall into sin, which plunged all of humanity, including you and me, into enmity with God.  The Lord gave this first promise when He said to the serpent in Genesis 3:15, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”  Later, the Lord promises to Abraham, “Through thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.” (Gen 22:18)  And in 2 Samuel 7:12 the Lord promises to King David, “I will raise up thy seed after thee, who shall build a house to my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.”  The Apostle Paul in the book of Galatians identifies this Seed, as Christ.

This Christ, this Jesus, your Jesus, comes riding into Jerusalem in our Gospel text for today, which also being read on Palm Sunday gives us a clue as to why we hear it again today.  This is Jesus coming into Jerusalem at the start of what is to become Holy Week.  He is coming to die.  Make no mistake about it, Jesus knows why He is here.  He is here to fulfill the prophecy of Zechariah which we heard in our Introit, “Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation…”  He is riding a donkey, not a war horse.  He is not here to overthrow the Romans, but to overthrow Satan’s rule over the world.  A thousand years earlier King David, on a donkey, rode out of this very city fleeing Absalom’s rebellion.  Today, Jesus, the true Son of David, is riding into Jerusalem to face the rebellion of sin, death, and the devil, and to give His life as a ransom for you, for me, and for the world.

We needed Jesus’ first coming.  Had he not come as the Babe of Bethlehem he could not have ridden into Jerusalem to fulfill God’s plan for your salvation and mine.  We are going to have plenty of opportunity to marvel at the Gift of God in the Incarnation of Christ in the weeks to come.  As we wait, let us not be like children who whine, “Are we there yet?”  Rather let us be like the Psalmist who wrote, “To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.  O my God, in you I trust: let me not be put to shame; let not my enemies exult over me.  Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame… Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths…for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.”

We need Jesus’ second coming.  In case you haven’t noticed, the world seems like it’s going to hell in a hand-basket.  That shouldn’t surprise you.  Paul wrote about it in the early chapters of his letter to the Romans.  Jesus has been talking about it for the past few weeks in our Gospel lessons.  He will come, as promised; just as He came as promised the first time.  And when He does, dear Saints, He will finally “establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father.”

In the meantime, as we reflect on Jesus’ first coming in the weeks ahead, and as we await his second coming whenever that may be, let us remember His promise to be with us always, to the end of the age.  Jesus comes to you today in the humility of His Word and Sacrament to deliver the fruits of His Passion: the forgiveness of sins and the promise of eternal life.  He comes to you in His living and active Word, whether you hear it proclaimed from this pulpit, read it on your own, or study it in Bible class.  He comes to you in the word of forgiveness pronounced in the Absolution each Divine Service.  He comes to you every time you remember your Baptism when you repent of your sins.  He comes to you in a most real manner when you partake of His body and blood here at the foot of this Altar.  This Jesus, your Jesus, who was born in a manger in Bethlehem; who rode into Jerusalem to be our sacrifice; who laid down His life on the cross for our sins; who rose in triumph to defeat our enemy: death; who ascended to the right hand of the Father, is the one who came for you; comes to you now; and will come to get you and take you to be with Him forever.  Blessed is He who comes.  Come, Lord Jesus.  Amen.

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

We Have A King, His Name Is Jesus

Text: John 18:33-37        

Introduction

Grace, mercy and peace from him who was, who is, and who is to come.  “We have a Pope!” is the announcement given by the Senior Deacon at the Vatican upon the election of new Roman Catholic Pope.  The announcement is given from the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, and for millions it has serious implications.

I prefer the announcement we have hear from this pulpit: We have a king, and his name is Jesus!” 

 1.Today is Christ the King Sunday, the last festival in the Christian Church year.

  1. Today we celebrate that Christ is the king of all creation, we believe Christ existed with God before all creation, and that Christ was the agent of creation.
  2. Today we celebrate that Christ is the ruler of all nations, ruler of all kings, queens, presidents and prime ministers, dictators and religious leaders. They all may have their moments in history and then fade away and die. Only one king outlives them and all the nations of history: Christ the King.
  3. Today we celebrate that Christ is the ruler of individual lives, that the kingdom of God is the primary teaching of Jesus when he lived on earth. Jesus wanted disciples to enter the kingdom.  He told parables about the kingdom and teaching about the kingdom and worked miracles about the kingdom.  Jesus wanted all people to be part of his kingdom.
  4. Today we celebrate Christ’s promised return on the last day, a day of supreme joy for all who call Jesus Lord, an event that has not yet occurred.

II.  In doing so, we look at the lessons for today for further definition of who we are talking about, namely the Son of man, whose kingdom will last forever.

  1. From our Old Testament lesson in Daniel 7, we hear the following words, Verse 9-10: “As I looked, thrones were set in place…“ Verse 13-14: “In my vision at night I looked, and there was one before me like a son of man…”
  2. Our Epistle lesson, (Revelation 1:4-8): read…
  3. Our Gospel lesson, (John 18:33-37) Jesus was brought before Pilate. We know from secular historian Josephus, that Pilate had ruled Judea for some 10 years.  In those years there were no less than 32 riots and upheavals from the people against the dominant Romans.  During the Passover celebration at Jerusalem, a time when the population of the city increased by thousands, Pilate came from his residence in Caesarea along with 600+ armed troops.  Pilate was nervous about this Jesus who had been brought before him.

EG: A pastor mentioned that his grandson told his mother at bedtime prayers, “I don’t need to ask God’s help with anything today.  I’ve got it all under control.”  Everything under control.  Really?

  1. In our gospel lesson, it appears that Pilate’s notion of being in control is challenged. Josephus, a secular historian of the time, notes that in a 10 year period of Pilate’s rule, there had been no less than 32 riots and upheavals in Jerusalem that had to be put down.  Once again his control as the Roman governor is being challenged by the powerful Jewish religious establishment.  They knew how to play hardball according to the world rules.  But you know who really challenged Pilate’s notion of his kingdom?

III. Question: Are you the king of the Jews?

  1. So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus before him and said to him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you say that of your own or did someone else.”
  2. Is Christ your king? Take that question personally.  Do you say Christ is King on your own, or do you say it because people around you say it?  Do you say Christ is King on your own or because everyone else is singing, “Crown Him with many crowns,” and you’re just singing along?  Am I a Christian when it is convenient, or am I a convicted follower of Jesus Christ?
  3. Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king? For this reason I was born and for this reason I have come into the world – to bear witness to the truth.  Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”  This is the Good News.  We are here, for whatever the reason, listening to the truth Jesus is giving us.  “I am the way, the truth and the life.”  No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)

Conclusion 

While the 2nd and final coming of Christ is a future event, it is present with Jesus.  The absolution we speak is a heavenly reality.  The Spirit who empowers that absolution is also a present reality.  The citizenship of heaven which is ours is no future reality, but a real and present thing to say about us.  The Word of God says that this is enough for this day.

Lo!  He Comes with Clouds Descending” LSB #336, 1 & 4

The One Who Endures

Twenty Sixth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 28) – Deacon Rex Watt

Daniel 12:1-3 / Hebrews 10:11-25 / Mark 13:1-13

+ 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.

Dear Saints of Redeemer.  We are nearing the end of the Church Year.  Next Sunday is the Last Sunday of the Church Year we call Year B in the three-year lectionary cycle.  We will transition from reading and hearing about our Lord Jesus’ second coming in the Gospel of Mark, and begin to read and hear about Jesus’ first coming in the Gospel of Luke as we enter the season of Advent.  But before we can begin Year C in the lectionary cycle, we need to come to the end of Year B.  We begin that this morning in the 13th chapter of Mark with Jesus sitting on a hill looking across the Kidron Valley toward the Temple, one of the great wonders of the ancient world.

Herod’s Temple, a refurbishing project of the temple originally rebuilt by Zerubbabel following the Babylonian Captivity, was some 35 acres in footprint, and took a little over 80 years to remodel.  While it was not “officially” listed as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, it  ranked right up there amongst the marvels of first century construction.  Some of the largest stones used to construct the Temple measured about 40 feet long, 8 feet wide, and 3 ½ feet tall!  No wonder the disciples were impressed.  As Jesus and His disciples were coming out of the Temple itself, they said to Him, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!”  And Jesus responded with words that shook them to the core, “Do you see these great buildings?  There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”

You know that those words took them by surprise.  There is no more discussion recorded until we see Jesus and His disciples sitting on the Mount of Olives, about a 25 minute walk from the Temple itself.  They were sitting there probably admiring the beauty of the countryside, the Kidron Valley, and the view of the Temple itself when four of his disciples could no longer hold it in.  They had to know!  They come to Jesus privately and ask, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are about to be accomplished?”  They wanted to know when, and how, it would all end.  And I’ll bet that you want to know too!

Jesus’ response wasn’t quite what the disciples were looking for.  And I’m willing to bet that it isn’t quite what you’re looking for either.  If the plethora of End Times programs, books, movies and podcasts are any indication, Christians are infatuated with the idea of the End.  We want to know which Blood Moon is going to be the last one before Jesus returns; we want to calculate the number of years since the re-founding of the Nation of Israel in 1947 to get a jump on the Rapture; we read our Bibles with the newspaper open to see what’s going on in the world and then try to fit current events into the Bible rather than let the Bible dictate how we see current events.

I think that the first sentence Jesus speaks in our pericope for today, and the last sentence, are key to everything He has to say both to His disciples and to us.  “And Jesus began to say to them, ‘See that no one leads you astray…. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.’”  My brothers and sisters in Christ; everything in the middle of those two sentences, is peripheral.  All the wars and rumors of wars; nations rising against nations; kingdom against kingdom; earthquakes, famines, persecutions; even family divisions are not the main point.  Jesus, your Jesus, does not want you to be led astray.  He wants you to be saved.

We certainly have our share of false prophets today.  But that’s nothing new.  Solomon wrote that there was nothing new under the sun.  Moses warned the Israelites over 3,400 years ago about the coming of false prophets and we read about them throughout the Old Testament.  Jesus warned about wolves coming in sheep’s clothing.  Paul wrote, “I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock.” (Ac 20.29)  The Apostle John wrote about the Antichrist (one who speaks against/falsely about Christ) saying that even at his time, “…many antichrists have come.”  False teaching, especially false teaching about the end times, has plagued the Church since it’s earliest days.  In our modern era we’ve seen William Miller, founder of the Adventist Movement, who predicted that Christ would return in 1843.

John Nelson Darby, founder of the Plymouth Brethren who created the Rapture doctrine and Dispensationalism which is prevalent throughout American Evangelicalism; Joseph Smith, founder of the Latter-day Saints (Mormons) who made numerous false predictions about building the New Jerusalem in Western Missouri and that the lost tribes of Israel would be restored; Charles Taze Russell, founder of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, who predicted the world would end in the battle of Armageddon in 1914; Hal Lindsay, who as a disciple of dispensationalism, wrote The Late Great Planet Earth where he claimed to detail the movements of the armies lining up for the great Battle of Armageddon, which would in all likelihood take place during the late 1980’s  (By the way, he’s still on television trying to figure out what went wrong!  I don’t suggest you waste your time!); Pat Robertson who claimed Christ would return in 1982; Benny Hinn who predicted Jesus would return in 1993; Harold Camping who predicted numerous dates; Rev. Sun Myung Moon, who claimed to be the Messiah; Jim Jones; David Koresh; and the list could go on!  Dear Saints of Redeemer, Jesus says to you today, “See to it that no one leads you astray.  But the one who endures to the end will be saved.”

“But how do I know if I will be able to endure to the end?” you might ask.  The temple in Jerusalem, that grand structure that had the disciples awe struck, didn’t last; it didn’t endure.  The Romans came in 70AD and sacked the city and tore the temple to pieces just as Jesus had predicted, leaving not one stone upon another.   But that’s the way it had to be!  Why?  Because the old had to give way to the new.  The Old Covenant must give way to the New Covenant; and Jesus is the New Covenant!

Our epistle readings for last week and this week show us who it is who endures.  We read last week that “Christ has entered, not into the holy places made with hands…but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.  Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own…But as it is, He has appeared once for all…to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.”  And as we read this week that the Old Covenant priests stood daily offering repeatedly the same sacrifices which could never take away sins, “…Christ…offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins…[by which] He has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. (and that’s you, my friends!)  And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us, saying, ‘This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord; I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.’”

My dear Saints, your dear Jesus came into the world and took upon His body all of your sins and lawless deeds.  He is the one who stood before councils, governors and kings on your behalf.  He is the one who was beaten, brought to trial and delivered over to death on your behalf.  It was His body that was nailed to the Cross, along with your sins, so that His shed blood could wash away all of your unrighteousness.  He was laid in the tomb and raised from the dead, so that when you are laid in the tomb, you also will rise from the dead.  All this He has done for you and now appears in the presence of God on your behalf.

The disciples in our text today were overly impressed with the Temple.  The people in Jesus’ day also were overly impressed with the Temple.  After Jesus had cleansed the Temple of the money changers and was challenged by the Jews who asked Him for a sign to prove He had authority to do such things, Jesus said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”   The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?”   But he was speaking about the temple of his body.”  (Jn 2:19-21)  Dear Saints, “see to it that no one leads you astray.”   Contrary to popular “Christian” teaching, there will not be a new Temple built, at least not with God’s approval.  Jesus is the New Temple.  And you, dear Saints, are part of that new temple, having been baptized into Christ wherein,

“…you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.” (Eph 2:19-21)

Unlike Herod’s Temple, which did not endure, Jesus endured all for you.  Because He endured to the end for you, you also, in Him, will endure to the end and be saved.  Amen.

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

On Being All-In

Text: Mark 12:38-44

Introduction

People watching is a favorite activity for many.  It happens in places like grocery stores, malls, sporting events, even churches.  Our text is a people-watching story. Imagine this setting: on one of the walls of the temple there were 13 offering boxes, about the size of a suitcase, made out of metal.  There were signs at each box, with a slit on the top where people could place their offering.  The signs may have said something like building maintenance, utilities, another for the rabbi’s salary, and for widows and orphans.  The room was jammed with people pressing to make their contribution as they saw fit.  It would have been great for people watching.

1. Outward manifestation of holiness is useless if the heart is not all-in on Jesus.

    A.  People watching at the temple

  1. In our text we find Jesus in the last week of his ministry in Jerusalem. He continues to be at odds with the religious leaders of the day, and the relationship is aggravated and testy.  Still, Jesus as a teaching rabbi, warns his followers about the scribes, who wore long robes as a mark of distinction so as people would notice and stand in awe of them.  They were not salaried and as such they lived off the generosity of benefactors to the point of usurping the homes of the poor.  They loved titles, honors, sought out the best seats at gatherings and banquets, and determined to be noticed with long prayers and association with men of greater rank.  They made sure everyone in the temple noticed their generous alms giving.
  2. Then came a little old lady. No one noticed her.  She was almost invisible to the busy, noisy crowd.  She approached the offering boxes.  Into one of the boxes she drops in two small coins, worth less than a penny.  Jesus whispered to his disciples, “Do you see that little old lady over there?  She gave her last penny from the abundance of her heart; she gave everything she had.”
  3. At other times of the day you might find her at a busy gate or corner in the city, begged for food or pennies to buy food. Whatever the circumstances, her faith internally shone, her faith trusted Jesus to look after her.

   B.  Other examples

  1. We notice that the widow of Zarephath in our Old Testament lesson did as asked by the prophet Elijah. She had only enough flour and oil for one more meal, and assumed she and her son would at die of starvation after this last meal.  Yet she bakes a pancake for Elijah, then for herself, then her son, knowing there would be nothing left after this meal.

EG: Grandma Schmidt lived a life that revolved around her reading of Scripture and a prayer life that was both admirable and praiseworthy, though she would immediately disagree with any positive commendation.  Her offerings were always $20 each Sunday out of a weekly budget of $100.  She was a woman of God, living each day as God gave it.  So many lives were touched – and changed – because of her being all-in with her trust and faith in her heavenly Father.  She was satisfied with her confidence in the Lord looking after her.

  1. The challenge to being all-in

       EG: It’s not that easy being green (Kermit) – see printout –

  1. How much is enough?

1. I do admire those stars of entertainment or sports who write checks for $100,000, and with some fanfare donate the money to a charity. If Bill Gates donates ten million to eradication poverty and disease around the world, that’s admirable.  Way to go Bill and Melinda Gates.  If the person who is homeless donates $10 and then needs to stand on a corner to beg for money for food, they will receive their reward.  And the widow’ mite, with no publicity, gives her all.

2.  The contrast in our text is clear. Among those who seek to serve God, there is the need to recognize that Jesus asks us to be all-in, to have full confidence in his direction for our lives.    We are the Lord’s, and that’s not because of degrees earned or awards received, or because of positions in society or amid a religious organization, but purely because of his grace and being right with him through the blood of Jesus Christ.

3.  But can we meet the example of the widow in our text? Jesus sees us as we are, be it green and easily blending in the world around you.

EG: Children’s drawings or crayon-colored art work displayed with pride by parents / grandparents and displayed on the refrigerator door – God notices the little things, he smiles, he treasures them, and he delights in them.  He sees us, imperfect as we are, and he smiles. That’s your life, that’s my life on the His refrigerator.

In conclusion I ask two questions: one question is easy and the other is hard.  The first question is easy: why was the widow so generous?  The second one is hard: What would it take for you and me to be like the widow?  Amen

sdg

Expectations

Twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 26) – Deacon Rex Watt

Deuteronomy 6:1-9 / Hebrews 9:11-22 / Mark 12:28-37

 

+ 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.  Amen.

Expectations.  Expectations are a part of daily life, aren’t they?  If you are employed, your boss has expectations about the quality and quantity of your work; and you have expectations that you will get paid fairly for your efforts and that your job will be there tomorrow.  If you are a student, your teachers have expectations about your attendance and homework assignments; and you have expectations that they will teach you things you will need to know in life.  If you are married, your spouse expects you to be a source of support and encouragement; and, of course, you expect that your spouse will reciprocate.  If you are a parent, your children expect you to drop them off to wherever they want to go, feed them, clothe them, and have an extra $20 in your wallet at a moment’s notice!  And you expect your children to behave and be nice.  Our lives are full of people who have expectations; expectations they want from us, or expectations they want us to fulfill.  And we have our expectations.  Everybody has expectations.

The people in Jesus’ day had expectations.  Some of them were expectantly waiting for the coming of the Messiah, the Christ.  Others, while in the back of their minds knew that their scriptures foretold a coming Messiah, had their own ideas about what that Messiah might look like.  When Jesus shows up on the scene, He didn’t exactly fit their expectations.  Our Gospel text for today is the conclusion of a string of questions and challenges and testing that various Jewish leaders put to Jesus.  It all started back in the 8th chapter with the Pharisees demanding a sign from Jesus to validate His claims.  They later questioned Him about divorce, paying taxes to Caesar, how to obtain eternal life and even what happens with respect to marriage after death!  Many questions were put to Jesus about various aspects of God’s laws.  Finally, in this last story of the string, a scribe, an expert in the Law, comes to Jesus and askes, “Which commandment is the most important of all?”

Here’s a guy who is the legal beagle par excellence!  Scribes were the experts in all things pertaining to the Law.  They knew not only the 10 Commandments by heart, they knew all 613 commands found throughout the Old Testament writings: the 248 positive commands (you shall do this!), and the 365 negative commands (you shall not do that!).  He had just witnessed the Pharisees, Herodians and Sadducees in their failed attempts to trap Jesus, and asks what appears to be an honest question.  “Let’s skip the small stuff Jesus and get right to the point.  What is it, bottom line, that God expects of me?”  And Jesus responds right out of our OT lesson, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your mind and with all your strength.  The second is this: you shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mk 12:29b-31).  Jesus sums up the entire 10 Commandments, and all the rest of the OT commands in this concise statement, “Love God; and love your neighbor.”

Sound familiar?  It should.  The explanation of the Small Catechism picks up on this and says this saying of Jesus distinguishes the two parts of the 10 Commandments: love for God (commandments 1-3), and love for neighbor (commandments 7-10).  Question 15 in the new 2017 edition of Luther’s Small Catechism with Explanation says, “The Ten Commandments are God’s Law, His good and loving will for the lives and well-being of all people” (pg. 53).  Then question 16 asks, “What is God’s will for our lives?”  And the answer is: “God wants us to trust Him above all else, to love Him, and to love our neighbor.” (pg. 53)

How are you doing with that?  Have you loved God perfectly today?  Have you loved Him with all your heart – so that there is nothing in this world you love or trust more than Him?  Have you loved Him with all your soul – so that there is nothing in this world you consider a higher good than your Heavenly Father? Have you loved Him with all your mind – so that this world offers nothing more exciting or interesting or important than the living words of God?  Have you loved Him with all your strength – so that nothing in this world is able to pull your eyes off the prize of God’s goodness?

And what about that second part – to love your neighbor as yourself?  Husbands, have you always loved your wives with the self-sacrificing love Jesus has shown his Church?  Wives, have you submitted to your husbands with the faithful humility with which the Church submits to the Lord Jesus?  Have you always given your employer an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay – or do you do as much as you can to do as little as possible to get by?  Students, do you do the same?  Have you shown the highest kind of love to your neighbor or family member who doesn’t know Christ by giving him/her the reason for the hope that is in you – or do you just keep quiet whenever the topic of religion comes up?

Dear saints of Redeemer, as we reflect on what Jesus tells this scribe, this expert in the law, and look at our lives in comparison, about all we can do is fall to our knees and cry out for mercy!  Neither you, nor I, have loved God today, or any other day for that matter, with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.  Nor have we really loved our neighbor as ourselves.  Oh, we can be pretty good at faking it – good enough so that people around us think that we are pretty good people.  But God sees our hearts; your heart, my heart.  He sees the self-centeredness and the selfishness that lives there by nature.  We fall short, and we know it.  This morning if you have come to the realization that you fall short of God’s expectations for you; if you have come to the realization that you cannot by your own efforts, reason or strength measure up to God’s requirement that you “Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength,” if you have come to the realization that you need a Savior; you, like the scribe in our text, are not far from the kingdom of God.

The scribe, upon hearing that he was “…not far from the kingdom of God” said no more.  In fact, the text tells us that no one said anything more!  I guess they were comfortable with just being close, at least closer than those other folk.  As if close is good enough.  My dear saints, close is only good enough in horseshoes, hand grenades, and atomic bombs.  With the kingdom of God, you are either in, or you are out.

As we saw a couple of weeks ago, what is impossible with man, is possible with God.  Upon seeing that no one dared to ask Him any more questions, Jesus poses a question to them, “How can the scribes say that the Christ is the son of David?  David himself, inspired by the Holy Spirit, declared, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, sit at my right hand, till I put thy enemies under thy feet.’  David himself calls him Lord; so how is he his son?” (vss.35-37)  Jesus poses this question to them to get them to see that the Christ, the son of David, is also the Lord.  The Christ will not be a mighty warrior come to throw off the shackles of Roman rule, but the God-Man; Lord of heaven and earth, and son of David, a man after God’s own heart.

And so, Jesus came; God in the flesh.  He came to do the impossible.  The very One who demands perfect love from us; the very One who knows that we cannot render that love, has responded by showing His perfect love to us.  He showed us that perfect love by becoming one of us, by placing himself under all the same divine expectations that you and I are under and by placing himself alongside the same people you and I call neighbor.  He showed us that perfect love by living a perfect life of perfect love, by loving God with all His heart, His soul, His mind and His strength; and by perfectly loving His neighbors in our place.  He showed us that perfect love by taking all our loveless acts, all our half-hearted devotion onto Himself – and then offering Himself as the perfect payment for all our sins.  “He entered once for all into the Holy Place, taking not the blood of goats and calves, but His own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption” (Heb 9:12).  That blood of Jesus, shed on the Cross for all of your sins, was applied to you in the waters of your Baptism.  Your Lord Jesus Christ has secured your eternal redemption and brought you into His new covenant so that you “may receive the promised eternal inheritance”  (Heb 9:15).  My dear Saints of Redeemer, you are not just “close” to the kingdom of God, you are “in” the kingdom of God, because your Jesus has walked in the law of the Lord for you; He has kept His testimonies, sought Him with His whole heart, was forsaken by His Father so that you won’t be.  To Him be praise, glory and honor now and forever.  Amen.

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

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.

 

 

Losers Win

Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 20) / 23 September 2018 / Deacon Rex Watt

Texts:  Jeremiah 11: 18-20 / James 3:13-4:10 / Mark 9:30-37

 

+ 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.

Dear Saints of Redeemer, Jesus’ ministry is changing direction.  For the first 7 ½ chapters of Mark’s gospel we see Jesus going about His public ministry preaching, teaching, healing, feeding the hungry and performing miracles over nature.  The disciples witness all this activity, and when Jesus asks them what do they hear the people saying about Him, they tell Jesus that the people think that He’s either John the Baptist come back to life, or Elijah, or maybe one of the prophets.  Then when Jesus asks them what they think, Peter answers, “You are the Christ.”  Finally!  Someone gets it!  Or do they?

When Jesus then begins to teach them what it means to be the Christ; that the Christ must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed; but will rise again after three days; Peter, who made this great confession says in effect, “No way Jesus, we’re not going to let this happen to you!”  You’ve heard the story before.  You remember how it goes.  Jesus responds to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”  Peter was certainly having his ups and downs.

Shortly after Peter’s downer, Jesus takes Peter, James and John up a high mountain by themselves, and there Jesus is transfigured before them, and when they had come down from the mountain they came upon the scene which was the gospel lesson for last week.  A man had brought his son to Jesus for healing, and since Jesus wasn’t around (He had been up on the mountain) the man asked the disciples to cast out the evil spirit.  They couldn’t do it.  So, Jesus steps in, and does what Jesus does; he saves the day.

Our gospel lesson for today picks up after that event.  Jesus again takes His disciples on a road trip, off by themselves.  He wanted to be alone with them because He wanted to teach more about His future, His plans.  “What do you think boys?  Peter, James and John heard Me speaking with Moses and Elijah about my departure.  They heard My Father’s voice.  Suffering, death and resurrection is going to be the way I go; and the way you will eventually go too.  Sound like a plan?”

Well, no, it didn’t sound like a plan.  It sounded like a crazy man talking.  They didn’t understand and they were afraid to ask Him; probably remembering the last time Jesus brought this up and how Peter spoke up and Jesus ‘put him in his place.’  Besides, they had other things to talk about rather than all this dying business.  You know…like who among them was the greatest.  You can almost hear their discussion; Peter says, “I’m greater because Jesus chose me first!”  John says, “I’m greater because I’m the disciple whom Jesus loves the most!”  Judas says, “I’m greater because Jesus trusted me with the finances.”  James says, “Wait a minute fellas, I was up on the mountain also!”  They all had their arguments.  Can you just see it?  Here is Jesus talking about the cross and His disciples are preoccupied with glory.  Jesus is looking to lose His life for the world, and His disciples are angling for power positions in the kingdom.

Isn’t this how it always is?  Even among us?  The Apostle Paul resolved to know nothing in his preaching and teaching except Jesus Christ and Him crucified, and we want to hear anything but this death and resurrection talk.  We want to hear 10 steps to a better marriage; 9 ways to be a better parent; 8 steps to a more abundant life; 7 steps to financial security; 6 steps to spiritual growth; 5 things you can do to improve your prayer life; 4 ways to improve our sex life (really!); 3 easy steps to be a better witness; 2 things you can do to support your church; but the one thing we don’t want to hear is all this talk about us being sinners and that Jesus suffered on our behalf, died our death, and was raised for our life.  We don’t want a dead and risen Jesus, we want a power Jesus, a Jesus who will make us great and successful, a Jesus who will make us winners.

Isn’t that how we think?  We want to be first.  First in line, first to be the one who gets to go at a 4 way stop, first to be chosen on a team.  We want the gold medal, not the silver or bronze.  And heaven forbid we should settle for a participation ribbon.  We admire winners and look down on losers, and if God can help us become winners, then that’s the kind of God we will follow.  Failure is not an option.

We want our kids to be winners too.  We want to give them the best opportunities, the best education, the best of everything so they will turn out great.  It’s a competitive world out there.  We’ll do whatever we need to give them the edge.

But Jesus has an entirely different plan.  Not power, but weakness.  Not glory, but a cross.  Not the greatness of winning but the greatness of losing, losing His life for you, laying down His life as our ransom from Sin, Death and the Devil.

To make His point, Jesus takes a little child and puts him in their midst, and says, “You want to be great in the kingdom?  Then bend down and receive this little child, because when you do, you will be receiving Me, and not just Me, but My Father who sent Me.”

The impact of what Jesus is saying may be lost on us a bit.  We idolize childhood, glamorize it, coddle it, and even prolong it.  Children have become the most important persons in our modern society, assuming of course that they make it past abortion.  It’s all about the children.  But it wasn’t that way in Jesus’ day.  Children were considered among the least of society.  Dependent, helpless, time and energy consuming.  You couldn’t wait for them to grow up, to become productive members of society; to marry off your daughters or put your sons to work.

Yet Jesus places Himself precisely in the position of a little child.  To bend down and receive this child is to receive God’s Child, the Child born of a virgin and found in a manger in Bethlehem, the Child who will become the man of sorrows, the Child who hung on a cross for you, the Child who is the servant who suffers for the salvation of His enemies, which include you and me.

Do you, like the disciples in our text want to be great in the kingdom?  Then don’t be like the disciples!  You must become small and insignificant.  Do you want to become a winner in God’s eyes?  Then you must become a loser in this world of “winners.”  God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.

Isn’t it interesting that we often end our lives much the same way they began?  We become as children again – dependent on others, not terribly useful.  Some today even suggest that those lives have no value.  They want to remove those lives in much the same way they remove the lives of the unborn.  No matter how great we once were in life, no matter how much wealth we had, how many degrees we earned, houses we owned, people we supervised; in the end we become as helpless as children.  And finally, in our death, we become the least of all, which brings us right back to where Jesus was going all along – to death and the grave; to resurrection and life.

Billionaire Ted Turner, the media mogul, who admitted that juggling four girlfriends was “easier than being married” (and he ought to know, he’s been married three times), once said, “Christianity is for losers.”  While he was making it plain what he thought of Christianity, he could not have been more correct!  To be baptized dear Saints of Redeemer, to be a Christian, is to be a child of God.  Did you get that?  A Child of God!  Like that little helpless child in the midst of the disciples, utterly helpless, totally dependent on Jesus who has His arms wrapped around him, Jesus wrapped His arms around you at your baptism.  He gave you faith, and you have come to believe.  To be a child of God, baptized and believing, is to lose your life in order to save it, to become nothing so that Christ can be everything, to die in order to rise, to be joined to Jesus in His death, burial and resurrection.  You, dear Saints of Redeemer, losers in the eyes of the world, have already won.

Faith doesn’t ask who is the greatest.  Faith looks to Jesus up on the cross and says, “There!  That’s greatness!  That’s what it means to be great.”  And through the cross of Jesus, faith looks out into the world and sees Jesus precisely where the world would not look: in the least, in the lost, in the little, in the child.  May God grant us this kind of faith.  Amen.

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

This sermon is based off a sermon delivered by Rev. William Cwirla at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Hacienda Heights, CA on September 23, 2012, and modified by Deacon Rex E. Watt.

Lord I Believe, Help My Unbelief

September 16, 2018  / Pastor Don Mossman  / Text:  Mark 9:14-29                    

Introduction

His name was Traugott Dalke, member at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Aldergrove.  He was a simple man, semi-retired, living on a small farm with his wife and disabled daughter on out edge of town.  Traugott was a man of faith who didn’t put on airs.  So when I visited him in the hospital after a heart attack, he greeted me with a smile.  I remember his words in the ICU.  He said, “I know who has called me by name and made me his own.  I know who had come into my life at baptism, and I know who I belong to now, in this hospital.  “So, Pastor Mossman,” he said, “While in my life I have had my questions and doubts, I know that “whether I live or I die, I am the Lords.”  His faith was much more than a spark or bent reed; his faith was comparable to a blazing furnace.  Today, Traugott is with Jesus, not because he reached a particular level of righteousness he had earned, but solely because of Jesus.

Her name was Elizabeth Morrison.  We called her Aunt B or Beth.  One visit that Valerie and I made, she asked me, “Donnie,” what about death?  I do believe in Jesus, and you know, I think I’ve been a pretty good person, lived a pretty moral life and did my share of charity work.  What do you think?  Is it enough.”  I was given an opportunity to remind her of a faith that she had been baptized and confirmed in at Grace Lutheran Church, Calder, SK.  Now 80 years later, she’s questioning Jesus.  Her doubting faith was similar to the confused father who had brought his son to Jesus to be healed.  Can you help us or not?  And his prayer is similar to many of us who have had occasion to pray, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.”

  1. The reality in which we live.

          A.  The questioning of the followers of Jesus

  1. Jesus, Peter, James and John had just returned from Mt. Transfiguration. They come upon a number of people arguing with the disciples.  When the crowds saw Jesus, they ran to meet him.  Jesus asks, “What’s going on?”  What are you arguing about?”
  2. Then a distraught father, even with his doubts about Jesus, steps forward and says, “Teacher, I have brought my son to you. So I asked your disciples to cast out the demons, but they were not able to do so.”  “Can you do anything for me?”  Jesus: “If I can?  Are you kidding?  I can and I will.”  All things are possible for the one who believes.  Immediately the father cries out, Lord, I believe; help my unbelief.

B.  The questions surrounding us and within us

  1. If you were to believe that human efforts help save us, you would among 50% of Americans who claim Christ as Savior who do.  I haven’t always been the example that some people look to for guidance and direction.  I question at times whether God is concerned about our society, our country.  And my prayer life is erratic at best.  Marriages fail, loved ones die, and the results of the medical tests are not what I wanted to hear.  Lord, if you can do anything to help me, can you do it?
  2. We are a long way from the NT times. Things are different today.  Jesus doesn’t walk among us now.  So the question presses us, Can Jesus help us or not?  Does he have any authority over what afflicts me the most?

2.  The faith in which we live

A.  Jesus’ total willingness to be involved in our lives. 

  1. In my life I have been blessed to work with and to walk beside some giants of faith. They have served as district presidents, teachers, professors, mothers, fathers, and certainly pastors.  There are giants of faith among us here at RLC.  Nevertheless, not all of God’s people are giants.  The men and women described in Isaiah 42:3 are those whose faith is as a bruised reed or a smoldering wick.  They are people whom Jesus loves and whose faith at times wobbles and wonders.
  2. Lord I believe. Can you help me?  I have had the privilege of answering that question with the authority of the resurrected Lord.  The Jesus who now lives and reigns in our hearts and in heaven, in whose name we began this service and with whose blessings we will leave this service, can do and does what he says.  He has the authority to forgive you of all sins and he has.  You were given that promise in Baptism, you receive it as from our Lord Himself in Holy Communion.  So your sins cannot separate you from God.  That means that your weakness, your troubles, your sorrows, only have a short season to live.  They do not, they will not reign endlessly.  Jesus reigns.  No authority in heaven or on earth will stop him. “Nothing will separate you from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.“
  3. We recognize our unworthiness, but at the same time we recognize it is not dependent upon the greatness or smallness, the weakness or strength of one’s faith. “Though devils all the world should fill…”  LSB #656, vs 3.  One little word, namely Jesus.  It is dependent upon the power and love of Jesus, the constant in our inconsistent lives.

Conclusion

E.G: Trimming shrubs here at RLC; forgot battery for trimmer.  Used Ross Abbe’s electric trimmer.  Proceeded to cut the extension cord.  No power whatever the source.  We need to stay connected through the power of the Word etc.

 

The Greatest Gift You Can Give

Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 18)  (September 9, 2018)

Isaiah 35:4-7a / James 2:1-10, 14-18 / Mark 7:24-37

By Deacon Rex E. Watt

 

+ 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.

At one time or another every parent has probably wondered, “What is the greatest gift I can give my child?”  Think about it.  What would that gift be?  Would it be a well rounded education?  If so, then special effort would be made to live in a community with good schools, to provide music or dance lessons, encourage sports activities, and the like.  Would it be a happy and pleasant childhood?  Then I suppose special effort would be made to spend quality time with your children, provide a home life with minimal stress and conflict, and plan exciting family activities and vacations.  Maybe it would be a life free of health concerns.  If so, you are like the Syrophoenician woman in our Gospel reading for today.  She wanted health for her daughter.  She had probably been to all the Hellenistic trained doctors in her area – and the Greeks were known for their advances in medical studies; after all, Hippocrates “the father of modern medicine” and his followers were all Greek – yet to no avail.  When this itinerant Jewish rabbi came to town, she sought him out.  She would do anything she could to provide good health for her child.  I would suppose that today we would be sure that annual checkups were made, would plan healthy home prepared meals and be sure our children got sufficient exercise.  I think most parents “would give anything” for their children to receive a good education, enjoy a happy, safe and healthy childhood.

What is the greatest gift you can give your child?  I am going to suggest that it is more than a well rounded education, a happy and pleasant childhood, or even good health.  As important as these may be, I suggest to you that the greatest gift you can give your child, no matter how young or old they may be, is Jesus.

That sounds too simple, doesn’t it?  It’s the standard Sunday school answer to every question, right?  Right!  It is!  And it is exactly what every child of Adam and Eve need.  Your children, my children, no matter how young or old they may be, need Jesus.  Jesus is going to say in not too many verses from now, “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?  For what can a man give in return for his soul?  For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” (Mk 8.36-38)  What good is the best education in the world if in the end, the brightest and best among us end up in hell?  What good is a happy and pleasant childhood, and life, if in the end Jesus says, “I never knew you; depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” (Mt 7.23 & 25.41)

You’ve made a good start.  You brought your children to the font and made sure they were baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit; the name of the Triune God.  There, at the font, you gave them Jesus.  There, at the font, your children were re-born, “born again, from above” with the water and the word just as Jesus explained it to Nicodemus.  You have accomplished for your children one-half of the Great Commission, as it is commonly called.  But there’s more.  Just like after you gave natural birth to your children, you nurtured them by feeding them, clothing them and providing shelter for them; you nurture your little ones spiritually by bringing them to church, Sunday school, maybe even VBS and Confirmation class. Your children have received a good start, you have received a good start.  At the font, in Baptism, the forgiveness of sins that Jesus won for the whole world has been given to you, personally; and to your children.  But that’s not all there is to the Christian life.  After we read in Acts 2:38-39, “Peter said to them, ‘Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  For the promise is for you and your children…’”, we read in Acts 2:42, “And they devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”  After baptism comes community; comes instruction; comes worship.

Today is Rally Day, a day when we focus on the second-half of that Great Commission.  You will see on display out in the social area all kinds of ministries and opportunities to be involved with in the communal life of Redeemer Lutheran Church.  As baptized believers you have been brought into the communal life of the Church (capital “C”), as well as the communal life of Redeemer.  Take a look around and see where the Holy Spirit may lead you to share in that communal life.

Part of that life, a big part of that life, is Christian education.  Not only for your children, however old or young they may be, but for you yourself.  Those early Christians “devoted themselves to the apostles teaching.”  When you come to church, when you bring your children to church, you hear the Word of God read and you hear the Word of God proclaimed; and, God willing, you hear the apostles teaching.  You hear that God has created you and all creatures.  That God provides for all that you need to support your body and life.  That He defends you and protects you.  That He does all this, not because of any merit in you, but out of His own fatherly divine goodness and mercy.  That Jesus has redeemed you, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won you from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; all with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death…all for you.  That the Holy Spirit has drawn you into the holy Christian church, the communion of saints; given you the faith to trust in the Gospel of Christ which is the power of God unto salvation; and keeps you in the one true faith.

Peter proclaimed on that first Pentecost day, “the promise is for you and for your children…”  You are here today because someone brought you to the font; someone shared the Gospel with you; someone taught you the faith; someone prayed for you.  Someone gave you the gift of Jesus.  Maybe you feel as a parent that you haven’t done as good a job as you’d like to have done in spiritually nurturing your children.  Maybe you feel that you, yourself, haven’t been spiritually nurtured as well as you’d like.  I’ve got good news for you my friends.  It’s never too late.  Today is the day to begin.  “Now is the time of God’s favor,” says Saint Paul.  “Now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor 6.2)  The Word of God that you expose yourself and your children to, the Word of God that you teach your children is the one thing that will truly last forever.  “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the Word of our God endures forever” writes Isaiah. (40.8)

I don’t often get into spiritual discussions with my clients at the funeral home.  Recently, however, a client shared his burden with me that his dying wife was not a believer.  He had become a believer in Christ later in their marriage.  She was a scientist, a medical professional.  She mocked his faith.  He prayed for her continually; he didn’t know what else to do.  As he made pre-arrangements in light of her terminal condition, he shared his story with me.  It brought him some comfort to find out that he was dealing with another Christian.  We made her arrangements, and as we then do, we waited.  Finally her time came.  When he came back in to see me and schedule the rest of the details, he was in tears, tears of joy, because his prayers were finally answered.  Shortly before her passing she confessed her belief in the Jesus he had previously shared with her.  No, my friends, it’s never too late.

Long after you and I are gone and our children have raised their children, and have seen their children’s children come to the baptismal font of life, nothing else will matter but that we have taught our young ones to know Jesus Christ as their Savior from sin.  Nothing else will matter – certainly not the money we saved, the businesses we ran, the houses we lived in, the education we received, or the friends and memories we made.  None of that will matter.  The only thing that will matter will be the Gospel – the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ, which brought life to us and to our children.  That is the greatest gift you can give to your child; the gift of life, real life, eternal life, in Jesus Christ .  Amen.

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

 

 

Appearances Can Be Deceiving

Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 17)

Deuteronomy 4:1-2,6-9 / Ephesians 6:10-20 / Mark 7:14-23

By Deacon Rex E. Watt

“Appearances Can Be Deceiving”

+ 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.

Dear Saints of Redeemer.  Appearances can be deceiving.  A young mouse begged his mother to let him take his first look at the world outside the mouse hole.  “Very well,” she answered, “but don’t stay long, and come back and tell me everything you see.”  The little mouse had not been gone five minutes, when he came dashing back into the mouse hole as fast as he could run.  “My dear, whatever happened?” asked his mother.  “Oh, mother,” said the little mouse, trembling all over, “there are such strange creatures out there!  First I saw a pretty animal, with soft, striped fur and yellow eyes.  When she saw me she waved her long tail as if she were glad to see me.  But then I saw the most terrible monster!  His head was all red, and his feet had long claws.  And when he saw me, he opened up his mouth and let out a horrible shriek of ‘Cock-a-doo-dle-do!’  I ran away as fast as I could.”  “My dear,” said his mother, “that pretty creature you saw was a cat, and she likes to eat young mice like you for dinner.  And that terrible monster was nothing but a rooster, who only eats seeds and grain.  Next time you go out, be more careful, and remember never to judge others by their looks.”  [The Cat, The Rooster, and The Mouse; Aesop’s Fables]

Yes, appearances can be deceiving.  Some of you have probably encountered situations where appearances were deceiving.  The house you purchased may have looked really good to you when you first walked in, but over time you discovered hidden problems that cost you a bundle of money to fix.  Maybe it was that used car you bought that turned out to be a lemon.  We’ve all heard stories about art forgeries, counterfeit designer clothing, purses, and watches.  We’ve even read stories about people who try to pass themselves off as one thing only to discover that it’s all a sham, like Rachel Dolezal, the former President of the NAACP in Spokane who claimed African-American heritage despite being born to white parents.

It’s a theme we see all around us in our modern culture.  People wanting to look successful, or caring and compassionate, maybe even pious when they really are not.  It’s not just a modern thing.  It’s what we’ve been seeing in our Gospel lessons for several weeks now.  People following Jesus only because they wanted more bread for their belly, but not the Bread of Life for their soul.  Religious leaders who are more interested in following the letter of the Law, rather than the Spirit of the Law.  I’m sure you’ve met people like that.  I have.  I’ve been one of them.  Maybe you have too.

Jesus, in our Gospel text for today, gets to the heart of the issue, no pun intended!  After chastising the Pharisees and scribes for being hypocritical in their application of the Law, Jesus calls the people to him and tells them “There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him,” but it is “the things that come out of a person [that] defile him.”  When the disciples get Him alone, they ask Him what he meant by this.  Jesus goes on to explain in a little more graphic detail that people like the Pharisees, like the disciples themselves, like you, and like me, focus on the external, rather than the internal.

We are just like the Pharisees!  We put on a pretty good show.  Jesus called the Pharisees “whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness.” (Mt 23.27)  Like the Pharisees, we are quick to notice, and maybe even comment on the external sins of others rather than the sins that lurk deep within ourselves.  You know what those sins are which lurk deep within your hearts.  Jesus rattles off a list that brings embarrassment and shame to each one of us.  “Evil thoughts; sexual immorality; theft; murder; adultery; coveting; wickedness; deceit; sensuality; envy; slander; pride; and foolishness.”  How many of those sins have you committed this week?  This weekend?  Today?  This morning since you walked into this church?  “All these evil things come from within [out of the heart]” Jesus says, “and [it is] they [that] defile a person.”  The Pharisee’s problem, your problem, my problem isn’t whether we wash properly before we eat (although that is a good thing to do; and I don’t want any of you young people to go home and tell your moms and dads that Deacon Watt said that it’s ok not to wash your hands before dinner!); our problem isn’t whether we wash properly, or what we eat or don’t eat, whether we go to church on the “right” day of the week, dress in the right clothes, don’t drink, dance, smoke or chew and don’t go with girls that do!  Our problem is our heart.

Our hearts, your heart, by nature is evil and corrupt to the core.  We call this condition, Original Sin.  We inherited it from our first parents, Adam and Eve.  Paul writes in Romans 5, “Therefore just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.”  Death was the ultimate penalty for Adam and Eve’s sin, and the fact that all mankind experiences death is evidence that we all inherited this Original Sin.  David wrote in Psalm 51, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.”  David was not confessing that he was born out of wedlock.  There is nothing in scripture that gives any indication of that.  He was confessing that from conception, he was a sinner, a person infected with Original Sin.  Many people think that they are a sinner because they sin.  Scripture teaches, as does our catechism, that we sin, because we are a sinner. (LSC Question 20; 2017 edition)  Did you catch the difference?  I’ll phrase it a little different:  Are you a sinner because you sin?  Or do you sin because you are a sinner?  You, dear saints of Redeemer, sin because you are a sinner.  And that’s a problem.

Jesus tells us in our text that there is nothing from outside of us that by going inside can defile us or make us unclean.  He also tells us that the things inside of us, in our corrupt and evil hearts, defile us and make us unclean.  It is our natural state according to scripture.  What on earth can we do?  Nothing!  It takes something completely outside us to wash us clean on the inside.  God looked at His heart, not ours, to devise a plan for our salvation.

It wasn’t anything inside us that paid for our sins – no good, pure thoughts of the heart, no outward action that would please the strictest Pharisee.  It was the God of Heaven, infinitely above us, completely outside us, in the person of Jesus Christ, who came to earth and took on our flesh, your flesh, your corrupt sinful flesh, and paid the price for your sin by giving His life for you, and me on the Cross.  Look away from yourselves, and all the masks and fronts that you put up to impress people and hide your sins, and look to Jesus – up there on the Cross – see His pure, undefiled, sinless heart broken, pierced through for your sin, my sin, the whole world’s sin.

And then, the Holy Spirit, from outside us, comes into our sinful hearts and brings the cleansing balm of Jesus’ death on Calvary’s Cross.  He comes to us in the waters of Baptism, which washes away our sins in a miraculous way.  He speaks to us, not in a whisper from within (our sinful hearts could play all kinds of tricks on us with that!), but in God’s external Word – in the preaching you hear from this pulpit; in the words of absolution spoken to you after your confession of sin; when you hear, read or study the Bible – and that Word declares you clean, pure, holy, forgiven.

And there is something else from outside you that you can receive into yourselves which will cleanse your hearts.  Every time you come to this Altar and receive the true Body and Blood of Jesus, your Jesus, He purifies you and brings you forgiveness so real that you can taste it and touch it.  Here, like Moses, you stand on holy ground.

Dear saints of Redeemer.  Appearances can be deceiving.  But you, who have been baptized into Christ have been clothed with His righteousness.  You have put on Christ.  You are clothed in His armor and are “able to stand against the schemes of the devil.”  You have not only put on Christ, you have Christ in you – literally.  When you stand before God the Father on the last day, there will be no deception of appearance.  When He looks at you, He will see His Son, Jesus, and say, “Welcome home.”  Amen.

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