Sermons

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.

“No Loophole”

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

Introduction

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

1. Our text reveals clash of law and gospel

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

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

2.  An example of love and commitment.

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

sdg

Walk as Children of Light

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

Introduction

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

I.  Shining light in the darkness of life

A.  Jesus walked among those living in darkness

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

II.  Shine Jesus, shine

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

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

Conclusion

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

 

I Am the Bread of Life

Pastor Don Mossman

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

Introduction

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

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

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

          A.  Confusion as to what Jesus means

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

sdg

Our God Rains…for You!

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

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

Our God Rains…for You!

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

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

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

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

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

We need the bread that gives eternal spiritual life.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The Eye (I) of the Storm”

Tenth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 12); July 29, 2018 / Deacon Rex Watt

Genesis 9:8-17 / Ephesians 3:14-21 / Mark 6:45-56

+ 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.  When things are going good in life, we often say life is like “smooth sailing.”  But things don’t always go good in life.  When we encounter things in life that are not so good, we’ll say that we are going through some “rough waters.”  And if something really bad happens, we may even say that we are in the “midst of a storm.”  Some of you this morning might be experiencing smooth sailing.  Others of you may be going through some rough waters.  I know that there are more than a couple of you who are in the midst of a storm.  I want all of you to know today, that wherever you find yourself, Jesus is here.  He is with you.  He’s “in your boat.”

Our sermon hymn, “Jesus, Savior, Pilot Me” was written by the Rev. Edward Hopper in the 19th century when he was pastor of a New York church for mariners.  Not the baseball team!  While his parishioners often experienced the literal perils of the sea, many Christians have come to love this hymn, which speaks metaphorically of Jesus guiding us through life.  “Jesus, Savior, pilot me Over life’s tempestuous sea; Unknown waves before me roll, Hiding rock and treach’rous shoal. Chart and compass come from Thee.  Jesus, Savior, pilot me.” (LSB 715:1)

These days, when many of us fly more often than we sail, Jesus as our pilot might suggest a different image.  In the old days, ships often found themselves trapped in the midst of storms that suddenly blew in.  Nowhere to go but to ride them out.  When you fly, radar can often enable the pilot to avoid such storms, and then guide the aircraft around them altogether.  I suppose we’d all like our Jesus to be that kind of pilot, wouldn’t we?  But it doesn’t work that way in life, does it?  No, it does not.  Our gospel lesson for today tells us that Jesus doesn’t steer us clear of every storm, but He is right there with us in the middle of them.

In the larger context of our gospel lesson for this morning, we see that Jesus’ disciples had just returned from their first ministry journey, successfully casting out demons and healing many who were sick.  That story was the Gospel lesson from three weeks ago.  It had been a long day, and Jesus, as you heard in last week’s Gospel, urged them to, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.”  And so they did.  However, their “R & R” was short lived.  As soon as they got to their “desolate place” they were inundated by an army of people.  After Jesus had taught them, he fed them, 5,000 men, plus others.  Can you imagine how long it must have taken Jesus’ disciples to distribute fish and bread to over 5,000 people?  Let alone taking up the baskets full of leftovers!  It had been a long day indeed.  A really long day.

Our text for today picks up at the end of that really long day with Jesus sending his disciples back into the boat and instructing them to go before Him to the other side, to Bethsaida.  The disciples do what Jesus asks.  Then Jesus goes up to a mountain to pray.  Surely Jesus, who created the wind and rain and sea, could arrange for some “smooth sailing” for his disciples after such a long day.  Jesus was praying alright, but apparently not for fair weather!

Jesus does not steer us clear of every storm in life.  He’s not the airline pilot.  Contrary to some of the popular books in Christian bookstores, Jesus didn’t come to give you your best life now.  Your best life is going to come later!  This life, the life we have now, here, in this flesh, is sometimes filled with not only rough waters, but downright storms.  And the reason for that my brothers and sisters, is Sin.  Not just your own personal sins, which may indeed cause rough waters or storms in your life, but Sin, with a capital “S”.  We live in a fallen world.  There is no promise anywhere in Holy Scripture where we, as Christian people, are exempt from the trials and tribulations of this world.  We Christians suffer the same illnesses, the same diseases, apparently the same divorce rate, and the same percentage of car crashes as the rest of the population.  And last time I checked, we die at the same rate (100%) as everyone else too!  And our deaths are not particularly less painful or easier than the deaths suffered by unbelievers.  No, Jesus doesn’t steer us clear of every storm in life.

The disciples were in the boat.  They were doing what Jesus had told them to do, but they were “making headway painfully, for the wind was against them.”  Now you’d think that a boat with at least a third of its occupants, if not half, who were professional fishermen would be able to weather some rough water.  But this storm was getting the best of them.  The Gospel of John tells us that when they had rowed three for four miles, Jesus comes to them walking on the water.  When the disciples saw Jesus, they cried out in terror, for they thought He was a ghost.  “But immediately” our text says, “He spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart; it is I.  Do not be afraid.’ And He got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased.”

You may be going along in life, doing the vocation that Jesus has given you to do when storms arise.  Sometimes, they blow in out of nowhere; like an acute medical condition that throws you for a loop; or a diagnosis that you didn’t want to hear.  Sometimes, they are the result of your own doing, or maybe I should say your own undoing; like a failure to live according to God’s Commandments.  Sometimes it’s Sin (capital “S”) that brings those storms; sometimes it’s your own sin that brings those storms.  Just as the disciples were struggling mightily against the wind and the sea, you struggle in the midst of your storms.  But I want you to see something in our text that I believe is God’s word for us today.  Jesus came to the disciples; He spoke words of peace and comfort to them; and He got into the boat with them.

Jesus came to the disciples.  He not only came to the disciples, He came “for” them.  Had He not come to them, they’d probably still be rowing their boat ashore!  They’d been rowing for hours and making little headway.  And you, while you travel through this storm we call life; with its rough waters; its squalls; and even its hurricanes, Jesus comes to you.  God sent His Son, your dear Jesus, into your flesh, your sin-soaked flesh, to rescue you from your certain doom.  This Jesus, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and buried, for you.  And it didn’t end there!  As the Apostle Paul wrote to the Romans, “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification” (Rom4:25), this Jesus, your Jesus, rose from the dead, ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty.  From thence He will come, not only to judge the living and the dead, but to you, for you, right now, in the midst of your life’s storms.  Just as God delivered Noah and his family through the waters of the flood; just as Jesus came walking on top of the stormy waters to his disciples; Jesus comes to you in the waters of your Baptism to deliver you from death to life.  He takes waters of peril and waters of destruction and turns those waters into a water of life.  Yes, Jesus came to, and for, His disciples; and also He comes to you…and for you.

When the disciples cried out in fear, Jesus spoke to them the comforting words of the Gospel.  “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”  Can there be any more blessed and comforting words than these?  Do you remember when you were a child and you experienced your first major thunder and lightening storm?  You’d been put to bed and the lights were out.  Loud crashes of thunder and bright flashes of lightening had you scared stiff.  You cried out for your parents and your mother came into the room and said, “It’s OK honey, mommies here. You don’t need to be afraid.”  Or maybe you were the parent in this scenario, and as you spoke those words you saw the calm come over your child.  Jesus says to you today, in the midst of your storm, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

“It is I.”  In the Greek, this phrase is “ego eimi” which are the same words as the famous “I Am” sayings of Jesus.  These are the words that God spoke to Moses at the burning bush when Moses asked God what His name was.  “Then Moses said to God, ‘If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, “The God of your fathers has sent me to you,” and they ask me, “What is his name?” What shall I say to them?’”  God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.”  And He said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” (Exodus 3:13-14)  This Jesus, who came walking on the stormy sea toward his disciples, is none other than the God of creation who created water in the first place.  A few chapters earlier, on a previous crossing of the sea He spoke the words, “Peace! Be still!” and there was a great calm.  A little later on He spoke the words, “Little girl, I say to you, arise” and He brought a dead girl back to life.  Last week He spoke some words over two fish and five loaves of bread and fed over 5,000 people.  Today, He speaks these words, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” not only to the disciples in the boat, but to you.  Your Jesus, the creator of all creation; the One who has conquered sin, death and the devil all for you, comes to you right in the middle of your storm and says, “Peace! Arise! Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

When I was in the Air Force, I did my electronics training at Keesler AFB in Biloxi, Mississippi.  Back then the main purpose of the base was electronics training.  Today, Keesler is home to the US Air Force’s 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, better known as the “Hurricane Hunters.”  Their mission is to fly right into the heart of all kinds of tropical storms, including category 5 hurricanes to gauge their power and movements.  From what I understand, it’s quite the ride into and through the storm, right up until they enter the eye of the storm.  In the eye of the storm, it’s perfect calm.  Brothers and sisters in Christ, Jesus is the “I” of your storm.  Jesus, the “I am”, is with you in the midst of your storm, whatever it is.

 

Mark tells us that when Jesus got into the boat with them, “the wind ceased.”  For the disciples, when Jesus entered the boat, their nemesis was defeated.  When you, dear Saints, received Jesus, your nemesis was defeated.  The real storm of your life: Sin, death and the devil, has been defeated.  When Jesus hung on that Cross on Calvary, nearly 2,000 years ago bearing the sins of the world, your sins, my sins, He was defeating your nemesis, my nemesis.  When He cried out, “It is finished.”  It was!  Believe His words to you today, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”   He is with you.  He’s in your boat.  He will get you to the other side.

“When at last I near the shore And the fearful breakers roar Twixt me and the peaceful rest, Then, while leaning on Thy breast, May I hear Thee say to me, ‘Fear not, I will pilot thee.’” (LSB 517:3)

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

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

 

 

“Compassion In Action”

Pastor Don Mossman

Text: Mark 6:30-44           Theme: Compassion in Action

Introduction

The story is told of a seminary student who was invited to give his first sermon before his home congregation.  The gospel reading for the Sunday was the miracle of the feeding of the 5000.  The young man was honored and took the opportunity to write his best sermon and to commit it to memory to do a commendable job of preaching before friends, parents, grandparents and the curious of course.  He stepped up to the pulpit in a dramatic fashion and said, “Jesus took 5000 loaves and 2000 fishes, and he fed five people!”  He also had the leftovers picked up.  He paused dramatically and continued, “Could you do that?”  At that point everyone roared with laughter, and he couldn’t imagine what was going on.  Finally, the pastor stood up and explained to the young seminarian what he had done wrong.  Of course, the congregation and pastor was very forgiving and said, “Look, everyone makes mistakes.  Forget about it.  You work on your sermon and next Sunday try it again.”  Next Sunday the young seminarian begins again: “Jesus took five loaves and two fish and fed 5000”.  Then after a dramatic pause he asks, “Could you do that”?  At which someone from the congregation stood up and said, “Sure, I’d do it with the baskets of food left over from last week.”

  1. He has compassion on them
  2. Like sheep without a shepherd
  3. The disciples had just returned from the Galilean towns and countryside after speaking of the kingdom of God and casting out demons. According to vs 30, they give Jesus a report of their many activities. After hearing the report, Jesus wants to get them away for a little R&R.  “Come away by yourself to a desolate place and rest awhile.”  So they get into a boat to sail to a quiet, restful place on the shores of Lake Galilee.  But the crowds somehow had determined where Jesus would make land and run ahead of them.  Before the boat even got to shore there was a huge crowd waiting for Jesus.  When Jesus went ashore “he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.”
  4. He had compassion on them. Now there is a difference between “feeling sorry” for someone or something, and “compassion”. When I see those commercials sponsored by the SPCA and those sad-looking dogs and cats, I’m moved almost to tears.  Or, when we see some child hurting on TV, one of my possible responses might be, “poor kid.”  Compassion, however, is more than feelings; it means suffering with someone in the other person’s misfortune to the extent that deeds of mercy begin.

EG:  Shakespeare – The Merchant of Venice, Act IV, Scene 1) – see quote

  1. And that is the kind of mercy and compassion Jesus has on people. His mercy is such that sinners are forgiven, the lost are found, and the hurting in body and soul are nourished and fed.  The religious and political leaders of the day, the scribes, Pharisees, lawyers and Sadducees weren’t shepherding their people.  Rather they left the flock to predators of sin and despair and false hope.  There was no mercy there.  There was no involvement in their lives.
  2. They Smell Like Sheep 
  3. A few years’ back I read a book written by Dr. Lynn Andersen entitled They Smell like Sheep. It was written especially to challenge clergy to set aside the illusion of professional ministry in order to do the difficult and dirty, yet, ultimately beautiful work of living with and loving God’s people. I other words,  spend your time among the sheep, following them, leading them, protecting them, loving them, in order to fulfill Christ’s commandment to “love one another as I have loved you.”
  4. And feeds them spiritually and physically
  5. Mission and ministry. 
  6. The presence of Jesus among the crowds should not surprise us. He loves leads and rescues.  And as those so loved are given the ultimate taste of compassion imaginable – victory over sin, death and given the ultimate gift of eternal life with him in heaven.
  7. Our response is to love as he loves, how he loves us and the crowds. Jesus is concerned for the whole person, soul as well as body. It’s tempting to think that we as individuals or as a small congregation we are too small to make a difference.

EG: Remember the story of the starfish on the ocean shore?  – Person goes along ocean shore picking up starfish and throwing them back in the ocean.  Stranger watching.  “You can’t make a difference to starfish.  There is a mile of shoreline to address.”  Person picks another up, throws it into ocean and says, “Made a difference to that one.” 

  1. RLC has stepped-out to make a difference, as small as it is: Ferndale Food Bank, Lighthouse Mission, and Compassion, Prayer Shawls, Quilting for people in Bellingham and around the world, Prayer warriors, Love, Inc., and others who perform individually outside of the congregation or without recognition. We do have a number of people at RLC who smell like sheep.

Conclusion

Jesus smiles and says, “Bring what you have to me.”  He’ll take us, blesses us, breaks us for his purpose, and then give us to the world for the benefit and healing of many in body and soul.  Praise God that he called us to receive his compassion, his mercy.  With him there is always enough to go around – enough compassion, enough forgiveness, enough of Jesus for every heart and soul.

sdg

 

“Not Good Enough, but Special”

Eighth Sunday after Pentecost, July 15, 2018

Text:  Amos 7:7-15 / Ephesians 1:3-14 / Mark 6: 14-29

+ 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,

Travel back in time with me, if you will.  Let’s go back to our elementary or junior high school days.  Let’s go back to the playground at recess or the gym class.  You all remember the event.  It’s game time and the teacher has picked two people to be team captains.  You weren’t either of them.  The game was going to be dodge ball or some other such game.  Each captain got to pick their team members one by one, alternating between the two captains.  The best (or maybe most popular) kids got picked first.  Then the so-so kids got picked.  Last of all, if at all, you got picked.  You weren’t a first round pick.  Not even a second round pick.  Maybe not even a third, fourth or even fifth round pick.  Heck, maybe they didn’t even pick you at all.  You weren’t good enough.

Whether it’s a game at recess or gym class; or getting a part in the school musical; or being selected for that promotion at work, or being put in charge of that big project; each one of us wants to be chosen.  Whether picked for the team, picked for the play, or picked for that particular task at work, in this world, being picked says something about who we are.  It gives us a sense of identity, of belonging.  In many ways, being chosen means you’re special.  And we all like ‘being special.’

When we are not picked, when we’re left out, it implies that for some reason we don’t measure up, that we are not good enough.  If we measure things by the world’s standards, it’s easy to get the feeling we don’t make the cut.  If we cannot afford the right clothing; don’t drive the right car; don’t look beautiful or handsome enough; aren’t smart or in the know about all the latest trends, then we feel like we don’t measure up; we aren’t good enough; heck, maybe we don’t even belong.

Well, dear saints, I’ve got some bad news for you today.  You, and I, don’t measure up.  We are not good enough.  We don’t make the cut.  When we get right down to it, none of us is special enough to be chosen by God.

How do I know this?  If you’re like me…you’ve broken every one of God’s commandments sometime this past week.  Each one of us has plenty of moments we can recall when we’ve failed to live as God created us to live.  We may have a particular sin – or even many sins – we’re so ashamed of that we’ve never admitted them to anyone.  I’ve got those kinds of sins.  And I think you do too.  And those sins, separate us from God.  Make us His enemies.  Keep us out of His presence.  In fact, they prove that we are not “good enough” to be in God’s presence…let alone be chosen by Him.

But then we read the words of St. Paul in our text this morning from Ephesians.  These are words of good news!  Let’s look a few of these verses in the first paragraph.  Follow along with me and focus on who, exactly, is the subject in these verses.  Pick out who’s doing the action in each sentence:

(v 3), He has “blessed us”; (v 4), He “chose us”; (v 5), He “predestined us”; again, in (v 6), He has “blessed us”; (v 8), He “lavished upon us”; and (vs 9), He “set forth”.  Notice that in each of these verses, it is God who is doing the action.  He is doing the choosing.  He is deciding who belongs to him.  And on what basis is He doing the choosing?  It is not that we were holy and blameless to begin with, and for that reason God took a liking to us and chose us.  No, far from it!  He chose us when we had no righteousness to offer.  In fact, Paul says He chose us before we were born, before the world even existed!  God chose us, Paul says, not because we were holy and blameless, but He chose us to be holy and blameless.  “In love,” (v 5), “He predestined us for adoption to Himself as sons through Jesus Christ.”  “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses” (v 7).  He chose us – sinners that we are – in order to make us righteous in Christ.

Why are we chosen?  God chooses us for one reason and one reason only.  Hard as it may be to believe, it isn’t your good looks or your smarts or your good deeds that led Him to choose you, or me!  Instead, he chose you—as he chooses each of us—based not on our merits, but on the merits of Christ, which are freely given to us.  Freely credited to us.  By faith, we are made His.

In Jesus—through our faith in His life, His death, and His resurrection—God loves us and chooses us.  Therefore, we belong.  He’s the captain, and He has made us a part of His team, part of His family.  And if you look in the Bible, you’ll see story after story where God chooses someone to be His, not because they are so worthy, but simply because He loves them.

In our Old Testament lesson for today listen again to the words of Amos when he had been accused of conspiring against the king, “Then Amos answered and said to Amaziah, ‘I was no prophet, nor a prophet’s son, but I was a herdsman and a dresser of sycamore trees.  But the Lord took me from following the flock, and the Lord said to me, “Go, prophesy to my people Israel.”’”  It was God who chose Amos.  Look at David, a scrawny shepherd boy, who later in life would have a man killed in order to steal that man’s wife.  Still, God chooses him as king, and as forerunner to Christ.  Or look at Paul himself.  Persecutor of the early believers, hands covered with the blood of the first Christians.  Still, God chooses him to be an apostle to the world.  Did God choose these men because they were so good?  No, he chose them because He loved them and wanted them to be His.

In the paragraph the precedes our Gospel lesson for today, (which was part of the Gospel reading for last week) we see the twelve disciples being sent out two by two.  Not exactly pillars of society, these men.  Still, Jesus sends them out into the world armed only with His authority.  And as the disciples go out, they do great things.  Not because they are great people, but because they belong to Him.  As Luke records this event, he tells us that when the disciples returned they were really excited about all the things they had done: demons were cast out, the sick were healed.  But Jesus tells them that they shouldn’t be so excited about the great things that they could do.  They should rejoice instead that their names are written in the book of life.  Rejoice, He says, because you belong.

I invite you to close your eyes just for a moment so that you can visualize a scene from the past.  The distant past.  A time, in fact, before time even was.  In the vast emptiness before creation, God alone existed.  And before He ever said, “Let there be light,” He chose you.  Paul says, “He (God) chose us in Him (Jesus) before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him.  In love He predestined us for adoption to Himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will” (vv 4–5).  Before you were born—before anything was—God chose you.  That makes you special—special to Him.  He wrote your name in the book of life, for He wants you to be with Him forever.  What a source of joy!  What a source of comfort!  To know that we are His, both now and forever, solely because of our faith in Jesus.  You are that special to Him!

 Do you remember the Disney Pixar movie Toy Story?  It centers on a group of toys that belong to a young boy named Andy.  And of all his toys, Andy’s favorite is a cowboy named Woody.  How do we know this?  Because Andy has written his own name on the bottom of Woody’s foot.  It was a mark of ownership.  But we also see that it is a sign of Andy’s love too.  His love for Woody.  Later in the movie, the new toy, Buzz Lightyear, is also marked on his foot by Andy, showing that he, too, is loved.  That he, too, belongs.

In the same way, we have been marked by God in our Baptism, having been claimed by Him as His own possession.  But more than just a possession, for God’s mark also clearly shows His love for us in Jesus.  Yes, at our Baptism, as we were marked with the sign of the cross on our forehead and over our heart, and then as water was applied with the name of the triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, it shows us that we belong to God, just as St. Paul wrote, “You were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance” (Eph 1:13–14).

Some of you may have noticed that at certain times in the worship service—during the Invocation, the Creed, or while receiving Communion—some of the people follow the ancient custom of making the sign of the cross.  The sign of the cross is a reminder of our Baptism.  For as one remembers his or her Baptism, they are reminded that they’ve been sealed with the Holy Spirit, and therefore they belong to God.

One last time, dear saints, I invite you to close your eyes just for a moment so that you can visualize a scene.  This one’s in the future.  You are on your deathbed, and you know it’s almost time for this life to come to an end.  As you lay there, you think back on where you’ve been and what you’ve done.  But mostly you think about where you are going.  And a smile comes to your face… because you know.  There’s no “I hope I was good enough,” but “I know that I will be with Jesus, because He died for me and He chose me to be His forever.”

Are we good enough to be chosen?  No.  But because of Jesus, who gives us His perfection, we are chosen.  Let us therefore praise “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (v 3).  Why?  Because we belong . . . we belong to Him!

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

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

Sermon written by: Rev. Dale O. Snyder, pastor, Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, Wichita Falls, Texas, for Concordia Pulpit Resources, Vol 28, Part 3, Year B, 2018; modified by Deacon Rex Watt.

Pastor Don Mossman

Text: 2 Corinthians 12:1-10, Ephesians 2:8-9   Theme: Saved by grace, beautiful grace

Introduction

While a student at Concordia College in Edmonton, we had a delightful classmate named Grace Huber.  We kidded her that, because we were saved “by grace”, we should always hang out together.  Silly when you think back to those days, and rather immature on our part.  But ironically, I’ve never forgotten her name, certainly because of the major theme of Lutheranism, of Christianity really, that we are indeed saved by grace, beautiful grace, without the deeds of the law.

The word “grace” comes from the Greek “xaris” which essentially means undeserved kindness or divine favor.  It’s a word that is used in different ways today, as in Grace Lutheran Church / Blaine, or in a sentence as “how kind of you to grace us with your presence” or something you say at meal time, a person’s name, and of course, the spiritual perspective – being saved by grace.  The word is used 155 times in the NT, and rightly so.  It is that which God’s grace lives in us, below us, ahead of us, behind us.  Anything we have is because of his grace.  We are justified by grace, we are made holy by grace, and we will be glorified unto all eternity because of his grace.

  1. Thorns in our lives
  2. Man is born into trouble.
  3. Job declared, “Man is born into trouble as sparks surely fly upward.” (Job 5:7) And the apostle John (16:13) has reminded us, “In this world you will have tribulation, but take heart, I have overcome the world.” Physical suffering is tough. As someone said, growing old isn’t for sissies.  There is pain out there, and/or in our lives at this point in time. EG: My brother-in-law loves hot chili peppers.  So much so he grows his own, believing store-bought chili peppers won’t have the hotness he loves.  He says he loves a little pain in the chili con carne he makes.  He doesn’t, however, grow or use the Carolina Reaper (world’s hottest) pepper, which is said to be 500 times hotter than tobacco sauce and will melt the skin of your face.  Even the name itself scars me.
  4. The challenges of life come upon us regardless of age. Illnesses, surgeries, loneliness, depression – Christians are subject to these even as we confess Jesus as our Lord and Savior. I’ve never said, “Come on Lord, send me another trial.”  They come without invitation.  Personally, I don’t like trials, but God doesn’t excuse me.  We know that whom the Lord loves he chastens.  Perhaps we’ve all had different reactions to that truth.  “Why do you love me so much Lord”?
  5. The thorn of sin. Destroys the soul…
  6. Paul’s challenge
  7. Paul had a broken heart when he wrote this second letter to the Corinthian Christians. He had received a severe blow to his ministry.  You see, he had spent two years among them preaching and teaching, establishing them in the true faith.  But when he left for other mission fields, false teachers swooped in among them and discredited the Paul.  His teaching was despised by those who were seeking to crush the gospel and not a few of his former church members.  Some slipped back into the religion of the Corinthians, which included temple worship with prostitutes, false gods, cheap grace that they could easily live with.
  8. So he defends himself, reminding them that, if need be, he could tell them of all the hardships he had endured for the sake of the gospel. And he shares that to keep him from being filled with pride, God sent a “thorn” (“skolops” – not a rose bush throne, but a stake used to impale the flesh, an “angelos”/messenger from Satan, a demon.  Conceit, arrogance, self-importance, all possible distractions from humility and reliance upon God.  Paul asked for this thorn to be taken away a number of times, but God’s gracious response was, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.”  You see, this thorn, this suffering, kept him humble, kept him dependent on God, and gave occasion for the showering of His grace upon Paul.  Temptation of every age: if God doesn’t show his power over my affliction, then he is not good enough to be my god.
  9. Costly grace
  10. Dietrich Bonhoeffer: The Cost of Discipleship: cheap and costly grace
  11. He believed there was a natural tendency for people take grace for granted, and can entertain themselves with “cheap grace”. He writes (see quote…).
  12. A friend whom I had invited to worship said” “Why this heavy confession in your services? I can’t acknowledge that.  I’m not a poor, miserable sinner.”  But our sin is as deep as the roots of sin can go.
  13. And so we have our confession and the absolution, the announcement of full and total forgiveness as if Jesus himself were speaking. I’ve often said with humor and joy in my heart that we ought to have a trumpeter announce the absolution by the pastor as if by Jesus himself.
  14. The lavishness of grace, the excess, never-ending outpouring of grace
  15. Lamentations 3: 19, 22-23: “Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall! But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: the steadfast love (grace) of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
  16. John 1:16 – “And from his fullness we have all received grace upon grace.”

 

Conclusion

Look at LSB #809: Great is thy faithfulness

 

sdg

“Faithful From Beginning to End”

Sixth Sunday after Pentecost / Deacon Rex Watt

Lamentations 3:22-33 / 2 Corinthians 8:1-9,13-15 / Mark 5:21-43

“Faithful from beginning to end”

 

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

 

Dear Saints of Redeemer,

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

Have you ever been at your wits end?  Have you ever been at the place where you have lost all hope?  You know, the place where you have tried everything you know how to do, or what to do, but to no avail?  If so, then I have a word from the Lord for you today.  The Lord is faithful.  His steadfast love never ceases, and “His mercies never come to an end.”

Maybe today you are struggling with health concerns like the woman in our gospel lesson.  She had had “a discharge of blood” for twelve years.  Now that’s a chronic condition!  She had gone to physician after physician after physician, all to no avail.  She not only sought a second opinion, she got a third, and a fourth, and so on.  Nobody could help her.  She had spent her entire life savings looking for a solution, and our text says she was no better off, “but rather grew worse.”

Maybe you are like Jeremiah in our Old Testament text today.  In the wider context of our Old Testament lesson, Jeremiah was lamenting the “state of the union” so to speak.  His people had been taken captive by a foreign nation, the Babylonians.  The glory of Israel was gone.  Things were not like they used to be.  God’s people were suffering.

Or maybe you are like Jairus this morning.  You have a child, maybe a grandchild, or some other family member who is suffering a life threatening illness.  Maybe it’s not an actual physical illness, maybe it’s a spiritual illness.  They have wandered from the faith.  You see them slowly slipping away and you are afraid that they will eventually deny the faith altogether and spiritually die.

The Lord’s word for you today, dear Saints of Redeemer, is just what Jesus told Jairus, “Do not fear, only believe.”  Why?  Because, the Lord is faithful.  His steadfast love never ceases, and His mercies never come to an end.”

The Lord is faithful.  Not man.  The woman in our gospel lesson had put her faith and trust in the wrong place.  She had for years placed her faith and trust in the physicians.  How do we know that?  She had gone to one after another.  If one couldn’t help her, she sought out another, then another and another.  It’s where she spent all her money.  Oh, I know, and am sure that physicians in her day had fees, just like they do today.  But she spent everything she had seeking their help.  Scripture tells us, For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  She had put all her money, and her hope in the wrong place.  The physicians had become her idol…her god.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I am not slamming the medical profession.  Lord knows that Dee and I have had plenty of experience with them recently.  As have many of you.  We thank God for the many gifted people who serve their neighbors in the complex field of modern medicine.  But our faith and trust, your faith and trust, should not be in the physicians of this world; faith and trust should be in the Great Physician.

Jesus is the Great Physician.  He is the faithful physician who never mis-diagnoses the illness.  He is the faithful physician who never prescribes the wrong medicine.  He is the faithful physician whose treatment plan is always a success.

Unlike the physicians of this world who practice an art learned, and diagnose illnesses of the body and mind, Jesus is the physician who gets at the root of the problem, Sin.  Please do not misunderstand me.  I am not saying that you are struggling with illnesses of mind or body because you committed some sort of sin.  While in some cases that may be true; the reason we struggle with diseases of mind and body is because of Sin with a capital “S”.  We live in a fallen world.  Original Sin, the result of Adam and Eve’s disobedience in the Garden of Eden infects each and every one of us.  It infects all creation according to the Apostle Paul.  It is the reason there is sickness and death.  The only true cure for all sickness and death, is to be free from Original Sin.

Jesus as the Great Physician not only diagnoses the problem, He cures the problem by shedding His own blood on your behalf.  He takes the medicine of immortality, His own life blood, and pours it out on the cross, for you.  You and I, not only because of our actual sins, but because of Original Sin deserve to die.  But God shows His great love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  Jesus the great physician came into this sin sick diseased world and took on our human flesh, your flesh, to become sin on your behalf.  He took that sin, your sin, my sin, the sin of the whole world and nailed it to the Cross.  And in exchange for that sin, Jesus the great physician gives you that medicine of immortality, his life blood.

Every other Sunday, as you gather at the foot of this altar, Jesus gives you his body and blood, the medicine of immortality.  As pastor recites the Words of Institution, we focus our attention on the phrase: “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.”  These words show us that in the Sacrament forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation are given us through these words.  For where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation.  How, you may ask, can simple eating and drinking do such great things?  Our catechism teaches us: “Certainly not just eating and drinking do these things, but the words written here: ‘Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.’  These words, along with the bodily eating and drinking, are the main thing in the Sacrament.  Whoever believes these words has exactly what they say: ‘forgiveness of sins.’”  Yes, dear Saints, the Lord is faithful.  Do not fear, only believe.

The Lord is not only faithful; His steadfast love never ceases.  This is hard for us to wrap our brains around.  Our love is so conditional.  God’s love is unconditional.  Our love is always tied up with how we are thinking or feeling about that person or thing, the object of our love.  God loves.

There are so many verses that talk about God’s steadfast love, and so many examples of Him demonstrating that love that it seems superfluous to recall them.  Suffice it to say that none of us, neither you, nor me, deserve God’s love.  There is nothing lovely about us at all.  And that’s just the point!  God loves.  Neither the woman with the flow of blood, nor Jairus deserved God’s love.  He, out of His mercy chose to demonstrate it to them.  Our text says that a great crowd had gathered around him, and “thronged” him.  Jairus and the woman were not the only persons what wanted Jesus to do a miracle in their lives.  But those two, out of the large crowd of maybe hundreds, were the ones Jesus demonstrated his love toward.  In a similar way, out of the multitudes, Jesus through the Holy Spirit, has extended His love toward you and called you by the Gospel to be His own.  Paul says that he whom the Lord calls, He justifies.  And he whom the Lord justifies, the Lord will glorify.  He also writes that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.  Yes, dear Saints, the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases.  Do not fear, only believe.

Since the Lord is faithful, and we are not.  And since the Lord’s love is unconditional, and ours is not…all we can do is cry out, “Lord, have mercy!”  And merciful He is.  In fact, His mercies  “are new every morning.”  Every morning is a new day, sort of like a resurrection from the sleep of death.  Every morning you wake up you can thank God that He has kept you through the night without harm or danger.  You can thank Him for your rest, the food on your breakfast table, the roof over your head, clothes on your back and the air you get to breath.  If it wasn’t for His mercy, you wouldn’t have any of these things.

There was nothing about Jairus, or the woman in our text to commend them to God.  They both were at their wits end.  The Lord in His mercy chose to demonstrate His love toward them.  As we read in our Old Testament lesson today, “The Lord will not cast off forever, but, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love.”

And you, dear Saints of Redeemer, have also been chosen by our Lord to receive His mercy.  You have been called by the Gospel.  You have been enlightened with the gift of the Holy Spirit which you received in your Baptism.  You are being sanctified and kept in the one true faith each and every time you receive the medicine of immortality at the foot of this altar.  Your sins are forgiven.  And by His stripes, you have been healed.  One day, your Lord Jesus will come to you and take you by the hand and say, “Child, arise!”  Do not fear, only believe.

He who began this good work in you will bring it to completion in the day of Jesus Christ.  He is faithful, from beginning to end.  He will do it.  Amen.

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

 

“Joy Is Tried By Storm”

 

June 24, 2018 / Text: Mark 4:35-41 Theme: Joy is tried by storm

Introduction

One of the fun things my wife and I like to do when we attend the Northwest Washington Fair in Lynden is to visit the horse barns and look at those huge draft horses, the Belgians, Clydesdales, Shires, and Percheron, some 6-7 feet tall and 2500+ plus lbs.   I have great respect and a healthy fear for these huge horses, in no small part due to a childhood friend’s dad being kicked in the head no less by a working horse he owned and had surprised from the rear.

  1. Don’t you care if we drown?
  2. Fear is something we all identify with, whether its source is outside of us or dwells deep within, or a combination of the two. It can be a burden that asks for help in carrying its weight.
  3. That has to be how the disciples of Jesus felt when they were out on the Sea of Galilee as spoken about in our gospel lesson. Jesus had put in a long day speaking to the crowds gathered on the hillside and shores of the lake. Together with the disciples, most of whom were seasoned sailors, they set a course that would take them to the other side, at most a few land miles distant.  Jesus let the sailing to his friends and he settles down for a nap in the back of the boat.
  4. It wasn’t long but a furious storm hit the lake and even the seasoned fishermen knew they were in trouble.  Fear engulfed them as the wind and waves pounded the boat.  The situation became doubly troubling and irksome by the fact, while they were bailing water from the boat, Jesus kept on sleeping.  Exchanging fearful glances at each other and looking to the back of the boat at Jesus, they said, “This isn’t right.  How can he be sleeping when we are about to capsize and lose our lives.”  With fear and frustration they awakened Jesus with a tug on his shirt and the words, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
  5. Don’t you care?
  6. We often join these disciples in this fear, for we recognize the signs of a threatening storm of unresolved guilt, or a bad report from our annual checkup, turmoil in relationships, and other personal and private problems.
  7. The fiercer the storm, the harder it becomes to keep our public face from disclosing what’s going on inside us. At times, our fear may be such that we feel like we are being sucked under the raging waters. So, where is he in the midst of all this?  Is he only a fair weather Lord?

 

  1. Don’t you have faith yet?
  2. God is in control
  3. Many years back I traveled as a PR man along with our Concordia Ann Arbor choir as it toured through Florida. On one relaxed day, the host pastor from Ft. Lauderdale asked the choir director and myself if we wanted to go fishing in the ocean.  I assumed the boat would be a 25+ foot power boat with fishing lines at the rear.  In fact it was a 15 foot aluminum boat with a small motor that he called his fishing “Dingy”.  Off we went, feigning confidence as we headed out onto the ocean.  It wasn’t long before the ocean waves began to intensify, and I’m sure I was pale with fear.  Before I had opportunity to make my anxiety obvious, the host pastor said something like, “Hmmm, perhaps a little too choppy today.  I think we should turn back.”  I didn’t object.  Yes, you may be able to say, “O you of little faith.”  And I’m also sure Satan was scoffing in the background.
  4. Hey, I got this!
  5. These fears do spawn questions and cries to God, “Don’t you know the anguish I’m in?” When those occasions arise, and they do for all of us, we need to know who he is.  Creator (see Job reading), Redeemer, Sanctifier.  You belong to him.  He has redeemed you, not with gold or silver, but with his holy precious blood, his innocent suffering and death.
  6. Sure there will be doubts. Welcome to humanity.  Yet Jesus doesn’t walk along side of us like a swim coach shouting down to you, “You need to try harder.  You can this.  Suck it up!”  God doesn’t want you to simply weather the storms of life by yourself.  He puts his life in you, he puts you inside of him, and there you are safe.  It’s not to say there will not be storms in your life, that you will not grieve and cry, but you will never have to go it alone.  Jesus says to you, “Hey, I’ve got this”.  See poem “Footprints in the Sand”.
  7. All your sins have been forgiven. You know, if one sin remained unpaid for on the cross (my sin or yours), Jesus could not have risen.  But he is risen, all sin if forgiven and death is conquered.

Conclusion 

Pastor tells the story of one of his unique members who was near death. Everyone called him Earl the Pearl.  He had been and still was a strong tenor in the church choir, and he decided that he would like to sing at his own funeral.  He told his pastor what Christian hymns he would record and desired to be part of the funeral service.  The day of the funeral came, and Earl the Pearl sang his favorite resurrection hymns.   Everyone who knew Earl were amid tears, smiling and happy at this “craziest funeral” the church had ever experienced.  After the funeral, the family gathered in the Fellowship hall and spoke of the joy of the resurrection, and sang along to their friend’s recorded songs and music.  The family cried tears of joy as they listened and laughed and danced.  For them joy was tried by storm.

The Kingdom of God

June 17, 2018 / Fourth Sunday after Pentecost / Deacon Rex Watt

Ezekiel 17.22-24 / 1 Corinthians 5.1-10 / Mark 4.26-34

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

Dear Saints of Redeemer,

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

Our text this morning comes from our Gospel lesson: “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground.  He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how.  The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.  But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.  With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it?  It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”

What a timely text!  Often I am utterly amazed at how the Lectionary readings assigned for a given Sunday speak to the lives of people, or to the life of the congregation at any given time.  Today’s two parables: the parable of the seed growing; and the parable of the mustard seed, follow after the famous Parable of the Sower which opens chapter 4 in Mark’s gospel.  These are timely for us because many of you may be wondering: “who is going to provide leadership now that Pastor is gone?” “what are we going to do now?” “when are we going to get a new pastor?” “where is the church going to go from here?” “how can we be church without a pastor?” and maybe even “why has this happened to us?”

Some of you may even be a little afraid of where Redeemer finds itself right now.  You’ve never been through a pastoral transition.  You’re not sure whether you want to stay, or go.  Fear is a cruel taskmaster.  Fear paralyzes people.  It makes them irrational.  Take for example someone who is afraid of spiders.  You can point out that none of the spiders in the house are really all that poisonous, but it won’t make any difference.  They will never go to the basement where they once saw a spider scurry under some door.  A co-worker of mine has a fear of ladybugs!  (No offense Mrs. Ladybug…she’s never met you!)  I was amazed at the physical reaction she had one day when she discovered a ladybug on her desk.  She ran out of the office in a panic.  She had difficulty breathing.  There was a look of terror on her face.  She was acting irrational.  She was paralyzed in that she couldn’t work at her desk until it was completely searched to make sure no other ladybugs were hiding anywhere!  Her fear of ladybugs was a cruel taskmaster.

Yes, dear Saints of Redeemer, some of you may be a little afraid of where you find yourself right now.  But I want to give you a word from the Lord.  “God loves you.”  Did you hear what I said?  “God. Loves. You.”

These are words we don’t hear often enough, I’m afraid.  They are most commonly used in an evangelistic sense as “God loves you, and has a wonderful plan for your life.”  But we, the people of God, also need to hear those words.  God does love you.  He has such love for you that He sent His one and only Son, Jesus, into the flesh, your flesh, your corrupt sinful flesh, to take on all your sins and nail them to the Cross, for you, so that you might become the righteousness of God.  Paul wrote just a few verses beyond our Epistle reading for today these words, For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5.21)

God has such love for you that He brought you into the Holy Christian Church when you were baptized in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  The washing of water with the Word gave you new life.  As Paul wrote, “you are a new creation”.  The Holy Spirit brought this about in your life when you heard the Word that was sown by placing it in good soil.  And this, dear Saints, was none of your doing.  God did it for you.  It is His gift to you, because… He. Loves. You.

Luther wrote in the explanation of the Third Article of the Creed, “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.  In the same way He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.  In this Christian church He daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers.  On the Last Day He will raise me and all the dead, and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ.  This is most certainly true.”

So, you may ask, “What does all this have to do with our text today?”  When Jesus explains the Parable of the Sower, He tells his disciples, and us, that the seed which was sown is the Word.  The word of the Gospel.  Not all that was sown produced grain.  But that which did produced thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.  This seed is the same seed that was scattered on the ground by the farmer which sprouted even though he knows not how.  The kingdom of God grows mysteriously of itself, at its own pace, through the power of the Word.  Sometimes this causes angst among God’s people because they have their eyes focused on the things of this world and not on the things of God.  They think that they have to do something to facilitate the kingdom of God.

The Second Petition of the Lord’s Prayer is: Thy kingdom come.  The catechism asks, “What does this mean?” And the answer is, “The kingdom of God certainly comes by itself without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that it may come to us also.”  The catechism goes on to ask, “How does God’s kingdom come?”  And the answer is, “God’s kingdom comes when our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and lead godly lives here in time and there in eternity.”

We learn in this Parable of the Growing Seed exactly what our Catechism teaches us.  Here Jesus speaks of the power and reliability of the gospel message.  All that need be done, in fact, all that can be done is to sow the seed, to proclaim the Word.  A farmer who plants the seed does not understand how it grows.  The power is in the seed.  So it is with the gospel.  It is sown; it sprouts as the Holy Spirit enables; it matures; and it is harvested.

You, dear Saints of Redeemer, have had that seed implanted.  You have been brought to faith in Christ by the Holy Spirit who called you by the Gospel.  When you go home today and pull out your Small Catechism and re-read Luther’s explanation of the Third Article of the Creed; and his explanation of the Second Petition of the Lord’s Prayer, notice who does all the action!  It is God who acts on your behalf!  He does it all: He calls you; enlightens you; sanctifies you; keeps you; forgives you; gives you the kingdom; all of this is for you, because… God. Loves. You.

You don’t have to be worried about the who, what, where, how or why of where Redeemer finds itself right now.  Those are God’s concerns.  You and I are called, like the farmer, to go about our daily tasks.  To believe His holy Word, and live godly lives here in time.  Yes, that daily living might include sharing the gospel with others, as Peter wrote in 1 Pet 3, Have no fear…nor be troubled,  but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect”  All we are asked to do is to sow.  God will grow the kingdom.

And grow the kingdom He will.  As our second parable tells us God takes that smallest of seeds and grows it into the largest of all garden plants.  So large, that birds come from all over to perch in its branches.

Consider this closing thought…Jesus is the Seed!  He is the Seed of the woman promised in Gen 3.15; he is the promised Seed of Abraham, in whom all nations will be blessed; he is the promised Seed of David whose kingdom will never end.  Jesus is the Seed.  He is the sprig that Ezekiel prophesied would be planted on a mountain height of Israel for you.  He is the Seed that was planted in the earth for you.  He is the Seed that sprouted and came forth from the grave for you.  He is the Seed that ascended to the right hand of God for you.  When He became flesh for you, to take on all your sins, there was only He.  One.  One according to the world insignificant person.  But that small Seed, became 12.  Then He sent out 72.  On Pentecost that little beginning of the kingdom of God became 3,000.  The Book of Acts tells us that small kingdom of God continued to grow.  It multiplied the text says.  And from that small beginning, it has grown to around 2.4 billion Christians today.  Yes, God grows His kingdom.

And you, dear Saints of Redeemer, are part of that kingdom.  Redeemer is part of that kingdom.  So, let God do what God does…take care of His kingdom.  You, dear Saints of Redeemer rejoice.  Rejoice, that…God. Loves. You.  God’s love is perfect, and perfect love casts out fear.  He has promised never to, “…leave you nor forsake you.”  (Heb13.5)  He has also promised to be with you forever, even unto the end of the age.  And that certainly includes where we find ourselves today.  Amen.

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

“Living Uncommon”

Pastor Don Mossman

Text: 2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1                Theme:  Living uncommon

Introduction

Nobody has to say anything about what is different about this Sunday.  It introduces a new chapter in our lives and the life of our community of faith here at RLC.  We bid farewell to Pastor and Cheryl Haugen last week as they readied themselves for a new ministry in the Beaverton, OR area.  Pastor Haugen was excited about new opportunities and tasks there, yet grieved at the thought of leaving us.  And so we turn the page.

We at Redeemer will let the dust settle and allow time to grieve his departure.  We also will be taking into account what our future may be and how ministry will continue to be done among us.  One thing is certain: we shall always be identified as a people of God where the true Word of God is preached and taught and the sacraments are properly administer.  That will not change.

  1. The family of God
  2. Common vs. uncommon
  3. As a daughter congregation of Trinity Lutheran, Bellingham, God’s people here have had men and women who have been and still are influential in establishing, supporting, and maturing us in the Spirit of Jesus.  Because of the faithfulness of these people, many of God’s people await us in heaven, having been called by God to enter into their eternal homes.   And the promise is ours that we shall see them again, some of us sooner than later.
  4. There are numerous organizations that one can join and become, well, family, as community clubs, walking and gardening clubs, sporting clubs, political and spiritual groups. We find people switching memberships in organizations like the changing winds blowing in unknown directions.  And amid that windy environment there remains something quite different about Redeemer Lutheran Church. And these groups may appear far more attractive to people than what happens here.  To the casual observer, we appear rather common and much like all the other churches and spiritual groups that line up on Smith Road.
  5. What sets us apart, however, what makes us uncommon, is that our ordinary congregation is directly attached to the Word of God and His promises. The common, of which we are, becomes very uncommon.  This is the underlying truth upon which the Church stands or falls.
  6. With change comes some uncertainty
  7. I’m one that doesn’t much like change. Children grow up and leave home, loved ones pass away and leave those gaping holes in our lives.  Sickness, pain, cancer, external and internal fears move us to walk through the valley of the shadow of death in a timid manner.  Pastors take calls, schools close, people move in and out of our lives.   I don’t much like it.
  8. Under these circumstances, what does the future hold for parents, staff, students and teachers of Bridgeway School? And there are those at RLC who have expressed the anxiety of the future here at Redeemer.  These questions are common and expected.  And if it were up to us alone to answer those questions and deflate the accompanying fears, we may well hope for the best but have no certainty.
  9. Yet Paul says in our epistle, we do not lose heart… (2 Cor. 2:16ff) While we meet and experience change and decay all around us, we do not fear or give up hope, for He who does not change is among us.  His love, his grace, his promises of forgiveness and new life is before us constantly, night and day.   Thank God for communities of faith as RLC and schools like Bridgeway.
  10. The uncommon truth that changes everything
  11. Living uncommon
  12. Everyday onlookers may acknowledge the gifts of Word and Sacrament among us, and be unimpressed. To those who are but jars of clay, as we all are, we keep in mind the treasures stored within them.  To those who are but jars of clay and have the joy of Jesus with in them, they will not be defeated.  For it is “by grace we have been saved through faith,” and there is a burning hope within them.
  13. When the Promise, the Incarnate Word of God is attached, the common becomes uncommon. So too, our good Father gives us His grace through ordinary, down-to-earth means with divine effect.  Regular tap water splashed upon a forehead, a taste of common bread and a sip of common wine consumed in the usual way; there is nothing uncommon about these things.  Yet, when the Word of God is attached to these ordinary things, these common things, in a word, become uncommon.  They are treasures within us.
  14. Treasures within us
  15. We are “gifted by grace and prepared for a purpose.” The promise of God’s life in us and among us brings hope now and for the ever after and meaning to our everyday life. It’s what makes us uncommon. This is the promise of Jesus Christ, Himself, the Word made flesh that transforms each day into something special.  What is true for us at RLC is true for each person who walks through our doors.  Sure, we are jars of clay, but oh, the treasures within us.

Conclusion

Story: Treasurers in clay balls