Grace Iola Kansas: Date: March 29 2020
Title: He Became Sin Text: Romans 8:3
“By sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh” (Romans 8:3).
In our Lutheran Catechism we find this definition of sin; “Sin is every thought, desire, word, and deed which is contrary to God's Law” (question # 78). Let me ask this question. “Are you a nice person?” I dare say most people the world over would answer, “Yes.” I think of myself as a nice person. At least I do not think of myself as a dangerous person. Are you a dangerous person? Do your neighbors and I need to be afraid of you? Most of us do not think of ourselves as dangerous. Most likely neither do our neighbors. Well that’s actually not true. I understand that during this pandemic the sale of pistols, guns, and rifles has emptied shelves. Why did that happen? Well, we know human history. We know how quickly our streets can turn ugly with and by nice people. By the inspiration of the Holy Spirit the Apostle Paul wrote, “All sin, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). That one little sentence has “judged” all 7 billion plus people on earth. Let us rephrase that passage; “All sin and offend God.” “Not one of us is nice, we all offend God.” “Each and every one of us is dangerous and offends God.” “The very core, of every human being, is offensive to God.” The definition of sin in our Lutheran Catechism, “Sin is every thought, desire, word, and deed, which is contrary to God's Law” is completely founded on the Bible. Let me share some very well known verses from God’s Word. “Sin is every thought.” Isaiah 55:8 (Thus says the LORD) “My thoughts are not your thoughts!” I want to think that I am a nice guy. Most of us think we are nice people. Yet, I have always found it fascinating that Jesus in Luke 11:13 called the Apostle “evil men.” Here in the Epistle lesson the Apostle Paul says that our minds are naturally “hostile to God.” Let’s go back to our definition “Sin is every thought and desire.” When it comes to desirer, we tell ourselves “As long as I haven’t done a wrong thing, I am ok.” Yet, in Holy Scripture desire, may be evil, sinful, and horribly judged by God. James 1:15, “Desire . . . gives birth to sin, and sin . . . brings forth death.” Every desire, contrary to the will of God, is killing us. This nightmare goes deep into the core of our being. Consider this, the desire to love and be loved is a good thing. Yet where does that desire take our eyes? Yet where does that desire take our hands? To answer that listen to this from, Genesis 3:6 “The woman saw that the tree was . . . desired to make one wise, (so) she took of its fruit and ate.” Therefore, James wrote, “Desire . . . gives birth to sin, and sin . . . brings forth death.” God said, “The day you eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall die” (Gen 2:17). Listen again, to our Lutheran definition of sin, “Sin is every thought, desire, word, and deed, which is contrary to God's Law, God’s Word, God’s Will.” In order to deny the reality of our personal sin we often hide behind the words of Jesus, “Judge not, least you be judged” (Matt 7:1). We wear those words like armor so as to defend ourselves from the accusation “All sin, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). We hide behind the words of Jesus, forgetting that Jesus was, at times, extremely judgmental. Listen to His indictment of our lives, Matthew 15:19 “Out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander” (etcetera and etcetera). Seven billion people on earth, and Jesus does not excuse anyone. “All sin, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Thankfully, the LORD God has an answer to our sinful offence. We heard it in the Epistle reading; Romans 8:3, “By sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, (God) condemned sin in the flesh.” What does that mean? It means salvation and forgiveness. It means that Jesus became the living embodiment of sin. On Good Friday, on the Cross, in the dark of hell, Jesus became your sin so that you could be the righteousness of God. Hear now the good news of salvation Romans 8:1-2 “Now there is no damnation for us in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set us from the law of sin and death.” Thanks be to God. Amen.
Grace Iola Kansas: Date: March 22, 2020
Title: Pandemic (covid-19) Text: Proverbs 3:11-12
I was going to use the Epistle lesson and share with you the source of “good, and right and true” (Eph 5:9). However, it seems that the events of the day demand our attention. We can hardly turn without bumping into messages about the pandemic (covid-19). I do not intend to minimize or discount the current situation. I do want to bring some comfort from God’s Word to our hearts and minds. Like you, I have listened to and seen various news reports and press conferences. Again, I do not intend to minimize the current situation. I want to bring comfort from God’s Word. In the news and elsewhere, I have heard the word “unprecedented” used to describe this pandemic. My personnel opinion is that the word is being used inappropriately. (Some people should know better because they are professional wordsmiths) The basic definition of unprecedented is “never done or known before.” Over the centuries, humanity has suffered all manner of worldwide dangers. In the 20th century, two world wars killed and or injured millions. On the heels of World War I the Spanish flu of 1918 to 1920 took the lives of millions. Some estimate that 20-50 million died worldwide. Some estimate that as many as 650,000 U.S. citizens died in that pandemic. Some things about the covid-19 pandemic may be different. Perhaps one big difference is that people travel more. I do not doubt that Moscow, Russia receives more tourist today than it did in the 1980’s. I do not doubt that China receives more tourist today than it did in the 1960’s. (I did not bother to look it up). Some details are different. Yet, we are reminded in Heb 13:8, (That), “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Our Savior God has not changed. What the Apostle John wrote in his first letter is still true; “God is love” (1 John 4:8). Jesus said, “I have all power and authority in heaven and on earth” (Matt 28:18). That is just as true today as it was 2,000 years ago. However, love is not always expressed gently, tenderly, or even happily. I remember a time when my mama loved me. She was in a corner behind the ironing board. I had to defend myself from my sister Darlene. I had to catch her first. Darlene ran past mama. Then I ran past mama. Mama measured out her love with a yardstick to the back of my head. Love is not always expressed gently, tenderly, or even happily. I would like to read from President Abraham Lincoln's Thanksgiving Proclamation, October 3, 1863.
The needful diversions of wealth and strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship. The axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements . . . Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battlefield . . . No human counsel hath devised, nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.
Abraham Lincoln called the Civil War, God’s response to our national sins. King Solomon wrote these words to his son. Proverbs 3:11-12 “My son, do not despise the LORD's discipline 12 for the LORD disciplines (those) whom He loves.” When the patriarch Job, lost his family, wealth, home and health he asked, “Shall we receive good from God, and not bad?” (Job 2:10). Recall if you will how often many of us, lamented the moral and ethical condition of the world. Recall if you will how often, we prayed for the LORD to intervene so that sin would not run amuck. The LORD our God is still the God of love. Think for a moment how that love was displayed to us. John 3:16 “God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son a brand new 12 gauge and pickup truck to go with it?” NO! “God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son a crude rugged cross and a cruel ugly death to go with it.” Love is not always expressed in kind, gentle, happy ways. I cannot stand here and tell you with 100% certainty that our current difficulty is as Abraham Lincoln said, (God) “dealing with us in anger for our sins.” However, we can with 100% confidence say as Abraham Lincoln said (God) “hath nevertheless remembered mercy.” The prophet Jonah, for his sinful, willful refusal to go and preach salvation to the wicked people in Nineveh, spent 3 days in the belly of great sea creature. But, God remembered Jonah. God heard the repentant prayer of Jonah. God spoke and the great sea creature spit Jonah out. There are many who are in the belly of fear. I can, we can understand that. However, we remember all that the LORD has promised. More importantly, the LORD remembers us. As I was writing this devotion, three passages kept floating in my head. Ecclesiastes 3:1 & 4 “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: 4 a time to weep, and a time to laugh.” Psalm 30:5 “His anger is but for a moment, and His favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” Jeremiah 31:3 (Thus says the LORD) “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued My faithfulness to you.” May the faithful powerful and loving God do that which is right for us and our neighbors both, near and far. Amen.
Grace Iola Kansas: Date: March 15 2020
Title: Poured into Us Text: Romans 5:1-8
The Epistle to the Romans was written by St. Paul (actually dictated to Tertius, Rom 16:22). The Apostle was well acquainted with pain and suffering. In the thirty plus years of his Christian ministry, he was imprisoned, beaten, stoned and the like. Therefore, it is out of experience that he mentions suffering. Still, I must admit to being puzzled by this passage. I am not exactly clear as to how “suffering produces endurance . . . character, and hope.” Maybe I have not suffered enough trials and difficulties. However, Kim looks at me and, says she knows she understands (lol). But, seriously, when we read a passage like Romans five we often think that this “endurance, character, and hope is something we must generate from within ourselves. Here I want to draw your attention to Galatians 5:22-23 “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control” (and the like). We read these things in Scripture and think that these are personal qualities that we must develop from within ourselves. As I was preparing this sermon this thought kept coming to mind; “Get right with God.” I am sure you have heard the expression. “I have to get right with God” or “You, need to get yourself right with God.” Well, how do you do that? How do you “get yourself right with God?” Our natural tendency is to answer that question with a list of things to accomplish. “I should do more of this.” “I should stop doing this.” I need to do this.” I need to be better at.” Our natural tendency is to think that we must from within ourselves manufacture, develop, character, and hope patience, kindness, goodness, self-control (and the like). Therefore, when we say or when we hear “Get right with God” it, means that we must take the responsibility upon ourselves. Yet, throughout the pages of Scripture we are told “There is none righteous no not one. There is no one that does good. All your good deeds are like filthy rags” (Psalm 14 Isa 64). Throughout the Bible we are told, in various ways, “No person can make themselves right with God!” As Christians, we know this. We know what the Scripture says, “By grace you have been saved through faith” (Eph 2:8) and yet we still think, “I must generate, I must develop, I must muster up the will power!” Our sinful human nature makes us forget that it is not just heaven, that is God’s free gift to us. It is not just forgiveness that is God’s free gift to you. It is not just salvation that is God’s free gift to you. Notice what the Apostle writes by the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling within him. “Suffering produces endurance . . . character, and hope, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control” are poured into us “because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.” Here in Romans, these things that are right with God are poured into us. In Galatians, these things that are right with God are the fruit of the Holy Spirit. These are not things, or qualities or characteristics developed by us. These are things grown in us, poured into us as gifts from a loving God. From our Lutheran understanding, this begins when we are baptized. The good things of God are poured into us with the waters of Holy Baptism. In our baptisms, the seed that grows the fruit of the Spirit is planted in us by the Holy Spirit. Notice how Jesus says these things in the Gospel reading. John 4:14 (Jesus said) “The water that I will give . . . will become . . . a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” He did not say, “The water you dig for!” He said, “The water that I will give!” These, things all start; they all come from the loving God of salvation. It is God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit who makes us right with Himself. Let me conclude by tying this together with Romans 8:28, “We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” To us who are called, into us is poured, into us the seed is planted by which Almighty God is able to make the sufferings of sin, death and the devil produce in us an unending spring of endurance, character, hope and all that is pleasing and acceptable to Him. May God grant to all of this day and into eternity. Amen.
Grace Iola Kansas: Date: March 8 2020
Title: “Pay the Dues” Text: Romans 4:1–8, 13–17
I want to begin with Romans 4:4 and an observation or two. Romans 4:4 “Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due.” The first application is practical, day-to-day life in this world. In the days when I punched a time clock, I was paid for the work according to the time stamped on the time card. When I was hired, I obligated myself to my employer for the task at hand. In turn, my employer was obligated to pay the agreed sum. In Romans 4:4 you earn what you work for, it is not a gift from the employer. That is a practical, application of the text. However, we must keep in mind, even though the application is sound and reasonable; it is not the meaning of the text. The Holy Spirit did not inspire St. Paul to write about stacking shelves in a warehouse. The truth of the passage is not about time cards and paycheck. The truth of the passage concerns your eternal soul. Now it might help us, to better, understand the Epistle reading if we know something about St. Paul. Before Paul was a disciple of Jesus Christ, he was Saul of Tarsus and an enemy of Jesus Christ. In Acts 6-8, he was instrumental in having Pastor Stephen stoned to death. Stephen was killed because he was a Christian. Saul of Tarsus was an enemy of Jesus and Christians. In Galatians 1:13 he wrote, “You have heard of my former life . . . how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it.” Saul of Tarsus was a Hebrew, from the tribe Benjamin, and a Pharisee. He thought he was a good man, serving God, because he sent Christians to prison and death. He thought he was a good man serving God because he was a Hebrew, of the tribe Benjamin. He thought he was a good man because he was a Pharisee and was very strict in his obedience to the Ten Commandments (Philippians 3). Saul of Tarsus thought he was a good man earning what God owed him, namely a place in heaven. Then one day (Acts 9) Jesus paid a visit to Saul. When Saul of Tarsus heard what Jesus said, he knew from the tip of his toes to the top of his head that he was a man going to hell. What we have in Romans chapter four are not just noble words of high ethical standards. What we have are the words of a man who experienced these things. When St. Paul writes, “Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due.” St. Paul understood that the only payment, the only thing due him was eternal pain in hell. In Romans chapter four, we have the example of Abraham. In verse three, we are told, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” Those were amazing, stunning words. Paul used to think that he and Abraham were two (2) peas in a pod. He thought that they were both two (2) good men who surely were going to heaven because they obeyed the Law. However, there is something wrong with that. St. Paul had the Ten Commandments. He could read them in a book. Abraham did not have a book with the Ten Commandments. The Holy Spirit would use Moses to write down the Law of God. Abraham lived and died some 500 years before Moses was born. The Old Testament laws, and the teachings of the Pharisee, did not exist at the time of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph. That was a staggering thought to Saul of Tarsus. In the Gospel, reading Nicodemus was “floored” he was knocked for a loop when Jesus told him these things. Jesus is telling Nicodemus that a person is saved by faith not because they work hard at being good. By the Word of God both Paul and Nicodemus are brought to salvation; rescued from hell. They are brought to the knowledge, to the spiritual insight, that a person is saved by faith not by works. What is that faith built on? The Apostle Paul answers that question by quoting Psalm 32:1-2 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.” Sins are covered; salvation is given because God promised that the Savior would do it for us. This was the promise that Abraham believed; Genesis 12:3 (God told Abraham from you) “all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” The promise of the Savior is in those words. The Babe of Bethlehem is in those words. Because of that promise, the Wise Men came looking for the “King of the Jews.” Because of that promise Saul of Tarsus would be baptized and change his name to Paul, because he was a new man in Christ. Because of that promise St. Paul would write in Romans 6:23 “The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” May the free gift of Almighty God be ours today and always. Amen.
Grace Iola Kansas: Date: March 1, 2020
Title:”It’s Missing” Text: Romans 5:12-19
This is topical sermon based on the reading from Romans 5:12-19. However, I want to begin with this often-quoted passage from Isaiah 55:8, (Thus says the LORD) “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways.” When it comes to the topic of sin how we look at it and how we treat, it is very very different, than how God does. We tend to look at it in extremes. One extreme is to, downplay it; “Oh you’re only human.” “Oh nobody’s perfect.” The other extreme is outrage. How many times have we heard or said, “Ah, go to hell! When it comes to sin, how does God look at it? When it comes to sin, how does God respond to it? Well He does not downplay it. He takes it seriously. He does judge it and damn it. He is also patient with it. He also forgives it. We are told in the Epistle reading that the universal consequence of sin is death. Romans 5:12 “Just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all people because all sinned.” In the Bible, sin is an umbrella statement. It is a headline or category under which all manner of things are listed. In Romans 5 and Genesis 3, “sin” is a universal condition. Think of yourself as a puzzle. You are many pieces of this and that. However, there is a puzzle piece that has “gone missing.” Adam and Eve were created as a complete puzzle. Then, as we see in Genesis chapter three, Adam violates, disobeys, rejects the will of God and eats from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The moment he did that, a puzzle piece went missing. That piece is called “the Image of God.” In our Catechism, we are taught that (the image of God) “was lost when our first parents disobeyed God and fell into sin. Their, will and intellect lost the ability to know and please God. (But) In Christians God has begun to rebuild His image, but only in heaven will it be fully restored (question # 107 Colossians 3:10, Ephesians 4:24). Fortunately, for humanity and all creation, God was not going to let this sinful condition continue to divide God and humanity. At this point, I would like to share a thought. People, (because the Image of God has “gone missing”), sometimes wonder, “What is the purpose of life?” The Bible has an answer to that question. There is a hint in the Old Testament reading. Listen carefully to Genesis 3:8. (Adam and Eve) “heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD.” Most of us when we read that verse focus on Adam and Eve hiding. Yet, in that verse, we have a hint concerning the purpose of life. Genesis 3:8 says, “the LORD God (was) walking in the garden.” The prophet Micah, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wrote this: “What is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to . . . walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8) Simply stated the purpose of life is so that the loving God of creation may be involved in your life. The Apostle John by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit wrote this: “God is love” (1 John 4:8). The purpose of your life is that you may be loved by God. To restore us to His image God entered human history. To restore us to His image God walked on earth, in the very person of Jesus Christ. In the Epistle lesson, we read this, “By one man's disobedience (namely Adam) the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience (namely Jesus) the many will be made righteous.” Into the Garden, the Evil One entered. He brought sin. He brought death. He brought corruption. Into the Garden, the Evil One entered, and for all intent and purposes, Adam welcomed him. Our father, Adam let the Evil One into the house of humanity. However, neither the sin of Adam nor the evil of Satan could or would stop God from loving us. Into our home, into our world, Jesus entered. In the Garden, Adam failed to resist the temptation of Satan. We all suffer because of Adam’s failure. The glorious news of the Gospel reading is this; Jesus resisted the temptation. Jesus defeated the devil. Adam’s defeat was our defeat. The victory of Jesus is our victory. The image that was lost --- was found by Jesus and restored in us by Jesus. God has promised this to us in our Baptisms. Galatians 3:27 “As many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” Throughout the pages of Holy Scripture, we are promised the restoration of the Image of God in each of us. That puzzle piece that went missing has been filled by Jesus. Concerning these things Jesus said, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make our home with him” (John 14:23). May it be so for all of us this day and always. Amen.
Grace Iola Kansas: Date: February 23 2020
Title: Today’s Forecast: Cloudy Text: Matthew 17:1-9
This is a topical sermon, illustrating what Jesus has done for us. Let me ask this question, “If you could change anything in your life; what would it be?” (Matt 12:34). Your first response to that question is often the unvarnished truth. Jesus said, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” Still, how you answer is often influenced by the immediate circumstances of your life. If you are sick you may have thought, “I just wanna get rid of this flu bug.” However, the point is NOT what you answered, but that you answered it. I dare say that the vast majority of people in this world would think of something negative. Few of us are so content with our lives that we would say, “I wouldn’t change a thing.” Most everybody in the world understands that something is wrong, with the world and with us. We mask, dilute, dismiss this brokenness as “normal life.” The Bible calls our “normal life” sin. The Bible calls our “normal life” wicked. The Bible calls our “normal life” death. I want to illustrate this with the reading from Exodus. Moses and the people who left Egypt are camped at the foot of Mount Sinai. The Almighty calls Moses up to the top of the mountain. It is described in Exodus and Hebrews with these words; “The appearance of the glory of the LORD was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain” (Ex 24:17). There was a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest a voice that the people begged not to hear . . . it looked so terrifying that Moses said, “I tremble with fear” (Heb 12:18-21). Forty days and forty nights Moses was with the Almighty on a mountain that for all intent and purposes looked like a volcano blowing up. This was a violent, angry, dangerous, looking mountain. This event was purposefully designed by the Almighty to show Moses and all the people (and us today reading this account); it was all designed to show the Almighty’s intense seething anger and disgust with our “normal life!” What did Moses receive on the mountain, the Ten Commandments (?) Ask almost any person in this world “What is the purpose of the Ten Commandments?” They are likely to answer, “So that we obey God. So that we know right and wrong, So that we can live a good life.” In the Bible, the Apostle Paul writes this about the Ten Commandments, “Through the law comes knowledge of sin” and “the law brings wrath” (Rom 3:20 and Rom 4:15). The first purpose of God’s Law is to show how broken life is. What is called in this world “normal life” Jesus called a cemetery. This is from John 5:25, (Jesus said) “The hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.” When Jesus says the dead, He is not talking about those who are buried, but those standing above ground. The Apostle Paul understood what Jesus meant. He called the unbelieving world “dead in trespasses and sin, following the prince of this world” --- the devil (Eph 2:1-2). The Almighty is not happy with normal life . . . lived under a dark cloud of wrath and death. This passage from Isaiah is often heard at Christmas, (Isaiah 25:7 NIV) “On this mountain He will destroy the shroud that covers all peoples.” Let me reword that verse. “On the mountain of forgiveness, salvation and life, Jesus will remove the dark angry cloud, of death.” Here in Isaiah 25 the “Mountain of the LORD” is not Sinai, the mountain of law. The “Mountain of the LORD” is Jerusalem where Jesus was circumcised and crucified, where He shed His blood for the sins of normal life. Now, move with me to the appointed Gospel lesson, Matthew 17. Jesus is “transfigured,” He becomes glorious with the life of Easter. With the true fear love and trust in God Peter says, “Lord, it is good that we are here.” It is good to be where Jesus is, because where Jesus is there is grace and truth (John 1:17). Where Jesus is there is light and salvation (John 1:4). Where Jesus is the dark cloud of wrath and death is replaced with the bright cloud of peace and life. The author of Hebrews said that very thing, 22 “You have come to Mount Zion to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant” (Heb 12:22 & 24). Through the Gospel message, we are brought to this saving faith. Through Baptism, we are brought to this saving faith. Through Holy Communion, we are forgiven the sins of normal life. I conclude with the Word of Jesus from John 5:24 “Truly, I say to you, whoever hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” Let us reword that into everyday American English. Jesus said, “I tell you the absolute truth. Whoever believes in My Word of forgiveness believes in the Almighty God. Whoever believes has eternal life. The person who believes is moved out of the normal life of sin and death. That person is covered in the bright cloud of the righteous life of faith.” May God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit keep us under the bright cloud of forgiveness and salvation, this day and always. Amen.
Grace Iola Kansas: Date: February 16, 2020
Title: “Harsh Words” Text: Matthew 5:21-37
I want to begin with a couple of observations. Matthew chapters 5-7 comprise what we call the Sermon on the Mount. Movies, classic art and our own imaginations picture Jesus standing before a large audience of men, women and children from all walks of life. However, both Matthew (5) and Luke (6) inform us that when Jesus saw the crowd, “He went up on the mountain, and when He sat down, His disciples came to Him and He taught them.” Some people understand that before the Sermon was written down for everyone, it was spoken first, only, to the disciples. Well, that really does not matter because after the crucifixion and resurrection it was written down for our instruction. There are some wonderful words in the Sermon on the Mount, a good example are the Beatitudes. However, the appointed Gospel lesson ruffles a lot of feathers. We could probably say that no one over 14 years of age should read the Sermon on the Mount without cringing over some sin. Look at the Gospel lesson. What thoughts or desires run through your head, as you walk down the halls of your school? Look at the Gospel lesson. What thoughts or desires run through your head as you drive your car down the road? While you are giving that some thought, allow me to draw your attention to verse 22. In our current translation it reads, “I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.” It is not a bad translation. However, it does call for an explanation because there is an element missing. This is the same verse from the old King James translation. “I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.” That word Raca is interesting. In some newer translations, it is replaced with the word “insults.” However, “Raca” may not even be a word. Many think it is an expression, a groan, a hissing, a vocalization of contempt. In his commentary on Matthew, Martin Luther makes this observation. “Raca is usually taken to represent the many ways in which we can show anger against our neighbor — when we refuse to talk to him or to look at him, when we laugh up our sleeve over his bad luck.” Maybe a better word than “anger” would be “utter contempt.” Think of road rage. Think of how we have responded to other drivers. Think of those people who for whatever reasons you scornfully shake your head. Now let’s recall what Scripture says about our neighbors. Ephesians 6:12 “We do not wrestle against flesh and blood but . . . against the spiritual forces of evil.” According to Holy Scripture, “that annoying jerk over there” is not our true enemy. The real enemy is the devil and his unholy horde of demons. According to Jesus our attitude, actions and words directed at one another are to be taken very seriously by us. Many a theologian has seen a progression of justice in Matthew 5:22 (Jesus said) “Everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.” This statement is based on the judicial system God gave through Moses. I want to point out three (3) things. First, “whoever is angry is liable to judgment.” This is what we might call the lower court or civil court. This is the type of dispute we might see, on TV court shows. You might have to pay a fine or restitution. The second level can put a person behind bars or in the electric chair. The third level puts a person in hell. What we have here is a progression of spiritual seriousness. In the Gospel lesson, Jesus is telling us to be very careful with our anger and disputes. Unrepentant arguments, anger, disagreements and the like, can or will grow from hurt feelings to resentment, to bitterness. What Jesus says about anger here in Matthew 5 is echoed in chapter 6 where we find the Lord’s Prayer. “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. 14 If you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others . . . neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:12, 14-15). With this Word of the LORD as his foundation, the Apostle Paul wrote this, Ephesians 4:31-32 “Let all bitterness . . . anger and clamor . . . be put away from you.32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” I am going to close this devotion with this application. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus takes subjects like “anger” and expands them from the body, from human behavior, to the soul. Jesus takes them from person to person relationships, to an individual’s relationship with God. Let me put two verses together Matthew 5:23-24 and Isaiah 59:2 (If) “your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear Well let me put that in everyday American English. “Unresolved (known) sin and guilt breeds resentment and bitterness between people. Unconfessed (known) sin builds a wall, a barricade. A grudging bitter heart is an ungrateful heart. An ungrateful heart cannot worship God and cannot receive attention from God. Fortunately, for us Jesus perfectly obeyed the will of God. Jesus on earth lived a life we cannot live. Jesus on the cross took upon Himself the anger of God at our sin. The resurrection of Jesus is God’s declaration that justice has been served and we are pardoned. This is the good news that we share with one another. This is the good news that has brought us here this morning. This is the good news that we receive from the altar. For the Savior comes to us from the altar and says to us “This is for you, for the forgiveness of all sin.” Thanks be to God. Amen.
Grace Iola Kansas: Date: Feb 9 2020
Title: The Important Iota Text: Matthew 5:13-20
In this world, in this here and now there are only two religions. In 1 Corinthians 2:5, the Apostle Paul names them. One he calls the “wisdom of men.” The other he calls the “power of God.” The “wisdom of men” began after Adam ate the forbidden fruit. The “wisdom of men” is the religion of good works. In Genesis 3:7 Adam attempted to fix his sin by making clothing from fig leaves. In the Old Testment lesson, the ancient Hebrews are chastised for thinking God “should” or “must” accept them on the grounds of their personal religious behavior. In this world, in this here and now there are only two religions. One is by our effort. King Solomon called it “the way of death” (Pro 14:12). St. Paul called the other one “the power of God.” It is also called the religion of “grace,” “the free gift of God” “justification by faith,” and in 1 Corinthians 2:5, it is called a “secret and hidden wisdom of God.” In our American English minds the words “secret” and “hidden” often means “something that is kept from being discovered.” However, in Scripture the words “secret” “hidden” and “mystery” often mean something that can be learned only through the revelation of God. That is what St. Paul meant when he wrote in Philippians 4:7, “The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” The peace of God cannot be manufactured, deduced or discovered by human endeavor (“the wisdom of men”). It must be revealed by God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. A beautiful example of this is found in Matthew 16:15-17, “Jesus asked His disciples, ‘Who do you say that I am?’ 16 Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ Then Jesus said, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.” God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit must disclose the saving truth. I said that to help us understand what is said in, Matthew 5:17-18, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” Let me set a few things before you. First, in these two (2) verses, the words “Law” and “Prophets” and “Commandments” are a reference to the 39 books of the Old Testament (Genesis to Malachi). The Gosple of Jesus Christ has not made the Old Testament obsolete. The Bible, from Genesis to Revelation is the very Word of God in all that it reports. According to 2 Timothy 2:15 “the sacred writings, are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” Second, Jesus says, “not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” Most often in Scripture, this same thought is expressed with the words “do not add to or subtract from the Scripture” (Deut 4:2). However, Jesus takes it a bit further. Essentially He says, “I am so careful with the Word of God I will dot every “i”, I will cross every “t” I will not make a mistake, I will not misinterpet the Word of God, but others do and others will.” In Matthew 5:19 Jesus says, “Whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven.” To be honest many Bible students see two things in this passage. One, there are those, who do make mistakes with God’s Word. Their theology is a little or a lot off base. If we were to grade, their teaching and preaching it could be as low as D-. However, that does not mean they are excluded from heaven. A very good Bible verse for that idea is found in 1 Corinthian 10:11-15. There Jesus is the foundation and what a person preaches and teaches is called everything from gold to straw. On Judgment Day, the pure teaching of gold receives a reward. The straw is burned up but the person is still saved. That is good news. We may not always be 100% correct with God’s Word but that does not damn us (that would be a religion of works). Salvation is always 100% by grace through faith in Christ alone despite the sin that still clings to us in this here and now. However, there are those Bible students who look at these words of Jesus differently. Matthew 5:19 (Jesus said), “Whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven.” Some understand that this does mean exclusion from heaven, eternally damned. They point to such passages as Matthew 18:6 “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” Better to die a horrible death than to lead someone spiritually astray. To those who preach and teach they are warned (as in Hebrews 13:17) to be careful for they must give an account unto the LORD. To those who hear they are warned (as in Romans 16:17) to avoid those whose preaching and teaching is not in line with the prophets and apostles. We are to take these warnings in Scripture seriously because ever since Adam listened to the snake in the tree we all have fatal flaw. We are enamored with the wisdom of this world, which puffs up our egos. We all like to hear good things about ourselves. We all like to hear what is easy. For example Matthew 5:43-44, Jesus said “You have heard it taught ‘love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say, Love your enemies.” It is easy to love those who love us. It is not easy to loves those who reject us. Yet, Jesus did that very thing. He came into this world from heaven to fulfill the Scripture. He came into this world from heaven to love us. He came into this world from heaven to do everything necessary for the forgiveness of sin and the promise of eternal life. Let me conclude with these two verses from John’s Gospel 1:11 and Romans 5:8 “He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. Yet, God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Thanks be to Jesus without whom we would truly be hopeless. Thanks be to Jesus by whom we have a home in heaven. Thanks be to Jesus the Word of God made flesh for our eternal wellbeing. May it be so for all of us this day and always. Amen.
Grace Iola Kansas: Date: Feb 2 2020
Title: Signpost to Salvation Text: Luke 2:22-32
This message is in three parts. First, some observations based on the Old Testament lesson. Second, some observations based on the Gospel lesson. Third, the benefit of those lessons gained for us. We begin with First Samuel chapter one. The story of Hannah is well known. She is one of two women married to Elkanah. Hannah was dearly loved by her husband. However, Peninnah [Pen Knee N Ah] harassed and bullied Hannah, because Hannah was infertile. Now, this is not in the Bible, but according to Hebrew tradition (the background story) Hannah was the first wife. After ten years of marriage, they were unable to conceive a child. Elkanah then marries Peninnah [Pen Knee N Ah] and together they had 10 sons and 2 daughters. Those numbers are not in the Bible however, 1 Samuel 1:4 does say they had sons and daughters. A couple of things to take note of 1) in society polygamy was condoned, 2) in the Bible God’s design for marriage is clearly stated by Jesus, Matthew 19 “a man and a woman are no longer two but one flesh.” Let us go back to the story of Hannah. She eventually conceives and gives birth to her firstborn son, Samuel. Eventually Elkanah and Hannah will have 4 sons and 2 daughters (1 Sam 2:21). Spiritually Hannah’s story is very important. She is able to conceive only by the direct act of God in her life. Her conception was a miracle from God. Hannah was not the only woman that God blessed in this way. Sarah, Rachel, and Elizabeth were also infertile. They and their sons are signposts pointing to Mary and her Son Jesus. The sons they gave birth to played a vital role in God’s plan of salvation. The foundation of that plan was that the 2nd person of the Holy Trinity would enter human history through the Virgin Birth of Mary. Without a human father, Jesus was conceived in the Virgin womb of Mary. The sinless Son of God entered human history. His entrance was announced by angels, “Unto you in the city of David a Savior is born” (Luke 2). His entrance was announced by the shepherds who repeated that good news to their neighbors. His entrance was announced by Wise Men who came to Jerusalem looking for the “King of the Jews” (Matt 2). Here in the Gospel reading the 40-day-old Jesus is proclaimed by Simeon. Now the Bible does not say, but I do not think this was a quiet, private event. I think it drew a lot of attention from those nearby. Still it was a startling, breath taking moment for Simeon. We are told in Luke 2:25 “There was a man, righteous and devout in Jerusalem. His name was Simeon, and he was, waiting for the consolation of Israel.” I always thought that was an odd word “consolation.” I used to hear that word on TV game shows; the loser of the game got the “consolation prize.” Here in Luke’s Gospel “consolation” means to be comforted, soothed or to be relieved of misery. Simeon, was, waiting for Israel’s relief from misery. Therefore, with baby Jesus in his arms Simeon announces, “He is here! My eyes have seen the salvation of God prepared for all people.” What does this mean for us? What benefit is there in the consolation of Israel? The Author of Hebrews by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit . . . the same Holy Spirit who revealed these things to Simeon . . . reveals them to us in the pages of Holy Scripture. We conclude with this based on Hebrews 2:14-15. We are but dust, weak with sin and all manner of imperfection and misery therefore with great love and compassion the Son of God became Man and partook of the same things. So that, through death (on the Cross) Jesus might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver us. Therefore with Simeon we proclaim, “Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace according to Thy word, for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation . . . that Savior and that salvation comes to us in this blessed Sacrament of the Altar. May the consolation of the Christ Child rest upon us all. Amen.
Grace Iola Kansas: Date: Jan 19, 2020
Title: Redeeming Light Text: Isaiah 49:1-7
Historically Lutherans have been somewhat criticized for finding Jesus under every page of Holy Scripture. What the critics meant by that was that Lutherans force Jesus into passages that are not about Jesus. Yet, in a number of places Jesus said that the Old Testament testified about Him. Jesus said that He was the center, the focus, the subject of the Old Testament. Concerning that, one of my favorite verses is Luke 24:44-45 where Jesus says to the two (2) disciples on the road to Emmaus: “’These are My words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.’ 45 Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.” According to Jesus the Bible is about Jesus. According to Jesus the only reason to read the Bible is to see or learn about Jesus. The Old Testament lesson (Isaiah 49:1-7) we just read is about Jesus the Messiah. Now to be fair that is not always easy to see. For example Isaiah 49:3 “You are My servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified.” From this some people have concluded that Isaiah 49:1-7, is really about the Hebrew people, the entire nation. In many places in the Bible they are called “The servant of the Most High” (i.e. Isaiah 41:8). In the Old Testament reading the Servant, in verse 4 has a “mouth like a sharp sword.” In Ephesians 6:17, we are told to “take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” Here in Isaiah 49 the Servant of the most High God has the Word of salvation, which comes out of His mouth, which beings up this point. Some have thought that Isaiah 49 is about the prophet Jeremiah who followed Isaiah. But we read this from the call of Jeremiah (1:9) “Then the LORD put out His hand and touched my mouth. And the LORD said to me, “Behold, (Jeremiah) I have put My words in your mouth.” Every saved sinner has to have the Word of God put into them. Every saved sinner has to have the things of God revealed to him or her. According to John chapter 1 Jesus is the very WORD of God. In John chapter 6 Jesus basically asked the Apostles “Do you want to leave Me, like others have?’ The Apostles replied, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life! (John 6:67-68). From the very beginning Jesus is the WORD of salvation. Therefore, it is important that Jesus is kept as the focus of Holy Scripture and the preaching and teaching of the Christian Church on earth. There are a number of things in the Bible that are important. However, two of them are foundational. If they are removed than Scripture becomes little more than a collection of self-help books. If they are removed than Scripture becomes little more than a collection of historical interest. You know what those two foundations are. You hear them every Sunday if not from the pulpit than from the liturgy. They are Law and Gospel. They could also be called Sin and Forgiveness: or Defeat and Victory, or Death and Life. An easy way to remember them is by the distress call S.O.S. It stands for “Save our Ship.” It is a cry for “Help our boat is sinking! We’re all going to drown!” We have borrowed that distress call so that we may easily remember the focus of Holy Scripture. What is the purpose of God’s Law? S.O.S “Shows our Sin.” In the Book of Romans we are told that, “through the law comes knowledge of sin” (Rom 3:20). When we think of God’s Law our minds almost always go to the Ten Commandments. That is a good thing but we need to expand our thoughts. It would be helpful for us (humanity at large) to think of the Ten Commandments as categories on a spreadsheet. The Apostle Paul did that somewhat in Galatians chapter 5. This is a partial list of sin, lawbreaking bad behavior from Galatians chapter 5: sexual immorality (activity outside of marriage which is one man and one woman), sorcery (which is the use of drugs), drunkenness, jealousy, strife, divisions and more. This is a personal opinion; it seems to me that many people (in positions of power and authority) are causing division, jealousy and strife for their personal power, prestige and prosperity, sacrificing the general welfare of society. This is another personal opinion (of which I feel guilty). In Ephesians 5:11 we read, “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.” Some people worry that membership in Christian churches is declining. Is it because we have been too judgmental in exposing the unfruitful works of darkness? Or perhaps could it be that we have become too lenient with the unfruitful works of darkness in ourselves and in our neighbors? If there is no preaching and teaching of the Law than there is no guilt. Where there is no awareness of guilt there is no awareness of the need of forgiveness. That brings us back to S.O.S. The Law shows us our sin. The Gospel shows us our Savior. The Gospel tells us what God has done for the forgiveness of sin and our salvation. Therefore the Bible from cover to cover is about Jesus. Through the prophet Isaiah God tells us about Jesus. Isaiah 49:3 & 6 “You are My servant . . . I will make You as a light for the nations, that My salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” From cover to cover the Bible is about Jesus and what He has done for you. Jesus was born into this dark world of sin to be the only light of salvation. The Apostle John wrote this about Jesus, “In Him was life, and the life was the light of mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it” (John 1:4-5). No matter how dark, sinful or lawless this world can be, Jesus is the light of salvation. No matter what darkness creeps into your life Jesus is your light of salvation. From cover to cover the Bible is about Jesus and what He has done for you. Therefore may God Almighty help us to always search for Him and find Him in the pages of Holy Scripture. Amen.
Grace Iola Kansas: Date: Jan 12, 2020
Title: “Bringing Justice” Text: Isaiah 42:1-9
This is something of a topical sermon based on the Old Testament lesson. In that reading God says, “His servant, His Messiah, His Savior will bring justice.” Well, when you think of “justice” what comes to mind? If you’re anything like me you think of someone getting what they deserve, for their bad behavior. Justice is served when someone get’s what’s coming to them! However, here in Isaiah (and elsewhere in the Bible Psalm 103) that is not how God is thinking. In the Old Testament reading “justice” is not vengeance, payback, or revenge. Here justice is not tied to the law, the do’s and do not’s, rather it is tied to the Gospel. The LORD God is committing Himself, obligating Himself to the saving of souls. We see this throughout the pages of the New Testament, for example 2 Corinthians 5:19 “In Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them.” The classic illustration is indeed a courtroom scene. You have the prosecuting attorney whose job it is to bring forth evidence of guilt. You have the defense attorney whose job it is to give the accused the best protecting under the law. You have the judge who is to fairly weigh the evidence and pronounce the appropriate judgment. However, there is this fact about the accused, Romans 3:23 All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and Ezekiel 18:20 “The soul who sins shall die. In God’s courtroom everyone without exception is guilty. The prosecuting attorney knows this, the defense attorney knows this and the judge knows this. If God worked justice as we conceive justice, the only verdict is death. The only verdict is hell. That would be true in our world. That would be the only outcome under man’s law. But God, the righteous judge, has two laws. The one law condemns all to death and hell. Ezekiel 18:20 “The soul who sins shall die. God’s other law is the law of reconciliation, the law of sacrifice. Romans 5:8 “God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” For those of us who have read the books or seen the Hunger Game movies, Jesus volunteered as “tribute” for us in our place. Another word for “tribute” is tax or payment. Jesus volunteered to take the condemnation of death upon Himself when He was baptized. When we were Baptized we received the innocence of Jesus. He received our guilt. Therefore, because of Jesus “justice” is served. All the laws of God are satisfied. That was the plan, that was the agenda, that was reason why Jesus was born. When Jesus was asked about the law of God He said, “I have not come to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it” (Matthew 5:17). The legal decree of God that death was the result of sin was kept and obeyed by Jesus. The legal decree of God that One should pay for the sins of all was all kept and obeyed by Jesus. In Romans 5:15 the Apostle Paul wrote that because of one sin by one man namely Adam all of us are sinners. In that same passage the Apostle wrote that by one man namely Jesus, forgiveness and pardon has been declared by God, the righteous Judge of all the earth. Seven hundred and fifty years (750) before the birth of Jesus Christ God the Father said through the prophet Isaiah (42:1) “Behold My servant, whom I uphold, My chosen, in whom My soul delights; I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the nations.” On the banks of the Jordan River those words are confirmed. From out of heaven God the Father said “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). We have been baptized into Christ and the Father is pleased with us. Thanks be to God. Amen.
Grace Iola Kansas: Date: Jan 5, 2020
Title: In the Temple Text: Luke 2:40-52
Today I want to set before you the example of Jesus and His parents and what it means for you. So we are going to look at the Gospel lesson, Luke 2:40-42. “(Jesus) grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon Him. 41 Now His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. 42 When Jesus was twelve years old; they went to Jerusalem according to custom.” The first thing I want to share with you is the idea of custom. Here in Luke 2 the word custom means “practice, habit, a necessity.” In Exodus 34 God demanded that Hebrew men were to go to a designated place every year for worship. Eventually that place became the Temple in Jerusalem. The men were to appear before the LORD every year for the Passover celebration. That was the law, the practice, the custom of God. Joseph was obedient to the commandment. Over the years it became a family event to attend these worship services. Therefore, in Luke 2 Mary makes the trip to Jerusalem. We Lutherans (and others) have a tradition of confirmation. It marks a transition of spiritual responsibility. According to some sources, among the ancient Hebrews, a boy became a “Man of the Law” a “Man of God’s Word” around the age of 12. Some Bible students have made this connection. Eight days following birth, boy babies were circumcised (Genesis 17). As they grew they were educated in God’s Word. The celebration of bar mitzvah would take place around the age of 12. In the Lutheran scheme, Jesus is a baptized and confirmed member of the household of faith. Given that, it can be said, that Jesus is in Jerusalem obedient to the law of God and exercising all the rights and privileges of a Hebrew man. Jesus is 12 years old and a “Man of the Book.” From this bit of knowledge we can conclude that Jesus was obedient --- He honored His father and His mother --- He did what was expected of Him as the son of Mary and Joseph. Most of us here are well into our adult years. Looking back over our lives we might see the many occasions when we failed to honor father and mother and conduct ourselves as Baptized children of God. What we adults failed to do -- as sons and daughters in our parent’s home -- Jesus did for us. Now you often hear that Jesus died on the Cross for the forgiveness of all your sins. You often hear that Jesus rose from the dead on Easter Sunday so that you may be declared not guilty of all your sins. Here in Luke 2 we are told that Jesus was a baby, a little boy, in the home of Joseph and Mary for the forgiveness of all your sins. What we adults failed to do as sons and daughters in our parent’s home, Jesus did for us. Your childhood, with all its childishness, is covered up by the obedient childhood of Jesus in the home of Joseph and Mary. There is not a moment of our lives untouched by Jesus. Two more examples. We do not have all the details but we have enough to say that Mary and Joseph did not ignore their spiritual responsibility to Jesus. They did what was necessary for the religious education of Jesus. Listen to this passage from Deuteronomy 6:6-7 (Thus says the LORD) “These words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children.” In the home, children are to honor their parents. While they are in the home, parents are to teach the things of God to their children. Mary and Joseph did that. Jesus was taken to the Temple by Joseph as required by God in Holy Scripture. However, in Luke 2 Mary and Joseph have their own problem, their own mistake. Somehow they lose sight of Jesus. For lack of a better word in a moment of neglect they lose Jesus. And perhaps based on verse 48 they even blame Jesus. The good news is Jesus is in the Temple. The good news is Jesus is in His Father’s house. And right now this is the LORD’s House. Right now through the reading of Holy Scripture, the singing of hymns, the liturgy, and in the Sacrament; Jesus is in the house with us. And He is doing for us what He was born to do -- forgive us our sin. He is here with us doing what He died to do -- forgive us our sin. He is here with us doing what He rose from the dead to do, namely give us life and salvation. May we all with thankful and faithful hearts continue to seek and find Jesus in the Father’s house. Amen.
Grace Iola Kansas: Date: Dec 29 2019
Title: The Fullness of Time Text: Matthew 2:13–23
This is something of a topical sermon loosely based on the Gospel lesson. Still I want to start with this observation from the Epistle lesson. Galatians 4:4-5 “When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law”. That passage is incredibly important for us. That passage is extremely comforting. There are many reasons why that is so, however, I will point out two reasons. First, Jesus was born under the law. What law and what does that mean? In Romans 8:2 we find this statement, “The Spirit of life has set you free in Jesus, from the law of sin and death.” The imperfection of human life is undeniable, and sin is the cause of that imperfection. Death is also undeniable. In the fullness of time, at the appropriate time, at the right time the perfect Son of God entered into our imperfect world and its consequence death. We read in 2 Corinthians 5:21 “For our sake (God the Father) caused (God the Son) who had no sin, to be sin.” We know the Holy Scriptures. Jesus died on the Cross for us and for our rescue from hell. There is something of a classic illustration that I will share now. When we are born we are born with sin. If we think of sin to be like garbage . . . we are born with it and we carry it with us. But the Holy Trinity had a plan for us and for our garbage. The Son of God would enter our world and take our garbage from us and claim it as His own. I have often said that in Baptism we are washed clean. But when Jesus was Baptized He was washed dirty with our garbage. (There are a number of ways of presenting this illustration: 1) the exchange of garbage in Baptism. 2) Jesus took our garbage to the Cross, 3) Jesus took our garbage to the tomb and left it there, 4) in Holy Communion Jesus gives us the “food of forgiveness” and takes our garbage.) Galatians 4:4-5 “When the fullness of time had come, (at the right time) God sent forth His Son. In order to do that Jesus had to live. In order to do that Jesus had to die. In order to do that Jesus had to be resurrected. That is what Jesus had to do in order for us to be rescued from the devil and from hell. However, the devil did not want to give us up. The devil did not want to lose his victims. The devil made a plan, to stop Jesus. In the Gospel reading we see the plan of evil. Matthew 2:13 “When the Wise Men --- left the Lord God appeared to Joseph and said, ‘Rise, take the child and His mother, and run to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you to leave, because King Herod is about to search for the child, and kill Him.’” The devil is trying to kill Jesus. The devil is trying to prevent Jesus from dying on the Cross as a grownup man. The devil does not want Jesus to succeed, to fulfill the plan of salvation for us. But God Almighty will not let the devil win. Jesus is protected. Now there are a couple of things we can learn from this. First let’s go back to Galatians 4:4 & 5 “When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” In our Baptism God has adopted us into His family. That is why we are called the children of God. Just as God the Father protected Jesus from the devil; God the Father protects us. The 2nd thing we can learn is in the Gospel. Things were scary and dangerous for Joseph, Mary and Jesus, but God was there. Life gets scary and dangerous for us, but we are children of God, and the Lord is with us. In this life Jesus faced many dangers. In this world Jesus lived for us, Jesus died on the Cross for us; Jesus rose from the tomb for us. Jesus gave us this promise, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. I am with you always!” (Matthew 28:18 & 20) May the LORD Jesus watch over us this day and always. Amen.
Grace Iola Kansas: Date: Dec 15 2019
Title: Ears to Hear Text: Matthew 11:15
People study people. For thousands of years humanity has tried to understand what it is that makes us “tic.” Hippocrates the ancient Greek physician, who died about 375 years before the birth of Christ, talked about “the four humors.” They were bodily fluids that were believed to affect physical health and human personality. His concept of the “the four humors” would continue well into Medieval times. Who and what we are has been a topic for thousands of years. Did you understand what I just said? Did you follow what I just said? How you answer that question may say something about how you learn. If you answered, “Yes I see what you are saying.” You may be a visual learner. If you answered, “Yes I hear what you are saying.” You may be an audio learner. If you said something like “I grasp what you are saying.” You may learn by experience. These three categories most likely overlap. No person is a 100% seeing or hearing or doing learner. The Holy Spirit understands these things. He inspired the human authors to include those concepts in Holy Scripture. I will illustrate. This is Psalm 34:8 “Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the person who takes refuge in Him!” In this verse the word SEE is used in the sense of knowing, understanding. The word TASTE is used in the sense of experience. The LORD is inviting us to experience His goodness in our lives. Many Christians, the world over have experienced, a calmness, a peace, an assurance of victory or success, a wonderful outcome in a time of stress and danger. Remember what the Apostle Thomas said about the resurrected Jesus; “Unless, I see . . . and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into His side, I will never believe” (John 20:25). Thomas wanted to experience the resurrected Jesus for himself. In the Gospel reading Jesus refers to the hearing and seeing experience of His ministry. Jesus said “Go and tell John what you experienced hearing and seeing.” But then the lesson ends with the words, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (Matt 11:15). In Romans 10:17 the Holy Spirit says to us “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” As Christians we cannot continue in our walk of faith without the Word of God. Faith comes to us and is maintained by and / or through the very Word of God. The faithfulness and goodness of God is communicated to us through Holy Scripture. But how do we see and learn the faithfulness and goodness of God? We do experience, hear and see our Savior in a most miraculous way. First we hear our Lord and Savior in these words. . . Our Lord Jesus Christ on the night when He was betrayed took bread and said: “Take, and eat.” Then He took the Wine and said “Take and drink, this is for you for the forgiveness of all sin.” Second we see the bread and the wine. Third we experience the eating of the Body and Blood of Christ. We hear Him and we see Him and we experience Him in the Sacrament of the Altar for the forgiveness of all our personal sin. May we do so all the days of our lives. Amen.
Grace Iola Kansas: Date: Dec 8 2019
Title: Brood of Vipers Text: Matthew 3:1-12
I want to begin by drawing your attention to the Pharisees and Sadducees. This is the first mention of them in the Bible. It is far from flattering. However, before we get to that a little background information. The origin of the Pharisees and Sadducees is clouded in the mist of time. As an organization the Pharisees were perhaps founded about 165 years before Christmas. On the positive side they were well educated, disciplined, and motivated. On the negative side Jesus often denounced the Pharisees as lovers of money, hypocrites and elevating their teachings above the Scripture. Still some Pharisees believed in Jesus. St. Paul was a Pharisees. Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea were also Pharisees who believed in Jesus. At the time of Jesus and the Apostles there were about 6,000 Pharisees. Now the Sadducees appear to be more of an elitist political group. They denied much of what the Scripture taught. To the best of my knowledge no Sadducees in believed in Jesus. According to chapter twelve of John’s Gospel the Pharisees and Sadducees were the ringleaders in the plot to have Jesus arrested and put to death. Other than a few men most of them were bitterly opposed to Jesus. Our first introduction to the Pharisees and Sadducees is here in Matthew chapter three. John the Baptist calls them a “brood of vipers.” That is much more than a snide, angry, hurtful remark. Those words, “brood of vipers” are full of spiritual, Biblical meaning. I will get to that in a minute. But first let’s consider the other people who are being baptized. They asked John “What should we do?” He answered (Luke 3:11) “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.” We could say “John is talking about giving to the poor.” That would be true but not the big picture. Everything we have comes from God. It is God who shares what He has with us. The Apostle Paul wrote, 2 Corinthians 9:7 “Everyone must give as he or she has decided in their heart, but not reluctantly because God loves a cheerful giver.” People asked John the Baptist “What should we do?” He answered, “Don’t be selfish. Don’t be tight fisted. God has shared with you, share with others.” There were people who miss used their power, position and authority for personal gain and pleasure. The tax collectors asked “What should we do?” John answered (Luke 3:13) “Collect no more than you are authorized to do.” The big picture is “Be honest, be responsible, be a help and not a burden.” Listen to the Apostle Paul Colossians 3:23 “Whatever you do, work as for the Lord and not for men.” Those responsible for maintaining law and order asked “What should we do?” The Baptist answered, Luke 3:14 “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation.” The big picture is “Don’t bully, or manipulate others to get what you want. Don’t take advantage of others.” Jesus said all of that and more with these words, Matthew 7:12 “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” John the Baptist is by the Jordan River proclaiming the forgiveness of sins. Most of the people are just like us. We and they have our gossip, our stupid sins as we sowed our wild oats, our petty offences and crabby days. Most of them were polite sinners just like you and me. But not all of them were just like us polite sinners. John called them a “brood of vipers.” This is a scary thing. These are not brutes walking the streets with baseball bats, threatening the lives of people. These are Pharisees and Sadducees, walking around in religious clothing with a show of sincerity and humility etched on their faces. These Pharisees and Sadducees are not there to share in the things of God. Listen to this passage from the Bible. It is an unavoidable verse. Genesis 3:14 & 15 (The LORD God said to the serpent) “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” John the Baptist called these religious men “the offspring of the serpent, the devil’s children.” They were not there to repent. They were not there to receive any good thing from God. They were not like you and me, sinners burdened with daily sin and guilt, anxious for the forgiveness of God. They were there like snakes, to hiss, to bite and to poison. They hiss at the true word of God. They bite people with words of doubt and confusion. They poison people with false hope and false comfort. In Mark chapter seven Jesus is confronted by these “brood of vipers.” There we learn their true intent. Jesus said to them, “You reject the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition!” Like their leader who long ago said, “Did God really say?” the intent is to take God’s Word away, but all hidden under the cloak of being nice. There on the banks of the Jordan John the Baptist is not being mean and rude. On the contrary he is acting out of love. These particular Pharisees and Sadducees were there to hinder the work of God. They were there interrupting the work of God trying to keep sinners form the forgiveness of sins. This is Advent and we prepare for Christmas, the birth of the Savior. The vipers are still among us. Ask yourself “How much of the cultural festivities surrounding the holidays actually focus our attention on the birth of Christ? How much of our cultural traditions seek to hide Christ?” I like Christmas, even the fun stuff. But let us remember that where there is Christ the evil one intrudes. It is a wonderful thing that we Christians have our Advent services. It is a wonderful thing that we Christians have our Sunday School Christmas programs. It is a wonderful thing that we Christians have our Christmas carols with which we tell the true story of Christmas. This year let’s take extra precaution against the old evil foe and surround ourselves with the Holy Days and Holy things of Christmas, for the enrichment of our souls. Amen.
Grace Iola Kansas: Date: Dec 1 2019
Title: The Time Unknown Text: Matthew 24:36
I want to begin with this well known and often used passage from Genesis; “The LORD said to the (devil) ‘I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; He shall (crush) your head, and you shall bruise His heel’” (3:14-15). Those words were spoken thousands of years ago. Today I want you to understand two (2) things from that passage. First, from the moment the LORD spoke those words the devil and all his evil offspring cowered in fear and dread. From the moment the LORD spoke those words the devil and all his evil offspring were terrified of Christmas Day. A Man Child would be born of a woman and bring an end to the devil’s plans and power. Second, the children of Adam and Eve hoped and prayed that the Man Child would be born in their generation. From the moment the LORD spoke those words people lived in the hope and expectation of Christmas Day. The Apostle Peter wrote these words about the Day of the LORD, “Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully” (1 Peter 1:10). Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sarah, Boaz and Ruth and many, many others, hoped for Christmas. For thousands of years the faithful people of God asked “Is this the time? Is this the Day when the Savior will arrive? Is this the time when our anxiety under sin, death and devil will be at an end?” About two thousand years ago a man named John was preaching and baptizing people. With hopeful expectation some asked him, “Are you the One?” John would answer, “No! I am not the One, but He stands among you” (Matthew 3, Mark 1, Luke 3, John 1). For perhaps as many as eight thousand years people prayed, hope and waited in faith that God would keep His promise and send the Savior. One of my favorite passages about Christmas is found in the book of Galatians 4:4-5, “When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law!” Today I want you to understand two (2) things from that passage. First, God has all of human history under His loving and merciful power. Generations upon generations wanted Christmas to happen in their day. However, God who knows all and then acts for our good chose the right time, not a day too soon or a day too late, but in the fullness of time, God the Son entered the world born of Mary. This is the second thing I want you to know from Galatians chapter four (4). Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sarah, Boaz and Ruth and many, many others were saved by faith in the promise of God to send the Savior born of a woman. They did not know the day, the year, the time when the Savior would be born. They believed what God promised; a boy child would be born and they would be saved. This is the second thing I want you to know from Galatians chapter four (4). We are like Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sarah, Boaz and Ruth and many, many others, hopefully waiting for the Savior to enter human history. We are like the people of the Old Testament. We do not know the time, we do not the day but we look for it and we believe. We faithfully ask, “Is this the time? Is this the Day when the Savior will arrive? In the Creed we confess that faith saying I believe in Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God who for us came down from heaven was crucified. And He rose again according to the promise of Scripture and He ascended into heaven. And He will come again and His kingdom will have no end. Like Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sarah, Boaz and Ruth and many, many others we are ready by faith for that day. May the God of all love and salvation keep us in this Christian faith this day and always. Amen.
Grace Iola Kansas: Date: Nov 24, 2019
Title: “Safe” Text: Col 3:13-20
I want to begin with an illustration. However, before I get to the actual illustration allow me this disclaimer. Almost every illustration has a breaking point. They can be picked apart; the flaw exposed. So sometimes it is best not to over think the illustration. I have here the game of Sorry. The object of the game is to move your four (4) tokens from start to home. Or we could say the object is to prevent the other players from moving their game pieces from start to home. The game has cards with instructions on them. The Sorry card allows the player to remove a token from start and take an opposing players place on the board, sending that token back to start. However, there is this (a) space that is safe. In this safe place, your opponents, cannot Sorry you back to start. In the reading from Colossians 1:13 we have this promise, (God the Father) “has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son.” That is very comforting. God the Father, because of Jesus is going to get us safely to our eternal home. Unfortunately, in this world we have an enemy, an opponent who does not want us to get home to heaven. The Devil with his army of demons tries to keep us from Jesus. In the Gospel of John Jesus calls the Devil a thief and a murder. Jesus said, “The thief comes to steal and kill and destroy.” Jesus said, The Devil wants to rob people of their Christian faith. The Devil wants to kill people before they can believe in Jesus. The Devil wants to torture people in hell. Today we use the word destroy to mean “gone” or beyond use. Think of it like popping a balloon. You can only pop (destroy) a balloon once and then it is gone, worthless. But, two thousand years ago people did not use the word destroy in that way. When Jesus used the word destroy, it could mean a horrible thing that happens over and over again. Jesus says the Devil and his demons want to keep people from the Christian faith. Kill them before they can come to faith and hurt them body and soul in hell over and over again. This has happened. In the Bible it happened to Adam and Eve’s son Cain, (1 John 3:2). In the Bible it happened to Esau (Heb 12:16-17). It happened to a man named Demas; who for a time worked with St. Luke, St. Mark and St. Paul (2 Tim 4:10 Phil vs. 24 Col 4:14). How did the Evil One get these people? It wasn’t because they were bad people. It wasn’t because they did bad things. Moses, King David and St. Paul did awful things and yet they went to heaven. (Ex 2:1-2, 2 Sam 11, Acts 8:1). Jesus tells us how the Devil gets people. This is what Jesus said, “If you abide in My word, you are truly My disciple”, (John 8:31). That means we believe, we trust, we use the Bible in our lives. That means we think, we say, we do what the Bible says. I have been told that when I was a little boy I went to church with my Mom and Dad. But I don’t remember that. When I was little my Mom and Dad stopped going to church. My Mom and Dad have been dead for many years now. Sometimes I wonder, “Will I see them in heaven? Are they safe at home with Jesus in heaven?” I wonder those things because I did not hear them abide in the word of God. I wonder those things because I did not see them abiding, continuing, living in Jesus. When people separate themselves from Jesus (Perhaps like my Mom and Dad did.) they let the Devil steal away their faith. Most of us here today are here almost every Sunday. What a beautiful and wonderful thing. We hear parents, and grandparents and sons and daughters, sing the name of Jesus, pray and praise the name of Jesus. We hear from one another the confession of faith. Some people say “I don’t need to go to church to be saved.” That can be a very selfish statement. That statement shows a lack of love. Why? Because in order for families and loved ones to be comforted and confident that you are safe in Jesus, we need to see and hear the confession of faith. We need the assurance that you are not wandering around on the board (of life), in danger of being “Sorryed” and never reaching home. One of the easiest ways to let people know that you are in the Kingdom of God is to be in church. Every Sunday we hear what God has done for us. Every Sunday we hear the good news that God the Father has moved us to the home of His beloved Son and the Evil One cannot remove us from there. Jesus gave the promise that everyone who stays in Him and His Word (the safe place) will get home to heaven. May we all be safe at home, citizens of the kingdom of God. Amen.
Grace Iola Kansas: Date: Nov 17 2019
Title: Dressed and Ready Text: Luke 21:5-28
Like last week’s readings the ones appointed for today are packed full of information. Therefore, we must pick a thought that can be conveyed in a 12 minute sermon. So allow me to touch a couple of topics. The historian Josephus was born about 6-7 years after the crucifixion of Jesus. So he lived during the days of the Apostles. He lived to see and experience some of the things Jesus talks about in the Gospel of Luke. Jesus says that armies will surround Jerusalem and the Great Temple will be destroyed. The historian Josephus tells us that this temple was fabulous. It was made with some very large white stones. Some of them were 60 feet long and 7 feet high. Today people travel from all over to see the Statue of Liberty in New York. Two thousand years ago people traveled from all over to see the Temple in Jerusalem. Forty years after the crucifixion of Jesus the Roman armies destroyed it, just as Jesus said. It has been estimated that well over 1 million Jewish people died in that war. Still after 2,000 years there is no Israelite temple in Jerusalem. According to Holy Scripture the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD is a warning to repent because the end is near. This world and the sinners on it will not continue indefinitely. However, the Bible does not tell us when Judgment Day will take place. According to Scripture every day you get out of bed could be the day. Until that day Jesus tells us some extraordinary things. Some of it is scary stuff. People will betray one another. Family members will surrender one another to the authorities. Wars, sickness and drought will be a constant threat and event. Every hurricane that threatens the American Coast; every rumble of an earthquake is a warning that Judgment Day is drawing near. Jesus wants people to repent of sin and believe in Him as their only escape. In 2 Corinthians 6:2 the Apostle Paul wrote, “Behold, now is the day of salvation.” That salvation is freely given to us. It is free to us because Jesus earned it for us. He earned it by His holy life. You will recall from Matthew 4 and also Luke 4 that Jesus was tempted in the wilderness 40 days and forty nights by Satan. In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were tempted by Satan. They gave in to that temptation. Therefore everyone today is a sinner, giving ourselves to temptation. Fortunately for us, when Jesus was tempted He resisted the devil. The victory of Jesus over Satan is our victory. The holy life of Jesus becomes our very own. For that reason we are told this in Galatians 3:27 “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” That concept of putting on Christ is interesting. I am going to ask you to recall the Parable of the Wedding Feast. I will refresh your memory by reading the concluding verses of Matthew 22. 11 “When the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. 13 The king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness.’” So let me put this together, “Whoever is baptized wears the wedding garment of Christ. Whoever does not wear the wedding garment is naked and their sin is exposed. They are tied hand and foot and thrown into the outer darkness of hell.” The naked and exposed truth of our sin is covered by the life Jesus lived. The holy life of Jesus earned our salvation. The crucifixion of Jesus, His death on the Cross paid for our salvation. Listen to this from 1 Corinthians 6 19 “You are not your own, 20 you were bought with a price.” What does all that have to do with Judgment Day? To answer that lets conclude with the promise Jesus made, Mark 16:16 “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, (and is fully dressed and ready for) “the great and awesome day of the LORD!” (Malachi 4:5). Thanks be to God. Amen.
Grace Iola Kansas: Date: Nov 10, 2019
Title: Peace of Mind Text: 2 Thessalonians 2 vs 1 to 8 and 13 to 17
When I was a little boy I would listen to people talk about Judgment Day. It really scared me. I could imagine cities on fire. I imagined God deciding who was good enough for heaven. I imagined God letting demons drag people down to hell. The thought of Judgment Day was frightening. What would happen to me and to the people I loved. We have to be honest some of the descriptions in the Bible are scary. Consider what St. Peter wrote in his second letter “The day of the Lord will come . . . the sky will pass away with a roar, and the planets and the stars will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth . . . will be exposed” (2 Peter 3:10). Peter wrote those words because he heard Jesus say the same thing (Matthew 24). When Judgment Day happens everyone will know it. The thought of Judgment Day used to scare me. But now I have peace of mind. But now, like warm cup of cocoa with miniature marshmallows on cold winter’s day the thought of Judgment Day comforts me. I have comfort not because I am no longer a little boy. I have comfort because Jesus has promised me and you and all Christians everywhere that the awful things of Judgment Day will not happen to us. Jesus gave us a very simple promise. It is simple because it is easy to remember. It is found in Mark 16:16 (Jesus said) “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved!” Jesus has promised that Judgment Day will happen. Jesus has also promised that we will be safe and saved from all the dangerous stuff of Judgment Day. Jesus promised, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved!” Unlike us in this world, Jesus never breaks a promise. He keeps every promise He made in the Bible. The Apostle Paul had to remind people that Jesus keeps His promises. Apparently someone was preaching and teaching lies about Judgment Day and scaring the congregation at Thessalonica, Greece. In the reading from 2 Thessalonians 2:2 & 5 the Apostle Paul reminds the people to remember what they had been taught about Judgment Day. “Do not be shaken in mind or alarmed . . . that the Day of the Lord has already taken place. 5 Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things?” Apparently the Christians in that city thought that Jesus had returned but they were not saved. The wrong teachings about the Last Days took away the peoples’ peace of mind and comfort. So the Apostle Paul reminds them about the Antichrist, the enemy of Jesus. So the Apostle Paul reminds the people that the devil and all those who work for him are defeated. This is what the Bible says, “The lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of His mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of His coming.” Basically that means that the enemy of Jesus and our enemy is defeated. When Judgment Day does happen, everything bad and evil will be killed, destroyed so that it cannot hurt us anymore. When I was a little boy the idea of Judgment Day scared me. It scared me because I thought it was all about anger, danger and violence. But then I stopped listening to what people said and started listening to what the Bible says. In 2 Thess 2:2 the Apostle Paul wrote “Do not be shaken in mind or alarmed” because Jesus will keep His promise. “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved!” Judgment Day is not about anger, danger and violence. Judgment Day is about Jesus rescuing us from all harm and danger. Before Easter Sunday Jesus gave this promise; John 14:1-3 “In my Father's house are many rooms. . . I go to prepare a place for you. (And I will return) and will take you so that where I am you may be also.” This is Jesus’ promise. He promised you that you have a place in heaven with Him. Jesus promised to return to this world to rescue us from all harm and danger. Sadly for some people Judgment Day will be an awful day. But for us it will be a wonderful day because we will never get sick again. It will be wonderful day for us because all hate and danger will be gone forever. It will be a wonderful day because everyone who believed and was baptized will be with us, with Jesus in a place of never ending peace joy and love. Amen.
Grace Iola Kansas: Date: Nov 3, 2019
Title: “Pressure Cooker” Text: Revelation 7:16
They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat.
When I was a little boy growing up just outside of Saginaw Michigan my mother had a garden. It was a vegetable garden. When it was time she would “can” the green beans and such. I remember mom using a pressure cooker. For those of us who do not know what a pressure cooker is think of a big tea kettle with a piercing whistle as the hot steam is released. A pressure cooker has a lid that gets clamped down. It has valve on top and when the water boils there is an ear hurting whistle. It scared me. It was full of boiling water. I could imagine the pressure cooker exploding and burning my mother. It scared me. To this day, hot stove tops and ovens cause me to shudder with images of awful pain. When we stop to think --- when we pause to consider, there are many things in life that cause us to shudder, to shiver with fear. Listen again to these thoughts from Revelation chapter seven. “Who are these, clothed in white? These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation.” Not to get bogged down in details, however, it is interesting to note that translators have some difficulty here. For example the NIV translation renders verse 14 this way, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation!” Here it is in the past tense “they have come out.” The ESV has the rendering of a continued action “they are coming out.” Now the difference is slight and it does not really change the fact of the Biblical text. The Apostle is seeing a vision of every saved person. He is seeing all the saved of human history in heaven before the throne of God. Or it could be this way; The Apostle is seeing a vision of every saved person, entering into heaven before the throne of God. The point really is not have they arrived or are they arriving. The point is all the saved, including us, are there or we will be there. It is an accomplished fact --- God has saved us and God is saving us by the blood of Jesus Christ. On this All Saints’ Day celebration that is a comforting message from Holy Scripture. Think of the great tribulation as being the pressure cooker. All the heat, the boiling water the irritating, piercing whistling steam of fear doubt, guilt, sickness, the temptation to evil and the grief of the grave, forever removed. For all the Christians for whom we have had funerals the great burden, the great pressure of sin, death and the devil is forever removed. In Revelation chapter 7 the Apostle uses two illustrations 1) nature and 2) clothing. Here in this broken and imperfect world nature works against us. In verse 16, nature illustrates all the pressures of sin, death and the devil. The Apostle wrote, “They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat.” In heaven --- in the resurrected life the difficulties of this present life will be gone. That concept is also illustrated with clothing. The Apostle wrote, “They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” In this here and now our lives, our ill fitting clothing is stained with guilt and regret. Our clothes are stained with the consequences of bad decisions, bad choices, bad behavior and so much more. Some of the stains are put there by the rude sins of others. For all the Christians for whom we have had funerals the blood of Jesus Christ is the bleach, is the soap that removes every imperfection and stain. With the clothing of heaven everyone is lovely and beautiful. So in the vision the Apostle sees all the saved --- clean, whole and healthy of body, mind and soul. When I was a little boy growing up just outside of Saginaw Michigan, I was relieved and happy when my mother turned off the stove and put away the pressure cooker. I could relax the fear and concern and was over. All Saints’ Day encourages us and reminds us that the pressures of life in this sin filled world are over for some. All Saints’ Day encourages us and reminds us that we too will enter the throne room of God and with all the people of heaven we will sing the song of salvation written for us by Jesus our Savior. Amen.
Grace Iola Kansas: Date: Oct 27 2019
Title: A Reformation Hymn Text: A Mighty Fortress
On this Reformation Sunday I would like to share with you some thoughts based on Luther’s hymn A Mighty Fortress Is Our God. That hymn was written from experience. It is not a hymn written by an idealistic dreamer. Seven years before the hymn was written Luther had been declared an outlaw. Anyone who saw him could kill him. It is also interesting to note that Martin Luther was not a physically strong and robust man. He was often ill. On more than one occasion friends and family thought he was dying. He also suffered bouts of severe depression. He would get out of bed only from necessity. Although his body was weak, his mind and faith were very strong. Where some sought unity and peace through compromise, Luther was steadfast and inflexible; fully aware that he was putting his life on the line. Picturing Luther as a harassed and troubled man gives greater depth and poignancy to this hymn. Let’s turn our attention to the Reformation Hymn A Mighty Fortress Is Our God found on page 656. Verse 1 A Mighty fortress is our God, A trusty shield and weapon He helps us free from every need That hath us now overtaken The old evil foe Now means deadly woe Deep guile and great might Are his dread arms in fight On earth is not his equal Before the introduction of gunpowder and cannon, the walled castle or city was the safest and surest defense against aggression. From the castle a lord with his knights offered protection over a large area. (Perhaps a modern military equivalent would be the aircraft carrier.) The hymn reminds us that God Almighty is our ultimate offense and defense. Freely, out of His goodness and grace, God shelters us from our greatest enemy, Satan. By ourselves we are no match for the Evil One; he is too strong, too cunning and too willing to hurt us. Verse 2 of the hymn tells us we have a champion who fights for us. With might of ours can naught be done Soon were our loss effected But for us fights the valiant One Whom God himself elected Ask ye, Who this is? Jesus Christ it is Of [Sab By Outh] Lord, And there’s none other God He holds the field forever. With might of ours can naught be done. Without saving faith we are spiritually defenseless. In the Gospel reading Jesus said “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36). Notice the implication; “If you are not set free than you are being held captive.” In the scriptures a person is either free in Christ or a prisoner of sin, death and the devil. In the hymn Luther calls Jesus “The valiant One . . . the only God who holds the battle field or the field of victory forever.” In Colossians 1:13 there is a wonderful statement about your freedom and your citizenship. It goes like this (God the Father) has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son.” By His means of Grace, Holy Scripture and Baptism, God has removed us from the tyranny of hell to the Kingdom of God. Because of Jesus Christ, the Valiant One, the Crucified One we are the free people of God. Before we go on to verse 3, let me make this observation. In verse 2 we have the word SABAOTH, [Sab By Outh] which means armies. Jesus is the general, the commander in chief of the angelic army. In this hymn Jesus the Knight in shining armor stands as our defender with rank upon rank, division upon division, army upon army of angels, all mustered and battle ready to defeat our enemy! Now verse 3. Though devils all the world should fill All eager to devour us We tremble not, we fear no ill, They shall not overpower us This world’s prince may still scowl fierce as he will he can harm us none He’s judged the deed is done One little word can fell him. The armies of hell are also vast in number. And even though they rant and rave against us, even though they would gut us without mercy they cannot. By the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, Satan and his forces are thoroughly defeated. The field of battle belongs to Jesus Christ and His Church. In the hymn Luther wrote “This world’s prince (that is the devil) may still scowl fierce (fight against us with cunning temptations) he can harm us none.” With the word harm Luther means that “Because Jesus is victorious we too shall be victorious.” Let’s close with a couple of thoughts based on Verse 4 The Word they still shall let remain Nor any thanks have for it He’s by our side upon the plain With his good gifts and Spirit And take they our life, Goods, fame child and wife, Though all be gone, our victory has been won The kingdom ours remaineth. These are not idle words with which to end a song. They are a confession of deep and sincere faith. Martin Luther was denounced by church and state as a heretic, a false prophet, a tool of the Evil one leading the innocent astray. In the 1500’s the penalty for being a heretic was death by fire. Luther expected to be burned at the stake. But he would not renounce the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ. He meant it when he wrote “Take they our life . . . though all be gone”, they have won nothing, our victory has been won by Jesus Christ; who said, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). May God Almighty give to each and every one of us victory in Jesus, Amen.
Grace Iola Kansas: Date: Oct 20 2019
Title: Continue Firmly Text: 2 Timothy 3:14 - 4:5
This is the main theme in the appointed readings; “Our Christian faith holds fast to God’s promises and continues steadfast in prayer.” Like so many things in Scripture it sounds easy but it is not. Jesus sounded this warning found in Matthew 24:10-13 “. . . many will fall away . . . many false prophets will arise . . . the love of many will grow cold . . . But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” That warning is not for unbelievers but for believers. If the threat were not real, to us Christians, Jesus would never have spoken the warning. The Apostle James repeats the words of Jesus with this, James 1:12 “Blessed is the person who remains steadfast under trial, for (that person) will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love Him.” The danger, the trial, that threatens is not war, crime, sickness, accident, or anything of that nature. Those things are the daily burdens that believers and unbelievers labor under. The Apostle Paul had his “thorn in the flesh” that never left (2 Cor 12). But, it did not take him away from his Savior. Listen to this from the Epistle “The time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching . . . 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. That word “myth” can trip us up. We hear the word “myth” and think of old Norse stories of Thor and the Frost Giants. We hear the word “myth” and think of old Greek stories of Perseus and Medusa. But the Apostle Paul is not thinking about those types of myths. Paul is an Apostle of Jesus Christ and he is thinking about the “myths” of which Jesus warned against. Listen again to Jesus. Matthew 24:10-13 “. . . many will fall away . . . many false prophets will arise . . . But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” The “myths” are the twisted teachings of false prophets. What do false prophets, teach? Well, the list is too great and long for a 12 minute sermon. But let me give this example. I am confident that we have all heard this or that preacher say, “God does not want you to suffer. God wants to bless you. God wants you to have a good life.” The words are true, but the application of those words is so very often wrong. Consider this “God does not want you to suffer.” In our sinful minds that get’s twisted and we think, “If I live the right kind of Christian life; I can avoid suffering. If I follow the right Biblical principles I will have a well adjusted happy and prosperous life.” The next time you hear some preacher say “God does not want you to suffer” or its equivalent “God does not want you to be poor” whenever you hear that remember it is God who said to Adam “The day you eat of the tree of good and evil you will die.” Whenever you hear such things ask yourself, “Where are the Apostles?” If anybody knew how to live the Christian life they did! Ask yourself “Where is the most highly favored, blessed woman?” The answer is “They all suffered and died.” Let me share two Bible passages first from Deut 32:39 (repeated in Isaiah 45:7) and Pro 3:11-12 “‘See now that I, even I, am He, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.” “Do not despise the LORD's discipline . . . 12 for the LORD (corrects those) whom He loves.” In the Epistle we are told, “The time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching . . . 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. It is a myth to take the suffering of the crucified Jesus Christ and turn it into a Gospel of life on easy street. False prophets are sneaky. They use the Scripture to shift our focus from Christ Crucified, to ourselves. They use the Scripture to shift focus from the Way of the Cross to the way of easy street. The Bible tells us to “fix our eyes on Jesus the author and finisher of our faith” (Heb 12:2). A person’s eyes are out of focus when they think they are Christian because their purse is full of pennies, their heads are full of positive thoughts and their hearts are happy with their lives. The ultimate purpose of Holy Scripture is found in 2 Timothy 3:15, “The sacred writings, are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” It should go without saying that the word “salvation” means there is something to be rescued from. Basically there are three things. 1) you need to be rescued from yourself because you are broken with sin. 2) you need to be rescued from this world because it is broken with sin. Ask yourself, “Is this the ME I want to be, is this the world I want for ME or do I wish, do I hope for a better ME in a better world?” The third (3rd) thing you need to be rescued from is hell. Where there is no hope for something better. Where there is no relief from disease and disappointment. Hell where there is no freedom from fear. The number one reason for the Bible is this “Jesus Saves.” The second reason for the Bible is found in 2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” There are those who are trying to erase that verse and others like it. We are being told to be loving and accepting and tolerant. If we want to be loving, accepting and tolerant we must not say “This is right that is wrong.” We must not say “This is true that is false.” We must not say “This is holy and that is unholy.” Listen to the word of God, 2 Timothy 3:15-17 “The sacred writings, are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 so that the (people) of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” Someone once asked Jesus “What is the greatest commandment?” Jesus gave this answer, “Love the LORD your God.” Then Jesus added “This is the second greatest “Love your neighbor” (Matt 22). According to 2 Timothy 3, you love God when you believe that Jesus is your only Savior. According to 2 Timothy 3 you love your neighbor when you teach what is holy and unholy. It is unloving, and ungodly to teach and preach a Gospel that is not Christ Crucified. It is unloving and ungodly to hide both that which is holy and that which is unholy. You love God when you abide in God’s Word. May God Almighty keep us and preserve us in the truth and purity of His Word so that we are found to be a people of love this day and always. Amen.
Grace Iola Kansas: Date: Oct 13 2019
Title: Dead in Christ Text: 2 Timothy 2:1-13
I am going to ask you an important soul searching question. But first listen again to this from verse 11 of the Epistle: “If we have died with Him, we will also live with Him.” The question I am about to put forth has many implications. Now the question, “Have you ever, do you now consider yourself ‘Dead in Christ?’” As you think about your answer listen to this statement from Jesus. It is found in Matthew 16:25, Mark 8:35 & Luke 9:24. Jesus said, “Whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” In the Old Testament lesson we read about three (3) women. Two (2) of them have a decision to make; one that will decide their eternity. The three women are in a desperate place. For all intent and purposes they are “homeless and penniless.” Naomi says to her daughter-in- laws “I am homeless and penniless; go home to your families and your old way of life.” Orpah went back home to family, food and shelter. Orpah chose to save her life. Ruth chose to die. Ruth says to her mother-in-law, “Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. May the LORD do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you” (verses 16 & 17). In our English translations the word LORD is in all capitals signifying God’s holy name. Essentially this is what Ruth says; “May Yahweh, the God who gave the promise of the Savior, to be born of the Hebrews be my God. May the people of faith in that promise be my people.” To be simple about it Orpah and Ruth are at a crossroads of priorities. This is not unusual in Holy Scripture. Joshua asked the people who were about to enter the Promise Land; “Choose whom you will serve, the idols of the people around you or the LORD” (Joshua 24:15). In the Parable of the Sower Jesus explained, “The seed sown among thorns are those who hear the word, but the cares of the world choke the word, and it proves unfruitful” (Matt 13:22). Orpah choked and chose to find her life, in the things of this passing world. Ruth died in Christ to the selfishness of sin and the allurements of the devil. Now let me ask again, “Have you ever, do you now consider yourself ‘Dead in Christ?’” It is a different and difficult way to think about oneself, namely “Dead in Christ.” To be alive in Jesus is fun. To be alive in Jesus is victory, peace, joy and love. To be alive in Jesus is easy, because it is all free. Like going to the donut shop and the owner says “Oh take one of each; no charge today!” However, it is very difficult --- very difficult to be “Dead in Christ.” I am going to use as illustration Orpah, Ruth and myself and some of the Ten Commandments. The 2nd Commandment, Do not Take God’s name in vain. Ruth was “Dead in Christ.” She thought it better to be “homeless and penniless” with the God who hears her prayers. Orpah chose worldly comforts, and her lifeless and loveless idols. The 3rd Commandment, Remember the Sabbath Day. Orpah was alive to herself. She despised the Word of God and the people of God. Ruth was “Dead in Christ.” She thought, “Better to be ‘homeless and penniless’ where God and His people are. Orpah went back to her family and the worship of idols. This next illustration does not sound like much, not a hideous evil The 7th Commandment (or the 9th and 10th) “Do not steal.” Bruce is walking along and he spies with his little eye a coin at his feet. His sinful nature says, “It’s mine! It’s in my hand! It’s in my pocket! It’s mine.” Bruce says to his wife, “I found a quarter.” Dead in Christ, she says “Good, give it to me; I’ll put it in the mite box.” Every day is a crossroads day for the Christian. Every day is a day to love God and neighbor. In Titus 2:11-12 we find this statement “The grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, godly lives.” It is easy to be like Orpah and give in to sin and live for self. It is difficult to be like Ruth to be “Dead in Christ”, denying yourself and taking up the Cross of Christ. We can hardly talk like this without remembering our Catechism. What does baptism indicate? It indicates that the Old Adam (our sinful self) in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires, and that a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever. From the Epistle lesson verse 11: “If we have died with Him, we will also live with Him.” We are dead in Jesus to all things wicked. But we live with Him. To help us live with Him, He comes to us. He comes to us and speaks to us the same Words He spoke to Peter and all the others, namely, “This is My Body. . . This is My Blood”. . . for you for the forgiveness of all sin, for the death of all your sin. Let me share a word, about the Lutheran Women's Missionary League, (LWML). It was formally organized in 1942. But its roots go back to the late 1800’s. Over the years the League’s purpose, to do what can be done for the Gospel of Jesus Christ has never changed. It takes focus, concentration to keep your purpose, your mission statement. I am sure many of us could name organizations, spiritual or secular, that are no longer what they were originally. The Lutheran Women's Missionary League has not forgotten the word Missionary. A couple of weeks ago, on those tables back there, school kits were assembled. On the surface it really did not look like much. But like a coin found in a parking lot and put into a mite box . . . a little here a little there and much is done. The LWML of this congregation has helped you to help your children and grandchildren to stay connected to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In years past it has been Camp Tomah Shinga, Kansas District Gatherings, The National Youth Gathering, Lutheran Valley Retreat in Colorado Springs and the event called Higher Things (where the Bible Study is deep and the Worship Liturgical and formal). There are many reasons (many of them are listed in the Handbook) why we in the Missouri Synod thank Almighty God for the LWML where the name Jesus is honored and the people He died for are served. Thanks be to God. Amen.
Grace Iola Kansas: Date: Oct 6 2019
Title: Promise of Life Text: 2 Timothy 1 1 14
I remember when I was in school, in fact it is still true today, that if I were just a little bit off in my arithmetic; I was completely off. There is not much wiggle room for error in mathematics. That is also true with the Ten Commandments. There is no wiggle room for error when it comes to the Ten Commandments. The Apostle James clearly informs us of that fact. James 2:10 “Whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it.” In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said the same thing. Matthew 5:48 “You must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” The Apostle Paul was no less blunt when he wrote, 2 Corinthians 3:6 “The letter (of the law) kills!” Then there is that famous passage from Ezekiel 18:20 “The soul who sins shall die!” Fortunately for all of us, the God who said all these things is loving and forgiving. Still that love and forgiveness came at a price. As is often said, “Justice must be served!” and that is the story of Jesus Christ. In 2 Timothy 1:1-14, the appointed Epistle lesson, there are over eight (8) references to the person and work of Jesus Christ. Allow me to quickly run through them. In verse 2 we are told that Jesus is our “lord” and Savior.” We hear that phrase a lot. The word “lord” connected to Jesus means He is above everything (Colossians 1). Jesus is the final authority (Philippians 2). Jesus is everything you need to know for your eternal welfare (Hebrews 1). In verse 10 of the Epistle we are told that Jesus is our “savior.” Jesus saved us from our sins, our violations of God’s law (Matthew 1). Jesus defeated the devil for us (1 John 3). Jesus defeated death (1 Corinthians 15 & Hebrews 2). Those are some of the things Jesus did. In the appointed Epistle lesson we are told how we receive those benefits so that they are our very own. 2 Timothy 1:1, “The promise of the life that is in Christ Jesus.” God has promised “the life” to us. The words, “the life” point us to Judgment Day; the Day of our Resurrection when all sin and death will be removed forever. That beautiful future only comes to us in Christ Jesus. In verse six (6) That beautiful future, free from all imperfection, harm and danger is the “gift of God.” We do not need to earn it! Buy it! Or Work for it! It is your gift given to you by God, because of who Jesus is and what Jesus did. The message of Christmas, Good Friday and Easter Sunday; the message of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is called in the Epistle reading:
The Promise Of Life
The Pattern Of Sound Words
The Good Deposit
It is through the Gospel, the Word of Salvation, which comes to us only through the Bible that we have the message of our “Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light” so that we are not lost to the darkness of sin and death but found in the faith and hope given to us by God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. May it be so for all of us this day and always. Amen.
Grace Iola Kansas: Date: Sept 29 2019
Title: “Grieved “ Text: Amos 6:1-7
What I have here this morning is the fourth rewrite for this sermon. At the seminary we were encouraged to conclude the sermon with the message of forgiveness, the abiding presence of God and the assurance of the resurrected life to come. However, I had trouble doing that, therefore this sermon is backwards. The appointed readings present to us two (2) extremes, namely poverty and prosperity. The Bible often uses illustrations to “prove a point.” I will share a couple of examples. Light and salt are used to illustrate holiness, purity, faith, and all the good things of heaven. Yeast and leprosy are used to illustrate sin, wickedness, unbelief, and all the things repugnant to heaven. In the appointed readings poverty is used in the same way as salt and light are used. In the readings prosperity is used in the same way as leprosy and yeast. Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). In the parable Lazarus is poor in spirit. Let me expand the illustration with a piggy bank. Lazarus’ piggy bank rattles. It rattles because it is nearly empty of lust, theft, pride, and all the things heaven finds disgusting. Conversely the Rich Man’s piggy bank does not rattle. It is silent and heavy because it is full of arrogance, lovelessness, selfishness, and all the things heaven finds disgusting. Sometimes God wants us to think backwards. Therefore thinking backwards . . . what kind of piggy bank did Jesus have? The Bible answers that question. 2 Corinthians 5:21, “For us God made Jesus to be sin so that in Jesus we might become the righteousness of God.” What kind of piggy bank was Jesus? He was full of your sin, my sin and every sin that heaven finds disgusting. He carried all our sin to the Cross. Jesus emptied us of sin and filled us with faith, hope and love. Therefore like Lazarus the angels will ushers us into the kingdom of heaven because Jesus has made us poor in spirit. Now let’s turn our attention to Amos where we read, “Woe to those who lie on beds of ivory . . . 5 who sing idle songs . . . 6 but are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph!” (Amos 6:4-6). Let’s start with a bit of history. After the death of Solomon there was a civil war of sorts among the Hebrews. The result was a Divided Kingdom, north and south. The prophets refer to the Divided Kingdom in a variety of ways. Amos (who lived about 150 years after Solomon) calls the Northern Kingdom both Joseph and by its capital city Samaria. Amos calls the Southern Kingdom, Zion which is another name for Jerusalem. At the time of Amos the military threat of Assyria was not on the minds of many. It would be maybe 25-30 years before Assyria flexed its muscle and defeated the Northern Kingdom. So at the time of Amos there was a sense of security and wellbeing. The border was fairly safe and the economy was good. Unfortunately it was a false sense of security and wellbeing. Like the Rich Man in the Parable the Kingdom had a healthy body but the soul was desperately sick with sin. This is the sin that took place in the days of Amos and still happens today. This is what Amos was saying when he wrote, “They are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph.” The merchants and those in positions of power and authority were ready and willing to allow destructive laws, diplomacy and business practice to flourish at the cost of spiritual health. I think this is a modern example. When our Supreme Court legalized same gender marriage many ad agencies, movies TV shows and whatever else hurried to be inclusive. I ask myself, “Is conviction the motive or profit margins?” When our Supreme Court legalized same gender marriage, how many politicians and speech writers were motivated by conviction or votes? This question is not limited to politicians and ad agencies. Currently the largest Lutheran body in the USA is ordaining same gendered married people into the office of pastor. Is this the wisdom of the sinless God or the wisdom of sinful people? How do these conditions arise? To answer that question we go back to the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus. Jesus said, “At the Rich Man’s gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus.” (Luke 16:20) Jesus is telling us that the Rich Man had no compassion for his neighbor. We can rightly say “He lacked compassion because he loved money more than his neighbor.” Still, Jesus says it goes deeper than the love of money. Jesus tells us why the Rich Man loved money and lacked compassion. We are told that in life and in hell the Rich Man rejected the Word of God. Jesus says, “They have Moses and the Prophets, listen to them.” In life and in hell the Rich Man said “No!” to the Word of God. In Matthew 22 Jesus summarized the entire Law of God with these words, “Love the LORD your God and your neighbor.” In the Parable, the Rich Man had no regard for God, the Scriptures, or his neighbor. If he had, he would have been a better steward with his wealth. The Parable is a warning. In the fellowship hall there is a basket for our local food pantry. That basket is for the Lazarus at our door. Every year our LWML drafts a list of mission projects. Every year our LWML has a bazaar. Today on the tables in the fellowship hall there are school supplies. All of this is for the Lazarus at our door. Every year we establish a list we call “Special Services and Offerings.” This too is for the Lazarus at our door. I praise God for and I brag about this generosity and I pray we never let it slip away. I conclude with this encouragement and prayer from Colossians 3:16 “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom . . . with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” Amen.
Grace Iola Kansas: Date: Sept 22, 2019
Title: “Business as Usual” Text: Amos 8:4-7
Our perspective of history is something I find fascinating. Let me share this example. In the 1890’s, Grat, Emmet & Bob Dalton robbed banks and trains. When we hear the words “The Dalton Gang” images of the Wild West come to mind. In the 1930’s Bonnie and Clyde robbed gas stations and banks. What images come to mind, maybe, old cars, gangsters and perhaps Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway? This is the fascinating thing. Emmett Dalton died of natural causes on July 13, 1937. Bonnie and Clyde were riddled with bullets on May 23, 1934. Our perspective of history can be colored by a variety of factors. I said that for the fun of it and to set up this question. “Are you now or have ever been a thief?” If we think we know the 7th Commandment than we think we know the answer. In the Bible God says to one all “Thou shalt not steal!” (Ex 20:15). Often times when we hear the Law of God, “Thou shalt not steal!” our thoughts only scratch the surface. Listen again to God’s Word, Amos 8:5 (Thus says the LORD to you merchant who say), “When will the new moon be over, that we may sell grain? When will the Sabbath end so, that we may offer wheat for sale, that we may make the ephah small and the shekel great and deal deceitfully with false balances.” What do you think? Did those merchants consider themselves to be thieves? One day my Dad (who was production manager) came home from work and told this story. There was a management meeting. In that meeting some names were shared of men who were 2 or 3 years away from retirement. The comment was made that such men begin to “slack off” and that my father should take note of this. My father was a World War 2 combat veteran. Like many combat veterans; not easily intimidated. I will be more polite than my father who said, “No! I will not give you an excuse to fire these men, so that you do not need to pay the pensions and benefits you promised!” Another question. Do you think that the merchants in Amos 8 and the management in that boardroom thought of themselves as thieves? Or do you think they thought of themselves as “clever shrewd businessmen?” Now this is where it becomes about us --- Christians. In Amos 8 God is not talking to the unaware Philistines or Babylonians. God is talking to the children of Abraham who were blessed with the Word of God (The Ten Commandments) and the promise of the Savior. Now this is where it becomes about us --- Christians. Through His prophet Malachi (3:8) the LORD asked “Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me (says the LORD). But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions (that you have not brought to Me).” Let me illustrate with a couple of questions? How many Christians sitting in Christian Churches have a “closet full of shoes?” How many Christian men sitting in Christian Churches are wearing $200 dollar cowboy boots? How many Christian parents have spent hundreds of dollars on a video game console for their kids’ birthday? How many Christians sitting in Christian Churches have never given the equivalent sum for the work of God in their respective congregations? We complain that twenty dollars in a grocery store or department store does not go far. Yet, in an offering plate twenty dollars or less looks like a fortune. It is a very, very difficult thing to be a Christian. The cares and the worries of the day bear down upon us. The evil one messes with us and confuses us. It is a very, very difficult thing to be a Christian. The more we learn about God’s Word the more we learn about ourselves. The more we learn about ourselves the more uncomfortable God’s Word may become. Think of it this way. Amos wrote about 2,760 years ago. God inspired Amos to write (The merchants say), “When will the new moon be over, that we may sell grain? When will the Sabbath end so, that we may offer wheat for sale, that we may make the ephah small and the shekel great and deal deceitfully with false balances.” What God said through Amos almost 2,760 years ago is still true, factual and relevant to us Christians today. It is a very, very blessed thing, a wonderful thing to be a Christian. The more we learn about God’s Word the more we learn about ourselves. The more we learn about ourselves the more wondrous and beautiful the Savior becomes. The deeper we go into His Word, the deeper goes our gratitude, for all that He has done and is still doing for us. What Jesus did for us is wonderfully stated in Isaiah 53:6 “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” All of us follow our noses into all manner of sin. But Jesus walked all the way to the Cross without any personal sin of His own (Heb 4:15). Yet, Jesus took every sin, mistake and imperfection of your life and my life to the Cross. St. Peter wrote “Jesus suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18). That is what Jesus did for us. This is what He is doing today for us. He took bread and said “Take eat this is My Body.” He took wine and said “Take drink, this is My Blood, shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” He died once in the past as payment for our sins. He comes to us today in the bread and wine to forgive us our sins. Thanks be to Jesus. Amen.
Grace Iola Kansas: Date: Sept 15 2019
Title: Sheep in the Dark Text: Ezekiel 34:11-24
The symbol of shepherd and sheep is used throughout the Bible, probably because sheep and goats were the number one livestock. So when the LORD spoke to His prophets, He used what was familiar. In the Bible the word shepherd is used in different ways. It could refer to actual shepherds who raised sheep and goats. It could also refer to people who held government positions. The word shepherd also applied to prophets and priest. In the Old Testament lesson the word Shepherd refers to both government and religious officials. In the Old Testament there are around 43 Hebrew kings. Of those 43 maybe 8 are said to have “Walked in the Way of LORD” (figures may not be exact). Most of the Hebrew kings and queens were wicked, notably, Ahab and Jezebel. Many of the religious leaders were not faithful either. In the Old Testament lesson the shepherds to put it mildly disappointed the LORD. Some more historical comments based on the Old Testament lesson. Despite his sin King David was the best of the Hebrew Kings. He was the standard by which the others were measured. Between David and Ezekiel there are about 400 years. Therefore when you read David’s name in the Book of Ezekiel, King David has been dead and buried about 400 years. The Prophet Ezekiel is in Babylon. The Assyrians and then the Babylonians destroyed the Promise Land. The great Temple is a heap of rubble. Tens of thousands are taken captive by the Babylonians. God says through Ezekiel “I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land.” Ezekiel is a prophet, a shepherd of good news. God will restore the people. God will restore the Promised Land. God will restore Jerusalem and the Great Temple. Still, how did they lose their house and home? Why were they separated from their families? Why did God let His Chosen People be defeated by pagan armies? Simple answer is sin. However, we need to know more than that. The Hebrew people were taken captive and scattered basically for two reasons. 1) The Shepherds in government rejected God’s Word. King Jehoiakim (Jer 36:23) had publically and with fanfare burned the written work of Jeremiah. 2) Many of the priests openly denounced the Word of God proclaimed by the prophets (Jer 28). Together they worshiped idols. There are reasons why Jesus said “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it!” (Luke 13:34) There is a reason why Jesus says to us, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (Matt 7:15). False prophets --- false shepherds --- what do they do, what do they teach? The Bible does not always give nitty-gritty details. Often we have summary statements like this from Micah 3:9 “Hear this, you heads (shepherds) of Jacob and of Israel, who detest justice and make crooked all that is straight.” For most people it was common sense that the sound of a beating heart meant life. Yet, now in many governments, in many laws the sound of a beating heart may not mean life. For most people it was common sense that there are only two genders. Are we wiser now or more confused? Have we taken that which was straight and made it crooked? In the words of Isaiah, do we call evil good and good evil? Do we call light darkness and darkness illumination? Do we call holiness bitter and sin sweet? In Ezekiel, God calls such confusion “a day of clouds and thick darkness.” The flock of God, the lambs of God are not unaffected by the words and teachings of false shepherds! That we should be scattered and confused is not the will of the LORD. Through His prophet God said, “I Myself will search for My sheep and will seek them out” (Ezekiel 34:11). This has already been done. The Creator of heaven and earth has sought and found His sheep. Jesus said, “I have come to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). There is in the Old Testament lesson a beautiful prophesy of our salvation. Ezekiel 34:23 (Thus says the LORD) “I will set up over them One Shepherd, My servant David, and He shall feed them.” In the Gospel of John Jesus says, “I am the Good Shepherd. I lay down my life for the sheep.” Two thousand years ago The Christmas angel, Gabriel, said that very thing to Mary. “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son. You shall call his name Jesus because He will save His people. He will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David” (Luke 1:30-32). Into this dark world of sin and confusion the light of heaven has come. Into our lives of confusion and uncertainty the Shepherd of our souls has come. Into the darkness of our fears His light of mercy shines. In Psalm 23 we have this statement “The LORD is my Shepherd (He has) prepared a table before me in the presence of my enemies!” Despite the sin, fear and darkness of this world the Good Shepherd feeds us the bread and wine of hope, strength, forgiveness and salvation. Thanks be to God even Jesus the Shepherd and guardian of our lives. Amen.
Grace Iola Kansas: Date: Sept 8 2019
Title: Live in the LORD Text: Deut 30:15-20
I want to begin with this statement from Galatians 2:16 “We know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ.” That is not an isolated passage in Holy Scripture. In Psalm 53:3 we find this “All have fallen away; together they have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.” No person in the history of the world entered heaven because they were good. No person in the history of the world entered hell because they were bad. Throughout the pages of Holy Scripture we are told over and over again, “there are none righteous” (see Ecc 7:20). People think in terms of good and bad. God thinks in terms of faith and no faith. This what Jesus said, John 3:18, “Whoever believes in (God’s Son) is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because (that one) has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” According to Holy Scripture the only thing that opens heaven’s door is, believing that Jesus is your only hope of being rescued from hell. According to Holy Scripture the only thing that closes heaven’s door is, believing that Jesus is NOT your only hope of being rescued from hell. Being good or bad is not the deciding factor. The difference between heaven and hell is this “Who or what are you trusting?” That is the question being asked in the Old Testament reading. Listen again to Deuteronomy 30:15 & 16. (Thus says the LORD) “Today I set before you life and good, death and evil. If you obey the commandments of the LORD your God . . . by loving the LORD your God, by walking in His ways, and by keeping His commandments and His statutes and His rules, then you shall live!” Now what did you just hear? What did Almighty God just say to us from His Bible? This is our shame. This is our fault. This is the mistake we make. Our first thought; our first mistake, our normal natural first response goes like this. “I must choose between good and evil. I must obey the commandments; the rules and regulations of God if I am to live a happy life now today and later in heaven.” What is the first commandment? You shall have no other god. You must fear, love and trust in God above everything else. In the Gospel reading Jesus is talking about the First Commandment, when He say “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:26). That sounds awful. Hate your family? Hate yourself? That sounds awful. “If you will not hate your family and yourself you cannot be My disciple!” That sounds awful. How can the God who has said “Love Me and love your neighbor” be the same God who says, “If you do not hate yourself you cannot be My Disciple?” So what is God, even Jesus, saying to us? What is being said in the Old Testament and the New Testament? It comes down to this. According to Holy Scripture the only thing that opens heaven’s door is, believing that Jesus is your only hope of being rescued from hell. According to Holy Scripture the only thing that closes heaven’s door is, believing that Jesus is NOT your only hope of being rescued from hell. This is why we come to church. This is why we come to Sunday School and Bible class: because when God says, “Today I set before you life and good, death and evil.” He is not asking you to decide. God is saying “I have decided what is good and evil. I have decided to save you from death and evil!” This is what the Bible says, Ephesians 1:4, “(God) chose us in (Jesus) before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. Before there was an ounce of dirt in the universe God decided for you. This is the commandment of God; this is the rule and regulation of God, (Jesus said) “This is the will (the commandment) of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in Him should have eternal life, and I will raise (them) up on the last day” (John 6:40). We come to church, to Sunday School and Bible class, to look on Jesus so that we have life and goodness in God our only Savior. Amen.
Grace Iola Kansas: Date: Sept 1 2019
Title: Concealed by God Text: Proverbs 25:2
In the readings, Proverbs 25:6 & 7 and Luke 14:11 quickly grab our attention. The themes of conceit and modesty, pride and humility fairly jump off the page. In Philippians 2:3 we are told by the Holy Spirit, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.” Our sinful nature is extremely selfish. Ad agencies appeal to our human nature. A TV ad for health insurance invites you to call the number on the bottom of your screen so that you get the coverage you deserve. The sinful human nature always thinks it deserves more and better. Therefore, Jesus says, “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 14:11). Some years ago I was a customer at a local business. One man was at the counter and three of us were waiting. Suddenly a man walked through the door and with a big voice began to make his wants known. It was very rude. Apparently his wants and time, were more important. It was obvious that he thought he was more important. It was rude. It was obnoxious. However, his behavior is not the point of the story. The real sinner there was me. In my prideful humility I thought to myself “I would never do that!” Yet, how many times have I become a pouty puppy, a grouchy bear, because I did not get what I wanted, how I wanted, and when I wanted it. One man was rude and obnoxious. One man exalted himself in his own mind. This is a bit of Bible trivia. King Solomon, in the Bible is called the wisest man on earth (1 Kings 3:12). In the Bible who is the humblest man on earth? The answer is Moses Num 12:3. I think it is safe to say based on Luke 1:42 that Mary is the most blessed. A moment ago I said that this is a topical sermon based on Pro 25:2 “It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out.” Let me begin with kings. According to Romans 13 government or authority comes from God. Government or authority as a principle comes from the mind of God. It is a good thing (corrupted by people). In the United States we have three branches of government; Executive, Legislative and Judicial. In that system we have basically law-makers, law-enforcers and those that apply the laws. For the sake of simplicity government or authority defines crime (sin) enforces good behavior, decides guilt or innocence based on evidence uncovered. According to Pro 25:2, government searches and exposes human behavior. Based on Romans 13 government is to maintain law and order. Here I want bring in the Small Catechism under the category of the Ten Commandments. What is the purpose of the Law? (answer) The Law teaches what we are to do and not to do. The Law shows us our sin. The Law must be proclaimed to all people. However, God’s government and humanities government is different in this way. Pro 25:2 “It is the glory of God to conceal things! The Law exposes guilt. Satan is our accuser. It is his delight to expose our sin and guilt. It is his delight to have the verdict of death and hell pronounced upon us. However, it is God’s delight to conceal guilt and shame. This too is from the Small Catechism. (question) What is the difference between the Law and the Gospel? (answer) The Gospel teaches what God has done, and still does, for our salvation. The Gospel shows us our Savior and the grace of God. The Gospel comforts the guilty conscience. Consider this; a hole is dug in the ground. Into that hole all your sin and guilt is dumped. Into that hole the Cross of Jesus Christ is planted! All your sin and guilt is crushed, buried, concealed under the weight of that Cross. In John12:23, Jesus referred to the crucifixion as His “Glory”. All sin and guilt has been and still is concealed by the Cross of Jesus Christ. In the water’s of Holy Baptism, the work of Jesus for our salvation is concealed. For us and for our forgiveness Jesus is concealed in the Bread and the Wine of Holy Communion. Our sin, our guilt, our embarrassment is always before us but thanks be to God He conceals it from Himself. Thanks be to God. Amen.
Grace Iola Kansas: Date: Aug 25, 2019
Title: Skinny Up Text: Luke 13:22-30
In the appointed Gospel lesson we read that Jesus was “journeying toward Jerusalem.” Those that can follow directions and read maps say that the route Jesus took was the long way around. In Luke’s Gospel Jesus is always headed to Jerusalem. A quarter of Luke’s Gospel, from chapter 19-24 all center on Holy Week. Almost half of John’s Gospel is devoted to Holy Week. The four (4) Gospels focus on Jesus, the Cross and the Empty Tomb. The focus of Christianity is to be on Jesus, the Cross and the Empty Tomb. So on His way to our salvation Jesus was asked “Lord, will only a few be saved?” (Luke 13:23). Jesus does not give a direct answer. Jesus could have said yes or no. He could have given an exact number. In 2 Timothy 2:19 we read this “The Lord knows those who are His!” The LORD knows the exact, the precise number. But, He does not tell us. Basically Jesus answered with this “Make sure you are one of the saved.” Listen to these somewhat scary words. Jesus said, “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.” The concept of a “door” or a “path,” is found throughout the Bible. In Matthew 7:13-14, Jesus said, “Enter by the narrow gate. The way is hard that leads to heaven. Wide is the gate and easy is the way that leads to hell.” This motif, this concept is profound. It is not how we normally think. Listen again to Jesus, “Strive to enter through the narrow door.” First thing to note is that the door is man-sized. These are not the gates of an old west fort. It is a man-sized door. Jesus is the door. Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). Now many people like Jesus. They say “He is so caring, loving, compassionate, forgiving and accepting.” That and more is true. Jesus is all those things. Yet, notice what Jesus says about Himself in the appointed reading. Luke 13:25 “Many will stand outside pounding on the door saying ‘Lord open to us!’ He, will answer, ‘No! Go away I do not know you!’” Why won’t He let them in? Why won’t the “caring, loving, compassionate, forgiving and accepting” Jesus let them in? The answer is there in verse 24, “Strive to enter through the narrow door.” Notice the contrast. Group 1 is pounding on the door of salvation, crying “Let me in!” And for all their tears they hear “No! I don’t know you go to hell!” Group 2 is striving to enter and Jesus says “I know you. Welcome to My Father’s house.” This is difficult because we naturally think that striving means groaning and grunting and struggling and sweating our way through the door. Listen to this from 2 Timothy 1:13-14 (St. Paul says, “(Timothy) follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me. By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.” When Jesus says “Strive to enter” He is not talking about working and doing. The striving is done with this the Holy Scripture. This is the pattern of sound words; this is the good deposit that rings the doorbell of heaven. Jesus said, “The one who rejects Me and does not receive My words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day.” (John 12:48) In the appointed reading there are people pounding on the door. They cannot enter, because they are too fat with sin to fit through the door. Listen to Mary, the Mother of Jesus, Luke 1:46-53 “My soul magnifies the Lord, 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 51 He has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; 52 He has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; 53 He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He has sent away empty. The ones pounding on the door are fat with pride and self-righteousness. The ones pounding on the door are fat with unrepentant sin and unbelief. The ones pounding on the door are fat with false wisdom, theology and philosophy. Now if you do not like that imagery try this one. 2 Timothy 4:3-4, “The time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth.” The people pounding on the door do not get in because their ears are too big. Their ears are swollen with self-satisfaction, self-acceptance, and with the holiness of self. We are gathered to hear God’s Word. Not just that word that makes us feel good and happy with our sinful selves. We are gathered to hear God’s Word even that Word that hurts. In the Epistle Reading we heard, “For the Lord disciplines the one He loves, and chastises every child He receives” (Heb 12:6). We have had our ears pinned back. With His Word of Law and Gospel God has starved the sin in. With faith and repentance God has made us skinny enough to fit through the narrow door. The world is engorged with self-satisfaction, the denial of sin and God’s Judgment against it. We are gathered in this place to be fed with the food that sheds the weight of sin, death and devil. May the Word of God in all its harshness and gentleness be rooted deeply in our souls so that we fit thorough the door of life. Amen.
Grace Iola Kansas: Date: August 18, 2019
Title: But God Is Love Text: Luke 12:49-53
The world we live in is full of, lies, half truths, and deceptions. Much of that is to hide or mask a selfish personal agenda. Let me give you two Biblical examples. First from John 12:1-6. Mary, Lazarus’ sister, opens a jar of very expensive lotion, which applies on Jesus. Judas Iscariot objects. He says that the lotion should have be sold and the money given to the poor. Then we are informed that, Judas said this, because he was a thief, and wanted the money for himself. In Genesis 12 Abraham and Sarah are in Egypt. Sarah we are told was a beautiful woman. Egyptians were known to murder the husbands of beautiful women. As they enter Egypt, Abraham says, “Sarah if anyone asks tell them you are my sister.” Lies, half truths and deceptions saturate human society. I imagine that if we went around the room we could all tell a story about how we lied ourselves out of trouble. Yet, what is the worst lie?” An example is found in the Old Testament reading. 16 “Thus says the LORD: ‘Do not listen to the words of the prophets who fill you with vain hopes. They speak from their own minds, not from the LORD. 17 They say, ‘It shall be well with you’ and, ‘No disaster shall come upon you’” (Jer 23:16-17). The worst lie is a violation of the 2nd Commandment “Do not take the LORD’s name in vain” and the First Petition of the Lord’s Prayer Hallowed be Thy name. God’s name is kept holy when the Word of God is taught in its truth and purity. The worst lie is to put false words into God’s mouth; adding to or subtracting from Holy Scripture. Evolution is an example of this. At the center of the debate is the question “Who and what are we?” Some answered “Who and what we are is the special creation of God.” Some answered “Who and what we are is the accidental product of evolution.” Worse than that, some answered with theistic evolution. They said, “God is the creator and the process of evolution is the tool He used.” Theistic evolution was and still is a lie that appeals to many people. Theistic evolution is a spider web with its tendrils touching many subjects. Such as the inspiration of Holy Scripture; was Moses wrong when he wrote “there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day” (Gen 1:31)? If Moses got the time frame wrong, what else is wrong in Scripture? Another subject would be “sin.” It would not exist because what we are is just part of the natural order of the universe. Death too is just part of the natural order. In the minds of many evolution has replaced the Biblical account of creation. As a culture the Biblical nature of marriage is being replaced. Listen to this from Romans 1:26-27 “Women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men . . . were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men.” Historically same gender relationships were deemed sinful. Some claim the Bible is truthful and correct and what -- was sin is still sin today. Some dismiss the Bible as old world bigotry. As with theistic evolution, others look to answer the question “Did God really say?” (Gen 3:1). It is said that passages like Romans 1 are not denouncing committed loving relationships. Such passages are really about the abuses of human sexuality, such as temple prostitution. For the sake of social justice and love it is said that, we need to understand that since the days of the Apostles people have been wrongfully interpreting such passages. After all we must remember that God is love. We must remember what Jesus said, “Judge not” (Matt 7:1). Yet, in the verses that follow Jesus goes on to warn about false prophets. In the verses that follow Jesus says to judge, to discern between the trees that bear bad fruit and the tress that bear good fruit. The false prophet is a bad tree with bad roots using the Word of God. The true prophet is a good tree with good roots in the Word of God. In the Gospel, Jesus warns about what happens when the true Word of God is believed and lived. Jesus said, Luke 12:51, “Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.” St. Peter knew what Jesus meant. He wrote (Jesus is) “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” (People) stumble because they disobey the Word.” (1 Peter 2:8) The evangelist Mark summarized the three year ministry of Jesus with these words; (Jesus said), “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the Gospel.’” (Mark 1:14-15) Jesus loved His neighbors. He gently called the woman at the well to repent (John 4) of her illicit sexual behavior. He warned others about sin with a rope across their backs (John 2). Everyone loves the Jesus who is the friend of sinners. But who loves the Jesus who is the enemy of sin? In Jeremiah 23:17 God is against the twisters of His Word who tell the people “No disaster shall come upon you” (because God is love).” The Word of God ruffles everyone’s feathers when confronted with sin. We are surrounded by sin and it divides us from Jesus and one another. The ministry of Jesus was summarized with these words, “Repent and believe in the Gospel.” The fact of sin is understood in the word repent! To those misusing and twisting God’s Word, Jesus says, “Stop that! It’s wrong!” Jesus said “believe in the Gospel.” Without the Gospel repentance only leaves us with despair. The Gospel is not that God loves us just the way we are. The Gospel is; Jesus was nailed to the Cross enduring hell for a broken sinful people; the way we are. The Gospel is; Jesus took all of our sin so that He could give us all His forgiveness. The true Christian Church, the good trees of His orchard, continue to echo the preaching and teaching of Jesus namely, “Repent and believe in the Gospel.” God help us to cling to His Word of truth and purity so that we may remain in Christ who saves liars and sinners.
Grace Iola Kansas: Date: August 11, 2019
Title: Worry Faith Fear Text: Luke 12:22-34
I am going to begin with a little background concerning Abraham and Sarah. Most of us adults have heard this before. Abraham is 75 years old when God told Abraham that he and Sarah would have a child. According to Scripture, Sarah was unable to have a baby. Nevertheless God promised a miracle and they would have their own child. Abraham and Sarah faithfully waited for the LORD to keep His promise. In Genesis 15, the appointed reading, Abraham and Sarah have been waiting for 10 or 11 years. We are told in Scripture (Rom 4) that Abraham never doubted that God would keep His promise. However, I think it safe to say based on Genesis 15 and 16 that Abraham and Sarah are getting impatient. In the Old Testament reading Abraham is now somewhere around 85 years old. Altogether they will have to wait 25 years for the LORD to keep His promise. The Bible is honest with its heroes. Abraham and Sarah had to work through impatience, anxiety and fear. Genesis 15 starts with God saying “Fear not.” That phrase “Don’t be afraid”, appears well 300 times in Scripture. Over the years psychiatry and psychology have attempted to identify the basic human emotions. Centuries ago Aristotle suggested seven to eight foundational emotions. Today the number 4 is tossed about. Well actually 4 sets of opposites. They are usually listed as:
· joy-sadness anger-fear
· trust-distrust surprise-anticipation
Five years from now they will probably have a different list. For us Christians we need to know something about our emotions. From Holy Scripture there are two (2) concepts I want set before you concerning your emotions. The first thought is this, Genesis 1:31 “God saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.” We have every emotion Adam and Eve had in the Garden of Eden. By creation we have every emotion that Jesus had on earth. The emotions we have were created by God. Every human need we have was created by God. Once again Genesis 1:31 “God saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good.” That is the first concept. If that were not true the Son of God would never have been born with a male human body. We could say that Christmas is God’s stamp of approval on our creation. However, we must remember concept number two (2). Romans 5:12 “Just as sin came into the world through one man (Adam), and death through sin, and so death spread to all.” We are what God created and we are what sin has spoiled. When Adam and Eve took the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil our God created emotions became dysfunctional. Now, every day, our emotions lie to us. That is why the prophet Jeremiah wrote, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jer 17:9). Adam and Eve walked in the Garden for a time perfect and whole. Everything about them was good --- just as God designed. Their bodies, intellect and emotions performed and functioned perfectly in the image of God. Then they ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Now we live with at best (as Christians Eph. 4:24 and Col. 3:10) with a fractured image of God. We live with bodies, intellect and emotions made dysfunctional because of sin, death and the devil. So there is worry, fear, impatience, anxiety all about and for the wrong stuff as Jesus points out in the Gospel reading. Now I want to conclude with some spiritual tools to combat worry, fear, anxiety and such; but first a disclaimer. I am neither an expert nor a success story. In fact you probably remember me saying “I worry about worrying.” For lack of a better word we have this adice in Holy Scripture. Two verses tied together Luke 12:33 and Galatians 6:2 and then a practical observation. Luke 12:33 and Galatians 6:2 “Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Practical observation: Look outside of yourself. Get involved in the lives of other people. That advice is often given at perhaps the loneliest time of year Thanksgiving to New Year’s. An easy place to mingle with people is in church. Church can be a distraction from day to day worries. That brings us to this spiritual observation. Notice what is stated in Genesis 15:1 “The word of the LORD came to Abram, “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” This sounds like a command “Abram stop worrying!” but it is not. This is a message of comfort. Recently Abram was involved in a war of four armies. The threat of retaliation is real. More than that, the danger to God’s promise, “In Abraham shall all the earth be blessed” is also very real. From Genesis to Revelation the devil wars against the faithful and the Word of God. Abraham has real things to fear. So the LORD God says “Abraham I am Your shield, I am Your protection. I will not give up on You.” Psalm 73 was written by a man named Asaph. I think he was the choir director in the worship service in the Temple. This is some of what he wrote. Verse 1 & 2 “Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. But as for me, my feet had almost slipped.” He is a discouraged man. The fear and worries of life are bearing down. He is on the brink of surrendering his salvation. He gets frustrated and angry. Verses 21 & 22 “When my soul was embittered, I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast toward You, (O Lord)!” But then he begins to reassess his life. What do the saved have that the damned do not? He writes this, verses 23 & 24, (O LORD) “You hold my right hand. You guide me with Your counsel, and afterward You will receive me to glory.” The counsel of the LORD is the Bible. In that Bible is the promise of glory. In the Gospel lesson Jesus says to us. “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” In this world riddled with fear and worry it is nevertheless our Savior God’s pleasure to give us the very kingdom of glory. More than just entering heaven after death is our hope, Our Christian hope is the resurrection of body and soul when once again God’s creation will be very good (Gen 1:31). It is God’s plan to give us to give us the kingdom of glory. May it be so for all of us this day and always. Amen.
Grace Iola Kansas: Date: August 4 2019
Title: Covetousness and More Text: Luke 12:13-21
In the Gospel lesson someone in the crowd asked Jesus to settle a dispute. This was not unusual. In the Old Testment prophets like Moses did preside over legal disputes (as seen in Exodus 18). Solomon, in 1 Kings 3 presides over legal disputes. The culture accepted family elders, synagogue leaders, rabbis, Pharisees and Sadducees as able to preside over disputes like the one brought to Jesus. This was not an unusual event. In Luke 10 Martha becomes upset with her sister Mary. Martha is busy in the kitchen. Mary is with the men listening to Jesus. Martha becomes upset. She does not go to her father or mother or to her brother Lazarus for help. She goes to Jesus, who tells her to be more interested in the Word of God, the bread of life (Matt 4, Luke 4) than lentil soup. Now to be fair there are particulars to the events in Gospel reading that we do not know. Historically, the older child (brother) received a larger percentage of the inheritance. Maybe these brothers are twins and no one knew which was the oldest. Maybe someone is being cheated. However, I think most of us reading this account have concluded this guy is a jerk. It seems to me most of us conclude the one making the request is the underhanded one. He may not be. There are particulars we do not know. It is apparent that the Holy Spirit did not consider those particulars to be any of our business. What we need to know is recorded. Therefore, Jesus tells a parable warning us against covetousness. Notice that in the parable, the man is not a thief. He has not swindled someone out of goods or property. We normally think of coveting as an unhealthy desire for the goods and property of some other person. Coveting can be that. Coveting is also begrudging what our neighbor has. It is not, difficult to image some neighbor say, “He does not need all that! He already owns half the land in the county! He already has more wheat and money than he knows what to do with. He doesn’t deserve all that.” Coveting is also begrudging what our neighbor has. Coveting is also complaining about what we do not have. Coveting can be a lack of contentment. Yet in the parable we see perhaps the highest degree of covetousness. Let me explain with this comparison. Matthew 11 Jesus said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (verse 28). We labor under the oppressive weight of sin and death. Jesus entered this world to set us free from the oppressive weight of sin and death. We are to find rest, which is the forgiveness of sins and the assurance of salvation by His life, death and resurrection. That is why Jesus is called Jesus Christ; the Savior appointed by God. In the parable the man covets his rest in the work of his own hands and in the supposed security of property. Therefore Jesus says, “One's life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” Jesus said the same thing to the devil but with different words. When Jesus was tempted He responded, “A person does not live on bread alone. But on the very word of God” (Matt 4 and Luke 4). There is an aspect to coveting that we perhaps forget. We are told in Colossians 3:5 that covetousness is idol worship. Therefore, I titled this sermon “Covetousness and More.” So allow me to conclude with the more. It is a subtly thought, not my own. A man comes to Jesus with a request. Jesus responded to the request with these words, (verse 14) “Man, who made Me a judge or arbitrator over you?” Matthew Henry in his commentary (1708-1710) writes (the Gospel of Jesus Christ) “does not encourage our expectations of worldly advantages . . . . If this man will be a disciple of Christ, and expects that in consideration of this Christ should give him his brother's estate, he is mistaken; the rewards of Christ's disciples are of another nature.” To Pontius Pilate, Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). The Lord has promised us “our daily bread.” God has promised to supply what is needful. To think that the promise of the Gospel is financial security --- well (at best) it is a misplaced thought. To think that the promise of the Gospel is of a healthy and wealthy and a quiet life --- well (at best) it is a misplaced thought. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said, 19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy . . . 33 But seek first the kingdom of God” (Matthew 6:19 & 33). Therefore, in a positive way we may covet (earnestly desire, wrap our souls around) the rich treasure of God. The promise of the Gospel is the forgiveness of sins and the resurrection unto eternal life. The promise of the Gospel is that Jesus is with you in all the heavy burdens of life. The promise of the Gospel is rest for a sin weary soul. May God even Jesus, help us to wrap our souls around His Word of promise. Amen.
Grace Iola Kansas: Date: July 28 2019
Title: Rooted Text: Col 2:6-19
Colossians is perhaps my favorite book in the Bible. When I was a teenager I decided to read the Bible from cover to cover. I bounced back and forth between the Old Testament and the New. I remember being awed by what was written about Jesus in the book of Colossians. I remember being particularly moved by Colossians 1:16 “By Him (that is Jesus) all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible — all things were created through Him and for Him.” That passage takes us from a human being born of Mary --- it takes us from a good man born of Mary --- to the Creator born of Mary. My father was a World War 2 veteran. We would hear his nightmares as he screamed in his sleep and shouted awful things. In the early 1960’s the world came close to nuclear war. Then there were angry riots, and demonstrations in the street. Than you read in Scripture that God chose to live like us in this awful place of violence, sickness and death. The Creator did not isolate or insulate Himself, but immersed Himself in our tragedy. Why would someone so pure and good do what Jesus of Nazareth did? The answer from the Bible is “Because He loved His Creation.” He entered this world because, so to speak, the devil kidnapped the human race with lies and temptations. Jesus the very God of our creation entered this world to pay the ransom for our release. The Epistle reading puts it like this. On the Cross Jesus, “disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them.” The rulers and authorities are not human. The rulers and authorities are the forces of hell and their weapon is death. This thought is expressed in 1 John 3:8, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.” The amazing thing is that when the Scriptures talk about Jesus entering our world and sharing in our flesh and blood; it does not mean He partook of all that we consider beautiful and delightful. It means He came into the misery of this world. Consider this from the Gospel of John 1:4-5, “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” Hundreds of years before Christmas the prophet Isaiah was given these words, Isaiah 9:2 The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them the light shines.” The Light (Jesus) went into the dark. The devil and all his henchmen are armed with darkness and death. We like to think we see Jesus the light shining way off yonder. We like to think that we struggle and strain and claw our way to that distant light. Brave and bold we fight to attain to the far distant light. We like to think that. Yet, those kinds of thoughts are offensive to Jesus. We have not overcome temptation but Jesus did (Luke 4). We did not shed blood to pay the ransom, the price of freedom, but Jesus did. We have never defeated death, but Jesus did. When we were born we did not bring light into the dark world, but Jesus did. We have never stood at the grave side of friend and calling their name say “Come forth” but Jesus did (John 11). In the Epistle reading we are told that we are rooted in Jesus, built up in Jesus and established in the faith. In the Epistle we are told “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” Do you know what the number one philosophy and empty deceit is? The answer is “Yes.” Yes you do because you just heard it and you have been hearing it all your life. Our parents were the first to hear it. The devil said to our mother, “Eat the fruit and ‘you will be like God, knowing good and evil’” (Gen 3:5). That is one of the oldest deceits. We like to think that we struggle and strain and claw our way to that distant light of love. We like to think that boldly and bravely by our will, by our strength, by our proper attitude we are Christians. We like to think we are able to decide good and evil. The Apostle Paul learned to know better (Gal 1:12). Listen to Romans 7:25 “I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.” By nature all people gravitate to the wrong. That old deceit causes us to try and take credit for the work accomplished by Jesus. In the Epistle reading we have that word “rooted.” It makes us think about what Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in Me and I in Him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5) Jesus is the life. Jesus is the light. Jesus is the root. The fact is Jesus is the root the very life of the branch. The fact is apart from the root the branch can do nothing. Jesus is the life who gives us life. Jesus is the light who shines in the darkness of our lives. Jesus is the root who grafts us into Himself. That is wonderful news, because young or old, genius or not, healthy or not, strong or not, Jesus did --- Jesus does what we are incapable of doing defeating sin, death and the devil and rooting us in the kingdom of Heaven. All thanks and credit to Jesus. Amen.
Grace Iola Kansas: Date: July 21, 2019
Title: “If Goodness were Money”” Text: Col 1:21-22
I almost titled this sermon, “Tuff Stuff” because that is what we find in the Epistle reading. Sometimes, because of our sin we find the Bible difficult to understand. That is not the Bible’s fault, after all the Bible is God’s Word, through and through. It is God’s own communication to this world. Unfortunately not everyone believes that about the Bible. In this world some people read the Bible like a mystery book trying to find the parts that are produced by the mind of man and the mind of God. My father-in-law was a scientist. His job was to analyze, to examine the chemical components of various things so as to determine the strength of the object. Some people read the Bible trying to determine the supposed human and divine components. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said, “’I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished” (Matt 5:18). For all intent and purposes Jesus said, “Every letter and every word is from God.” That is important because if there are human elements, human ideas, human opinions, than what Moses, or Paul wrote can be dismissed as their personal opinion, to which we are free to disagree. For example Col 1:21-22 “You, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 (Jesus) has now reconciled.” So than when were you “alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds?” Let me give you a hint from Scripture, some very famous words, Psalm 51:5 “I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” We like to think that sin equals bad behavior, something outside and not inside. The tough thing is there are no innocent babies. From the moment of conception we are already alienated from God. We are, if you will, born angry with God. That is a frightening concept. In the womb out of the womb, 1 day or a 100 years old, asleep and unaware or fully awake we are as we confessed moments ago “ a poor miserable sinner.” Now that word poor, is not a compassionate, sympathetic concept, like “O you poor thing, you!” Think of it this way if good was money than you and I do not have a penny. This is absolute poverty. We cannot earn the currency of goodness. The Bible has this statement, Galatians 2:16, “a person is not justified by works of the law!” We cannot work and earn the currency of goodness. There is no occupation from God by which we can earn goodness. According to Holy Scripture, Psalm 49:7, “no person can ransom another.” We cannot borrow the currency of goodness. We cannot lend it. We cannot give what we do not have. This is difficult to hear. Ask me “Bruce who are you? Bruce what are? I could give many answers. However, one of them most likely will not be, “a poor miserable sinner.” We want to think that we are good. If “good’ is a dollar, than “nice” is a nickel and I do not have a nickel to my name. Thankfully, the Bible is in all its parts “the communication of God.” This is what God communicated on the Cross; John 19:30 “It is finished!” To continue the monetary illustration, Jesus said, “All your debt is paid, by Me.” Jesus said, “My wealth of goodness is now yours.” Jesus said, “I do not lend you My goodness. I give it to you.” All that is wrong in us is buried, is covered by the good that is Jesus. God Almighty has the power and the authority and the compassion to not see our bankruptcy. Let’s conclude with these two thoughts from Scripture. 2 Corinthians 5:21 “For our sake (the Father) made (Jesus) to be sin, so that in (Jesus) we might become the righteousness of God.” (and) Romans 6:23 “The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Thanks be to God even Jesus that though we are poor miserable sinners we are rich with His forgiveness. Amen.
Grace Iola Kansas: Date: July 14 2019
Title: “Thanks for What?” Text: Colossians 1:1-14
Parents try to instill in their children the virtue of politeness. Good manners are something we value. When I was living in Ft. Wayne there was a receptionist at the doctor’s office. That receptionist and I irritated each other. I blamed her and I am sure she blamed me. Rudeness is offensive. Throughout the pages of Holy Scripture the virtue of thankfulness is found. It is a virtue highly praised by the Creator. Martin Luther held this opinion; “Thankfulness is a virtue characteristic of real Christians; it is their worship of God at its best. This is a virtue unattainable by any other human being on earth.” (What Luther Says, compiled by Ewald M. Plass, Concordia Publishing House © 1959.) In the Epistle reading St. Paul writes, “We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4 since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, 5 because of the hope laid up for you in heaven” (Col 1:3-5). Let’s take a moment and explore his, thanksgiving. The first thing is this; the Apostle is not thanking people. He prays for them, and I am sure he was well-mannered toward them. However, the object of his gratitude is God. Here I want to insert a personal opinion. Applause is something that ought not to be heard in the hour of worship. I say that because, it is so very easy for us sinners to become distracted. In church our focus is on the love God displayed to us through Jesus Christ. Appreciating our individual effort is fine, yet because sin is so devious, applause in church is distracting. In Hebrews 12:2 we are urged to fix our eyes on Jesus. My father was a big fan of boxing. I often heard the phrase “A good referee is almost invisible.” I am of the opinion that pastors, choirs and so on should be nearly invisible. In many pulpits there is a note, a plaque with these words form John 12:21, “Sir, we would like to see Jesus.” The appointed Epistle reading is all about “seeing” Jesus. The Apostle thanks God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when he prays for the people. He prays a prayer of thanks, not for the people, but for the faith given by the Holy Spirit to the people. He prays a prayer of thanks for the fruit of the Spirit, namely love. He prays a prayer of thanks for the hope laid up for them in heaven. Now that may not seem like a big deal. Yet, again as sinners we often focus on the things of this life. We often focus on self. That receptionist and I irritated each other, because we were both focused on ourselves. I wanted her to focus on me, to wait on me, to serve me. She wanted me to focus on her, to wait on her, to serve her. It was a mutual selfish exchange. It did not benefit her and it did not benefit me. In the Epistle reading St. Paul focuses all the praise and all the glory upon the LORD. The entire Epistle is about the salvation of our bodies and souls accomplished, not by anything we have said or done. The entire Epistle is about what Jesus said and done for the salvation of our bodies and souls. That by the way is why we are here this morning. We are here to give thanks unto God for the free gift of heaven. That gift was purchased for us by Jesus on the cross. A major reason for attending church is to thank God for what Jesus has done for you. In John chapter 6 Jesus feeds well over 5,000 people. Later, many of those people are clamoring after Jesus. Then Jesus steps on their toes. He ruffles their feathers. These are His words from John 6:26 “Truly, I say to you, you are seeking Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of bread”. They did not want Jesus the Savior. They wanted Jesus the vending machine. If we go to church expecting to be entertained, or made to feel good about ourselves, or to show God how good we are, than we are going to church with a thankless heart. No doubt you have heard the phrase, “Beggars can't be choosers.” When we enter church that is what we are; we are desperate beggars thankfully appreciative of the gift given by God to us. The Apostle Paul was thankful for the forgiveness of sins and the salvation of his body and soul. The Apostle Paul was thankful for the forgiveness of sins and the salvation give by God to others. For this great salvation let us be thankful for ourselves and for those near us. Amen.
Grace Iola Kansas: Date: July 7 2019
Title: “Reaping, Weeping, Rejoicing” Text: Gal 6:7-8
This topical sermon is based on Galatians 6:7-8, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will they also reap. 8 For the one who sows to their own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” Not too long ago I heard what I will call a motivational speech. It was depressing. The speaker mentioned that life is about leaving this world a better place than you found it! According to Scripture no person is able to do that. I have here a Peanuts comic strip. Lucy is talking to Charlie Brown. Lucy: “Why are we here Charlie Brown?” Charlie: “To make others happy.” Lucy: “I don’t think I am making anyone happy. And no one is making me happy either.” An indignant Lucy screams “Somebody’s not doing their job.” According to Holy Scripture it can be said that the purpose of life is love. Listen to this well known passage from 1 John 4:10, “This is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us.” We would like to stop right there. God loves us. We would like to stop right there and say to ourselves “God loves me just the way I am.” However, that is not completely accurate. God does not love me and you and all the 7 billions of people on earth, just the way we are! If He did there would be no need for Christmas, Good Friday or Easter. According to Holy Scripture, God loves us despite the way we are. Listen to the full verse from 1 John 4:10, “This is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the payment for our sins.” If God loved us just the way we are there is need for a payment for sins! That word sins is never popular. No one wants the word sin applied to them. We all want to think, feel and believe that we are ok, justified in our thoughts, and behaviors. In the Peanuts comic strip Lucy does not get angry at herself for not making others happy, because she is ok. Lucy gets angry at everyone else for not making her happy. In the comic strip Lucy does not really think that she has a sin problem. Listen to this well known passage. We use it in the liturgy; 1 John 1:8, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” According to the Bible sin is a fact of our lives. God is never happy with sin. Let’s go back break to the Epistle reading Galatians 6:7-8. “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked.” We can rephrase that thought in a variety of ways, for example, “Do not be fooled by the culture you live in; God cannot be tricked.’ In our world today one of the biggest deceptions revolves around marriage. It is treated like a social convention. It is treated like a human invention. It can be entered into by any one or ignored by everyone. God has defined human relationships and how those relationships are to be lived. The Bible sets marriage as a lifelong union between one man and one woman. Have you ever seen that TV commercial with three young women loading up a car and you hear the words “Moving in together; it’s an adventure.” The Bible does not call it an adventure. The Bible calls it fornication. The Bible says “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked.” We are constantly being deceived by our own imperfection, peer pressure and by the enemy of our lives, the devil. Let’s consider the second part of verse seven (7), “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will they also reap!” The image here is of a garden. In that garden you plant seeds and from those seeds plants grow. There is a movie called Second Hand Lions. In that movie two brothers decide to plant a garden. They are expecting to harvest, peppers, cucumbers, green beans and so on. But every row was a row of corn seed. The meaning of Galatians 6:7 is plain; plant a theft seed and theft grows --- plant a bitterness seed and bitterness grows. That is fairly obvious. Unfortunately we are sinners deceiving ourselves. We think we can plant poison ivy, and grow roses. Galatians 6:8 says, “The person who sows to their own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption” (that word corruption means hell). When I was in my 20’s I tried to like beer. I never did. But I did come to this conclusion, “If I am going to drink it there is only one reason to drink it.” Eventually I came to another conclusion “Three day hangovers are no fun.” The stupidity you plant is the stupidity you get. Let’s conclude with the last part of verse 8, “The one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” It is very easy to plant bad seeds. It is very easy. All you need to do is live a normal imperfect life, deceiving yourself that your normal is God’s normal. To plant the seeds of the Spirit takes extra effort, it takes work. Jesus said, “Whoever loses his life for My sake and the Gospel's will save it” (Matt 16:25, Mark 8:35, Luke 9:24). From the moment of your Baptism you were given, so to speak, seed. From the moment of your Baptism you have two lives. You can plant those seeds in the garden of this world’s regrets and harvest the tears of hell. You can plant those seeds in God’s Word, in the Lord’s House, the promise of His forgiveness and harvest the joy of His salvation. Today we are here planting the seed of the Lord. From that seed we will harvest joy. May God keep us this day and always so that we together may have that eternal day of rejoicing. Amen.
Grace Iola Kansas: Date: June 30 2019
Title: “Wonderful Whispers” Text: 1 Kings 19:9b-21
The prophet Elijah is an interesting person. He is known for bold and daring events, like the confrontation he had with the priests of Baal. He is known for his depression and discouragement after that event (1 Kings 18 & 19). The appointed Old Testament reading is part of those events. Notice his words, “O Lord the people are destroying your altars and killing your prophets. I am the only one left and they are after me.” That is the voice of a discouraged, frustrated man. Notice what he says, “I have been very jealous for the LORD.” Today, the word “jealous” carries a negative meaning. However, in the Bible the word “jealous” is also used in a positive sense. In the Bible the word carries the thought of “devotion, dedication, treasuring, greatly valued.” Jesus did not use the word “jealous” but He could have when He said, Matthew 6:33 “Seek first (be jealous for) the kingdom of God and His righteousness,” Elijah is a discouraged, frustrated man. “O Lord, I have been devoted to the faith and now I am hated and hunted.” Almost everyone has their down time of frustration and discouragement. We all have our moods. Sometimes our moods call for a harsh and to the point wake up call. God could have said, “Elijah, stop moaning and groaning and feeling sorry for yourself. I‘ve got it all worked out!” Jesus did that to Peter when they were walking on the water. Peter got afraid and sank. Jesus grabbed him and said “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:31) There are times for “attitude adjustments.” There are also times that call for gentleness and compassion. Peter doubted. For that moment Peter stopped being “jealous, devoted, confident, in the power of God” and so a harsh word was needed. Elijah is not doubting. Elijah is discouraged and needs a comforting word. Try this for a comparison; Noah is in the Ark with seven other people. He is not alone in his faith. Elijah is in a cave alone, and he thinks that he is the only one “jealous” for the kingdom of God. Therefore, the Almighty comforts the man. We can take some of that comfort and apply it to ourselves. It seems to me that many Christians have at times sat down and moaned “What have I ever done for God? How have I lived this Christian life?” How effective have I been as a disciple?” Please notice how God answered the heavy heart of Elijah. 1 Kings 19:11 (The LORD said “Elijah, stand before Me.”) “Then the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind.” So very often in life we think that if we are going to have an impact, if we are to make our mark in the world it must be big and dramatic. Humanity is attracted to and by “the big drama.” Evolution, the “Big Bang” it captures the imagination because it is full of great upheavals, overcoming great obstacles, a grand and brave struggle for existence. Yet in the Bible, God simply spoke; ‘Let there be fish and birds and they were there. God said ‘Let the land produce and there was horse and elephant.’” That simplicity lacks the “umph” that by nature draws our attention. Let’s go back to 1 Kings 19:11 & 12, “After the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. After the fire the sound of a low whisper.” It goes without saying; earthquake and fire is dramatic. We are tempted to think that “If life is to have meaning ---- If we are to be influential and effective it can only be by way of the spectacular.” Elijah stood toe to toe, face to face in a life and death struggle with pagan priests and a dangerous monarchy. The LORD says, “Elijah I do as much or more with a whisper than with a mighty wind. Elijah I have thousands in Israel who are jealous for me. Every day they wake up get breakfast for their little ones. They work their fields and their orchards and tend to their livestock.” This world is backwards, inside out, upside down. God does more with whispers than with earthquakes. God did not tell Adam and Eve to go forth and build great empires and vast cities. No God said “Make babies. Make families.” When God raised up Moses God did not say “Tell the people to worship only Me, respect My name, keep the Sabbath, and install judges, parliaments and legislators.” No, God said “honor your father and mother --- honor family.” It is no accident or coincidence that Jesus’ first miracle was at a wedding, a family event. We may sit down and question, “What have I ever done? How have I lived this?” How effective have I been?” At such times when we feel like Elijah alone, maybe ineffective, inadequate, unimportant, at such times we would do well to recall the whisper of God through His prophets and Apostles, “I have loved you with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3). Out of that love, because of that love you were deemed worth (valued) every drop of the blood of Jesus Christ. When Jesus said, “The hairs of your head are all numbered” (Luke 12:7), He was telling us that our lives are important to Almighty God. The Savior was telling us that God Almighty finds the daily lives of His people to be worth His complete and focused attention. In Hebrews 2:11 we are told that Jesus is not embarrassed to call us family. May the love of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, fill your hearts and minds with His love and His assurance. Amen.
Grace Iola Kansas: Date: June 23 2019
Title: “Always Hope” Text: Isaiah 65:1-9
Before I get to the Old Testament lesson allow me this history lesson. Throughout the pages of Holy Scripture God warns. He warns against sin, as He did with Adam and Eve, “Do not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” God warns about the consequences of sin, as He did with Adam and Eve, “The day you eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall die.” Essentially, the warnings have not changed nor have they stopped. Let me make this comparison. Noah was called a preacher of righteousness (2 Peter 2:5). The Ark he built was a physical, sign of God’s warning. Today, throughout the world Christian Churches stand as visible witness to the Word of God. Under the roof of those churches, preachers still sound the Word of God. At the time of Isaiah many of the Hebrew people were up to their eyeballs in sin. We are told in 2 Kings 16 that Ahaz gave his sons as human sacrifice to the idol Molech (or Chemosh). Verses 4 & 5 are a testimony to their open proud displays of wickedness. Eventually God’s patience and protection will wear thin. Their sin will catch up to them and they will pay the consequences for their sin. Eventually, the armies of Babylon will march on Jerusalem. That war with the Babylonians was so bad, that some Hebrews, cannibalized their children (Lam 4:10). Now we read these things in the Bible and think to ourselves “How horrible! But that’s what happens when people give up on God. They get what they deserve.” Such thoughts are incorrect. Today in our world all manner of preachers and evangelist are on the radio, on TV and writing books about the peace and prosperity of Christians who have the proper attitude. They love to concentrate on such passages as Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Such passages are beautiful and comforting. They speak of God’s great care and compassion. But such passages do not speak of a stress free, trouble free, life of peace and prosperity. Such passages do not promise that, “If we think a certain way, if we live a certain way, and surround ourselves with positive uplifting people, we will have lives of joy and contentment.” The Almighty told Eve, “In pain you shall bring forth children.” We can rightly add “And you will worry about them all the days of your life!” (Gen 3:16). The Almighty told Adam, “Cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life” (Genesis 3:17). Every occupation on earth has its frustrations and disappointments. Some of the top 10 most dangerous occupations in America include fishing, farming, roofing and landscaping, just to name a few. We find this statement in Job 14:1 “Man who is born of a woman is of a few days and full of trouble.” (The word “man” means people . . . not husbands.) God is honest. The Bible is honest. The point is a person of faith is not promised a life insulated from trouble great and small. For example, in the days of Isaiah, King Ahaz was spiritually wicked. Ahaz and others led many people astray. The wayward like King Ahaz paid the price, horrible war and devastation. (Isaiah 65:7) The wayward paid the price, but so did the righteous. The righteous suffered as well. The example of Jeremiah should suffice. When Jerusalem was attacked by the Babylonians, Jeremiah was there. For about 2 years the Babylonians lay siege to Jerusalem. When food and water were scarce Jeremiah was there. He was not insulated from the sufferings. The Apostle Paul’s words from Romans 8 are worth recalling here: 35 “Who (or what) shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress? 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” The implication of these verses is clear, namely we will go through difficulty and hardships. Yet, positive statement is there as well. There is no trouble or difficulty that can prevent the love of Christ from saving us, bringing us to Himself. The Gospel of earthly peace and prosperity IS no Gospel. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be” (Matt 6:21). We can apply those words to so many things we look to. “Do not put your hope in aspirin. Medical science cannot save you.” “Do not put your hope in bank accounts. The dollar cannot save you.” “Do not put your hope in love. Your family cannot save you.” “Do not put your hope in positive thinking. Your mind, your attitude cannot save you.” “Do not put your hope in goodness. Your effort cannot save you.” In the Gospel a man was possessed by demons. No money rescued him. No family rescued him. No self-help book rescued him. No motivational speaker, no doctor, no politician, no spouse or lover, nothing in this world rescued him. Nothing in this world was his hope and help. His hope and help came from another world. In the creed we say “Jesus came down from heaven!” From the perfect world of heaven Jesus entered this broken world and it is His life, death and resurrection that is our only hope. May our hope always be in Jesus. Amen.
Grace Iola Kansas: Date: June 16, 2019
Title: Sirens’ Song Text: Proverbs 8:1-4
I want to begin with ancient Greco Roman mythology. The gods and goddesses of the Greco Roman world were much like human beings. They had their petty jealousies, fits of anger, infidelities, in short all the sins of humanity. The gods were basically people with superpowers. One myth that lingered for awhile was that of the Sirens. Today it is popular to think of them as mermaids. However, the ancient people thought of them as being part human and part bird. That is because like so many birds, the Siren’s sang so very sweetly. Their songs were enchanting, hypnotic. One of the Sirens favorite things to do was to lure sailors off coarse so that their ships would be dashed on the reefs and their lives lost. For you movie buffs, the Sirens appear in the film “Brother Where Art Thou.” They appear in the river, singing “Go to Sleep Little Baby.” The Sirens’ with their songs were dangerous. In the Garden of Eden the devil camouflaged his evil intent. In the disguise of a talking animal he beguiled and tricked Eve (1 Timothy 2:14). In the movies and TV evil and demons almost always have a scary, sinister, gravelly voice. I think Eve heard a soft, gentle and reassuring voice, a beautiful voice. This is a personal opinion or observation. We have all seen the advertisements for casinos featuring people, with smiling faces and waving their winnings. They promise thousands of dollars in winnings every day. Yet, according to some research as many as 23 million Americans go into debt because of gambling. The average debt is around $55,000. (www.debt.org/advice/gambling/). Satan never said “Eve, eat this fruit and you and your children will live with regret the rest of your life.” No! The devil said “Eve, eat this fruit and you will be like God!” (Gen 3:5). In Proverbs chapter seven (7) Solomon warns his son about sin and temptation. In Proverbs chapter seven (7), wickedness is disguised as a seductive, enticing woman. She promises delights in her house of Egyptian linen and perfumed beds. She promises delights but gives only disappointment and death. Every one of us here has or will experience the guilt and heartbreak caused by sin and temptation. Every one of us here has or will hear the Sirens’ Song of temptation and follow. In the book of Proverbs chapter 8 King Solomon, gives advice to his son about wisdom, righteousness and all things wholesome. One of the first things we notice is the location of Wisdom. Unlike the wayward woman who lurks about; Wisdom is visible. She is at the crossroads. She is in the town square. She takes her stand where she can be heard. There is nothing secretive, crafty, or deceptive about Wisdom. On Good Friday morning Jesus was falsely arrested. He was taken to the High Jewish court; there He was accused of many things. Under oath Jesus said, John 18:20 “I have spoken openly to the world. I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple . . . I have said nothing in secret.” Everything necessary for our eternal wellbeing has been made known. Everything necessary for the forgiveness of sins and a soothed and comforted conscience is freely and publically made known. By inspiration of the Holy Spirit Isaiah wrote; “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; you who have no money, come, buy and eat!” (Isaiah 55:1). In Proverbs chapter 8 Wisdom willfully and freely gives. In Proverbs chapter 8, Wisdom is not flashy and enticing, but rather modest even understated. There are no Egyptian linens and perfumed beds. Wisdom does not offer anything really exhilarating or daring, but rather knowledge and understanding and prudence and discretion. In this world it seems boring to us! Satan offers fun and excitement for a time, here and now, but he only has victims of eternal regret and ruin Jesus is the very wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:30). He gives rescue from regret and ruin. Jesus gives the assurance that all our guilt is removed, not held against us, by the Father in heaven. Jesus gives us the wisdom the knowledge that we are eternally loved by God the Father. Where Satan lies and deceives, Jesus is honest. He shows us the big picture and says, John 16:33, “In Me you have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” In 1 Corinthians 10:13 we read, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to all. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation God will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure.” That way out, was given to us, in our Baptisms. The way out is given to us, in Holy Communion where we are strengthened in our Christian faith. That way out, is given to us, through the Holy Scripture. That way out, is given to us, by faith in Jesus Christ who is the wisdom of God. May we all remain wise unto salvation. Amen.
Grace Iola Kansas: Date: June 2 2019
Title: Lacking Nothing Text: Rev 22:1-6
This is the last Sunday of Easter and we will conclude with our sermon topics based on the Book of Revelation. I want to share some thoughts on selected verses. So, let’s get started with verse 1, (St. John writes) “The angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb.” The water of life reminds us of our baptisms. For many of us our Christian life began when were very young. We were brought to the Baptismal font by our parents. I was about 4 months old when I was baptized. In our Catechism we are taught that baptism drowns the Old Adam, our sinful self. We are taught that in baptism our souls are made alive in Christ. That very thought is found in, Romans 6:4 “We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” That sounds complicated, but the bottom line is: by baptism the Holy Trinity has taken us off the path of eternal death and has placed us on the path of eternal life. Listen to this from Ephesians 5:25-27, “Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her, 26 having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that He might present the church to Himself in splendor, (so that) she might be holy and without blemish.” That is a wonderful passage to know when you feel guilty, worthless, or discouraged. God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit sees you through the living waters of baptism --- holy, splendid, without blemish, without fault. If that were not so than everything else that follows in Revelation 22 would not apply, to you or me. Now shift gears with me as you look at verse 2, “Through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. This is the same city John saw in chapter 21. Some understand this to be a reference to only one tree. Others understand that this refers to an orchard. One or many the symbolism remains. In the Garden of Eden there was only one tree of life and the other brought death. Our parents, Adam and Eve ate from the wrong tree. From that moment onward all of God’s creation was no longer a paradise. In Genesis 3:24, we are told that God evicted, expelled, Adam and Eve from the Garden. But in that City of God the Tree of life is there for all. St. John writes that the tree (or trees) would have a new crop every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. Here we are being informed that in heaven, in the resurrected life after Judgment Day there is only life and vitality. In the Gospels we see Jesus healing people of all manner of diseases and disabilities. In the Gospels we see Jesus raising people from death to life. All those miracles inform us that in the City of God we shall have life and vitality beyond measure. All the emotional and mental stress of this life, this here and now, will be gone forever. All the physical stress of this life, this here and now, will be gone forever. The wonder of heaven does not stop there with the body. In verses 3 & 5 we are told, 3 “No longer will there be anything accursed 5 and night will be no more.” Listen to this passage from Ephesians 6:12 “We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers . . . over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil.” Every day awake or asleep we are at war. The devil and all his offspring (Gen 3:15) launch their strategies of temptation and villainy against us. However, when the Savior returns and gathers us to the city of God nothing evil or wicked can assail us. There is nothing evil hiding in the dark places of sin. In the new heavens and the new earth all is goodness and light. This is the assurance that we have; since the moment of our baptisms. I conclude with this from Ephesians 1:3 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” Everything necessary and needful for our eternal wellbeing has been done and given to us. Thanks be to God. Amen.
Grace Iola Kansas: Date: May 26 2019
Title: “Our City” Text: Revelation 21:9–14, 21–27
The reading from Revelation 21 serves as the foundation of this topical sermon. Hopefully I will be setting before you some comforting thoughts. Comfort is one of the reason we have the book of Revelation. So let’s begin with these thoughts from Rev 21:9 & 10. An angel says to John, “I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.” But then John sees a city, Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God. In this vision the Bride and the city are one and the same. As the Bride of Christ we are assured that the Savior has dedicated Himself to us in a bond of love. Our Savior God will not be unfaithful to His Bride. All that He has promised will be fulfilled. Yet the vision concentrates on the city and so shall we. In the vision the city of God, our city, comes down to us from God. The Apostle James (1:17) wrote “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights!” God is the one who initiates the relationship we have with Him. Despite our sin and imperfection He comes to us in Holy Baptism and Holy Communion. He it is that joins us to Himself. He does that perfectly. If it were up to us, our decision, our power it would be flawed, weak, and unstable. Since God is the cause of this relationship it is perfect and trustworthy. We know what a city is in this world. It is a community of imperfection, sometimes risky. Yet, it has always been the desire and plan of God to be with His creation. Throughout the pages of Holy Scripture we have passages like this one from Leviticus 26:12, “I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be My people.” Here I want to share this from Rev 21:16 “The city lies foursquare, its length the same as its width.” The old theologian Matthew Henry form the early 1700’s had this observation. (The city) “was four-square, the length as large as the breadth. In the New Jerusalem all shall be equal in purity and perfection. There shall be an absolute uniformity in the church triumphant,” (the city of God, our city) “a thing wanted and wished for on earth, but not to be expected till we come to heaven.” In this world there is always the unwanted. In church, business, politics, family, there are all manner of misunderstandings, broken promises, disappointments and so much more. These imperfections burden our hearts and stress our patience. It takes work and determination to be forgiving, understanding and loving. But to that city of God to which we are going, these complications and compromises will not exist. The Apostle Paul wrote, 1 Corinthians 13:12 “Now we see in a mirror dimly . . . Now (we) know in part; then (we) shall know fully.” Can you imagine a life where men and women actually and fully understand one another? In this world we live in distress. In Genesis chapter 11 God confused human language. In this world we all live, with or under a cloud of bad reception, being disconnected, however, in the city of God, there are no misunderstandings. Heaven is a place where no one puts his or her foot in the mouth! This condition is underscored in verse 21 “the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.” We often think of gold in terms of wealth. But gold is one those noble metals which do not corrode, and resist corrosion. The streets of heaven are pure and smooth. There is no street, no path that can lead you astray. We might say “You cannot take a wrong turn in heaven.” That reminds me of that famous passage in Isaiah 53:6 “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned — every one — to his own path.” There is no going astray in heaven. Now a person might say “That’s all well and good for heaven, but what does it do for me now?” Well we are told in Scripture, 1 Thessalonians 5:11 “Encourage one another and build one another up!” Without encouragement, hardship becomes just hurtful and meaningless, and our strength wanes. In the Old Testament, Elijah the prophet became terribly discouraged and prayed for death (1 Kings 19). Without encouragement, faith, peace and hope suffer. The Apostle Paul wrote “Whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4). What is it that we hope for? One of my favorite passages of hope is Philippians 3:20-21”Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like His glorious body!” Our hope is to be done with this broken world. Our hope is to be home in the perfection of heaven. Jesus gave us this encouragement, John 14:23, “If anyone loves Me . . . My Father will love (them) and We will come to (them) and make our home with (them).” Since the moment of your baptism (whenever that was) God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit has been and is at home with you. May it be so this day and always amen.
Grace Iola Kansas: Date: May 19 2019
Title: Enduring Conquerors Text: Revelation 21:7
This is a topical sermon based on this passage from Revelation 21:7 “The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be My son.” However, before I get to that topic let me once again underline the masculine language of the Bible. Very often the Bible uses the word S-O-N in a generic and legal sense. Very often the word S-O-N means the person male or female who is legally entitled to the family estate. Once in a while the word daughter or bride or wife is used for the people of God, male and female. For example Zephaniah 3:14 “Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem!” (note Isaiah 54:5, Rev 19:7) I say that because not long ago some in the feminist movement were rejecting God’s Word for being too patriarchal. Every now again in books, movies, comic books, TV, etc. will see / hear God referred to as she. Some people might say, “What’s the big deal? Isn’t God big enough to look beyond our limitations? God is loving enough to accept however or whatever name and / or pronoun we use!” That sounds wise and humble wise and humble but it’s not. That is humanity telling God who He is. In the Bible we read passage like this; Isaiah 42:8 “I am the LORD; that is My name; My glory I give to no other.” If you want to be humble before God you will approach the LORD with names and titles the LORD has chosen. “The man upstairs” is not one of them!” To some degree that brings us back to the topic of this sermon, namely the revelation of God. Now what I am about to share is not often heard from pulpits. There is a good reason for that. Usually the pulpit is used to announce the forgiveness of sin. Usually the true pastors of God’s Word stress the assurance and comfort of our eternal destination through faith in Jesus. However, the full revelation of God’s Word cannot be ignored. The harsh warnings of Holy Scripture cannot be ignored. Clergy who fail to sound the warnings of Holy Scripture are doing a disservice to the people of God. Therefore this sermon is a warning. Listen again to Rev 21:7 “The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be My son.” Please note, the words “The one who conquers. . .” imply that there are those who do not conqueror. Those words imply that some are defeated, vanquished by sin, death and the devil. They never receive the heritage of heaven. There are a number of passages throughout the Scripture that carry this warning. Matthew 24:13 (Jesus said) “The one who endures to the end will be saved.” Isaiah 30:18 “The LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for Him.” Throughout the pages of Scripture there are examples of people abandoning the faith that saves. Let me share these two. John 6:66 “After this many of His disciples turned back and no longer walked with (Jesus).” These are disciples who heard Jesus preach and teach; they did not like what they heard and walked away. This is the second passage, 2 Timothy 4:3-4 “The time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching . . . 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth.” The number one reason, people do not, continue in the faith, endure in the faith, or by faith, conquer, is because they reject God’s Word. In John chapter six (6) some disciples abandoned Jesus because He said “I am your only way to avoid hell.” Jesus clearly says, “No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). Those words were and still are offensive to people. There are religions, organizations, lodges, societies and whatever else that, teach “god will accept any sincere religion; god is so big and loving he or she will accept any name upon which you call.” In 2 Timothy 4 the sound teaching that is often rejected is twofold 1) what does scripture really mean? That implies that scripture is “unknowable and at best all we can do is guess at its purpose and meaning?” The second thing is “what really is sin and what is normal?” Before Oprah Winfrey there was Phil Donahue. He often asked guest and audience, “Who’s to say?” (see Romans1:18ff). In many circles in these United States, abortion as birth control is not a sin. It is said to be only a woman’s right to choose. In many circles in these United States, it is a sin to define marriage as one man and one woman. This is the warning, Proverbs 3:5 & 7 Trust in the LORD . . . and do not lean on your own understanding. 7 Do not be wise in your own eyes.” Long ago our parents Adam and Eve became “wise” and rejected the Will and Word of God. They listened to evil. Throughout the ages humanity (that mean’s all of us, without exception) is tempted to replace God’s Word of knowledge and truth, with human conclusions and opinion. Let me wrap this up with these two passages from the Bible. John 8:31 (Jesus said) “If you abide in My word, you are truly My disciple.” Revelation 21:7 “The one who conquers (abides in the Word) will have this heritage (the kingdom of heaven).” May God grant it to each and every one of us this day and always. Amen.
Grace Iola Kansas: Date: May 12, 2019
Title: The Church Triumphant Text: Rev 7:14
In our hymnals there are 36 hymns under the heading “The Church.” They begin with hymn # 644 “The Church’s One Foundation.” The foundation of course is seen in today’s Gospel reading which sets before us the Resurrected Jesus Christ. Hymn #s 655 to 669 are under the designation “The Church Militant.” One of the more well known hymns under that heading is “Onward Christian Soldiers.” Those hymns reflect our work and struggle to keep the true Christian faith, as typified in the Apostle Paul, Acts chapter 20. Hymn #s 670 to 680 are under the heading “The Church Triumphant.” There we find the hymn “For all the Saints who from all their labors rest.” It is the church victorious; it is the church triumphant that is described in the reading from Revelation chapter 7. The New Testament book of Revelation has fascinated people over the centuries. Sometimes I think people use the book of Revelation as some kind of Ouija board. They try to decipher the future. That is most unfortunate. That type of usages can and often does led to fear and uncertainty. More than that trying to discover the future is in Holy Scripture a sin (Deut 18:9-14). We would do better to read the book of Revelation as a source book of comfort. Picture this. It is cold outside. The wind is howling. The snow is falling fast and hard. Yet there you are in your comfy clothes. There you are in your comfy chair. There you are with hot cocoa and miniature marshmallows. You are safe and warm. That is the foundation of the book of Revelation. All around the edges of the book there are nightmares and scary situations. Yet there you are safe and sound in the arm of the Savior. Listen again to Revelation 7:14. In the vision one of the elders says to St. John “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation.” The storms and worries, the pains and the sufferings, the burden of sin and imperfection is called “the great tribulation.” The book of Revelation is the book of victory over tribulation. In the book of Revelation the Holy Spirit is reminding us of our eventual personal victory. We are to see ourselves; we are to know and believe that we are there, in that multitude of people saying “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” (Rev 7:10). The LORD God is very honest with us. Until Judgment Day life in this broken and disappointing world is an ongoing struggle. The Creator warned our Father, “The day you eat of the Tree of the knowledge of good and evil is the day you will die” (Gen 2:17). Everything that makes life a cold and stormy night is included in the word die! Every miserable unwanted thing in my life and your life is there in that warning. Thankfully sin, death and the devil do not have the final and absolute say in our lives. The Apostle John who wrote the book Revelation also wrote these words, (1 John 5:4 ) “This is the victory that has overcome the (fallen) world — our faith.” He wrote that because he heard Jesus say, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome” (John 16:33). That is the promise of God to you. It is the promise written and sealed with the blood of Jesus who was dead and now lives for you. Amen.
Grace Iola Kansas: Date: May 5 2019
Title: “Ransomed of the LORD” Text: Revelation 5:9
If I have the facts correctly it goes like this. Kimberly Sue Endicott of California went on safari in Uganda Africa. She was kidnapped on Tuesday, April 2, 2019. She was held for eight days by her captors who demanded half a million dollars ransom. Apparently, the ransom was paid and she was rescued along with her local guide Jean Paul Mirenge (mah rain gay). If I have the story correct eight (8) people have been arrested for the kidnapping. Following this kidnapping, the U.S. State Department, has released a list of 35 countries where Americans are at risk. Being captured and held for ransom is a very old crime. In the Old Testament, among the Hebrews, kidnapping could be punishable by death. It is a crime, a violation, which God takes very seriously. Are you aware that you are a victim of kidnapping? Are you aware that you were held captive, by a very dangerous person? Most people in this world haven’t a clue. Most of us hardly, if ever, think about it; because it all seems so normal. Most people go about their days hardly realizing the terrible condition of their captivity. What we in this life call normal is called “The valley of the shadow of death” in Holy Scripture (Psalm 23). Listen carefully to Revelation 5:9 “They sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy are You to take the scroll and to open its seals, for You were slain, and by Your blood You ransomed people for God.’” Let me reword that so we have it in context. “We Christians sang a song, ‘Worthy are You Jesus to take the plan of God and put it into effect because You were crucified and with Your blood, Jesus, You paid the ransom price for our rescue.’” From the moment of our conception and birth every person on earth is a captive, a prisoner! Consider these words written by Isaiah, about the Savior’s work. Isaiah 61:1 “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, because the LORD has anointed Me to bring good news to the poor; He has sent Me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are held!” That is what Jesus did for us. He proclaimed liberty to the captives and opened the prison! Jesus was not just using poetic language, pretty speech, He meant it when He said, (John 8:36) “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed!” Christmas is your freedom. That little Baby was born as the currency of your freedom. Good Friday is your freedom. The Man on the cross is paying with His blood the price of your ransom. Easter Sunday is the “arrest” and defeat of your kidnapper. The unknown author of the book of Hebrews said it this way. “Since, the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death He might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery” (Hebrews 2:14 & 15). The Son of God wrapped Himself in flesh and blood and walked in this broken world, just like us. The Son of God had one mission, one agenda, to buy our freedom from sin, death and the devil. That He did with His blood. Thanks be to Jesus, we are the ransomed of the LORD. Amen.
Grace Iola Kansas: Date: April 28, 2019
Title: “Broken But Mended” Text: John 20:19-31
This is a topical sermon about the resurrection of the dead. First, I want to once again make it clear that the Bible from cover to cover is a Book of Life. Last Sunday we heard Jesus say to the Sadducees “(God) is not God of the dead, but of the living.” In the Old Testament book of Daniel (12:2), we find this statement, “Those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” The Bible, and Jesus Himself (John 11) often referred to death as sleep. From our perspective death seems permanent, because we have no power over it. Eventually, there comes a time when medical science can longer aid or treat the body. However, to our Creator, the Author of life, (Acts 3:15) death is a temporary condition. God has a calendar with a day marked on it. That day has many names such as; Isaiah 2:12 “a day of reckoning.” Joel 2:2 “a day of clouds and thick darkness.” It is because of sin and unbelief that it has such scary names. St. Paul wrote, Romans 2:5 “because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God's righteous judgment will be revealed.” Such words are directed at the faithless, the unbeliever, those who reject the salvation of God worked for us by Jesus. However, we are the baptized of God. We are not the selfish, sinful, unbelievers. We are not the children of damnation but the children of salvation. To us the Last Day is couched in words of beauty and wonderment. Some of my favorite words are found in Revelation 21:4, “(God) will wipe away every tear from (our) eyes, and death shall be no more, grief shall be no more, there will be no more crying or pain for the (bad) things have passed away.” In Holy Scripture death is often equated with sleep. For the sake of illustration let’s say God has an alarm clock. The hours are counting down. At God’s set time the alarm will sound. This is what we read in 1 Thessalonians 4. 16 (Jesus) Himself will come down from heaven . . . with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first; 17 and so we will always be with Jesus.” That is our Christian faith. That is our Christian hope. This is God’s full plan. God is not content that we die and our bodies get buried in the grave. That is not enough for God. The full and complete plan of God is that we Christians never be dead! It is the full and complete plan of Jesus that we live like He lives, namely, body and soul for all eternity. Just hours before Good Friday, just hours before He was nailed to the Cross, Jesus gave this promise, “Because I live, you also will live” (John 14:19). Those are easy words to hear. The Apostle Thomas heard those words. However, hours later Thomas saw Jesus arrested. Thomas knows that Jesus is beaten, tortured, and crucified. Thomas knows that Jesus died. Thomas is no different than you and I. Thomas feels grief, sadness, confusion, because Jesus is dead. For Thomas, all his dreams and desires for the future died with Jesus. All his plans and everything he imagined Jesus was going to be and accomplish would never be. Thomas saw miracle after miracle. People fed. People healed of horrible disfigurements and diseases (Luke13). People purified and freed from ugly oppressive evil (Mark 5). In the Gospel reading Thomas is a sad, devastated, heartbroken human being. Like Thomas we too suffer our grief, sadness and heartbreak in this here and now. Also, like Thomas and the other Apostles, we have the promise of the living Savior. Revelation 1:17-18 (Jesus said) “Fear not, I am the first and the last, 18 and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.” We know what keys do; they lock and they unlock. Locks keep treasured things safe and locks keep bad things out. Jesus has the keys to unlock death and the grave. Jesus has the keys to lock up sin, death and the devil. The grave could not hold Jesus. The grave stone was rolled away, and He rose victorious over death and the grave. Jesus has promised that there is a day on the Father’s calendar when the alarm clock will ring and the graves will be unlocked. At that time everything that sin, and the devil has broken will be mended. At that time the full victory of salvation will be ours forever and ever. The Apostle John wrote this about our future; 1 John 3:2 “We are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when He appears we shall be like Him, because we shall see (Jesus) as He is.” What does that mean? It means we are the saved of God. In this here and now we are broken by sin, death and the devil. But when Jesus returns we will be like Him fully alive body and soul without imperfection. “Because Jesus is alive, you also will live” (John 14:19). May God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit keep us in this Christian faith and hope unto that great and beautiful day. Amen.
Grace Iola Kansas: Date: April 21 2019 Easter Sunday
Title: A Blessed End Text: Matthew 22:31-32
We hear it every year “Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!” The resurrection is central to Christianity. In fact we can very well say that the resurrection is central to all of Holy Scripture. We hear it every year 1 Corinthians 15:14 “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” According to Holy Scripture the resurrection is central to faith and hope. However, not everyone in the Bible believed in the resurrection onto eternal life. The Sadducees, a religious denomination in the days of Jesus did not believe in the resurrection. Now I am not talking about the resurrection of Jesus Christ. I am not talking about Easter Sunday. I am talking about the resurrection of every person who ever lived. The Sadducees came to Jesus one day with a hypothetical question. It came down to this “Jesus, there was a woman who had seven husbands. Each of her, husbands died of natural causes. In the resurrection whose wife will she be?” Well they thought they had Jesus cornered. They thought that Jesus would mess up Old Testament laws about marriage and inheritance. They thought that Jesus would mess up concerning life after death and the resurrection onto eternal life. They thought that no matter how He answered somewhere He would be in error, and they could discredit Him. But you cannot trick Jesus. Nobody knows the Bible like Jesus knows the Bible. This is what Jesus said about the resurrection. Matthew 22:31-32 “As for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: (to Moses from the burning bush Exodus 3) 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living.” Now a couple of things to take note of; 1) Jesus said, “Have you not read what was said to you by God?” The Bible is not a collection of human ideas, it is God’s Word. 2) That Word of God is written to you and God expects His Word to be read. Jesus said, “Have you not read what was said to you by God? Well what was said about the resurrection? From the burning bush God said to Moses “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And then Jesus adds these words, He is not God of the dead, but of the living. In that conversation with those antagonistic Sadducees, Jesus just told them that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are alive and there will be a resurrection. We are here to celebrate THE Resurrection of Jesus. He is the focus of Easter Sunday. However, there is more than a 2,000 year old miracle to be celebrated. In the Epistle reading from 1 Corinthians 15:23 we have this statement, “Christ the firstfruits, then at His coming those who belong to Christ.” Again, a couple of things of which to take note. Jesus is the firstfruits; He is the foundation upon which all the promises of Holy Scripture are built. That is why St. Paul wrote, “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” It is the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ that forgives us of every wrong and gives us every hope. Once again 1 Corinthians 15:23, “Christ the firstfruits, then at His coming those who belong to Christ.”
Just as the resurrection, is in that verse so too is Judgment Day. At His return all those with the true Biblical faith will rise to life. Allow me to reword 1 Corinthians 15:23, “When the resurrected Savior Jesus Christ returns, then all who belong to Him like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob will be resurrected to life everlasting.” Jesus said “My Father is not the God of the dead but of the living.” Easter Sunday is God’s own promise to us that Judgment Day will be a blessed end to this world of sin and imperfection, sickness and pain, war and crime, death and destruction. By faith in Jesus Christ we are a people looking beyond the grave to the beautiful city of God. Amen.
Grace Iola Kansas: Date: April 14 2019 Palm Sunday
Title: Day of Assurance Text: Luke 19:32
I want to begin with this passage from Luke 19:32, “Those who were sent ahead went and found (the colt) just as (Jesus) had told them.” At first blush this little verse seems somewhat Insignificant. We could easily read that sentence and, shrug our shoulders and say “So what!” Yet, some Bible students have (for lack of a better word) debated, how this occurred. William Barclay in his commentary sees this as a prearranged event; almost clandestine even to the point of having passwords, “The Lord has need of it!” Others like Kretzmann see this as a miraculous event. Jesus sees all, hears all, knows all, because He is God on earth and nothing is hidden from Him. Once again we might shrug our shoulders and say “So what! Does it really matter?” Well, the real question becomes, “What do you think?” Is it a prearranged plan between Jesus and some unnamed man? Is it an exercise of divine power? I vote for the miraculous and this is why. The one answer dims the glory of Christ. The other brightens the glory of Christ. Every Sunday we come to Church. Every Sunday we are reminded of our common fractured human nature. King Solomon put it this way in Ecclesiastes 7:20 “There is not a righteous person on earth who does good and never sins.” The Apostle Paul said the same thing with these words, Romans 3:23 “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Almost everyone on earth, Christian or non-Christian responds automatically with denial, excuse or rejection. Out of our sinful, fractured human nature, we respond with things like, “I am only human! Nobody’s perfect!” Once in a while we Christians actually do stop when we hear those words, “There is not a righteous person. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” We stop because everyone else has disappeared. Billions of people are out of the picture; it is just God and you, one on one. In that moment there is no excuse, there is no denying, there is no defense, there is nothing to say, nothing to do, Moses in Deuteronomy puts it like this, (Thus says the LORD) “I am He there is no god besides Me; I kill and I make alive, I wound and I heal; there is none that can deliver out of my hand.” St. Paul in the Epistle writes, Philippians 2:10-11, “At the name of Jesus every knee should bow . . . 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” No excuse, no denying, no defense, there is nothing to say, nothing to do, nothing to offer. Some people do not want to hear such things. Some people do not what the bright glory of God shining in their eyes. The Pharisees did not want to hear it. “Jesus, teacher, tell your disciples to shut up. We do not want to hear that you are the one who comes in the name LORD.” Today when we hear such things as, “Those who were sent ahead went and found (the colt) just as (Jesus) had told them” it does matter what we do in our hearts and minds with the Word of God. This event, this Palm Sunday parade, is a moment of great assurance for us. It assures us that our faith and hope is not misplaced. A donkey was found just as Jesus said it would be. Donkeys were common in Jerusalem, just as common as pickup trucks are in Iola. Our Savior is in control of the common and the extraordinary. Our Savior sees, knows, understands and cares about the common and the extraordinary details of life. Both your daily life and your eternal life are in His care and keeping. Let me rephrase Deuteronomy 32:39 and apply it ourselves. “I, am Jesus, and there is no Savior beside Me; I kill your sin with Me on the Cross. I make you alive with Me in My resurrection; I wound your guilt and I heal your conscience; and there is nothing that can change that fact.” Thanks be to Jesus. Amen.
Grace Iola Kansas: Date: April 7, 2019
Title: Stewardship Foundations Text: Psalm 119:89 & Genesis 1:27-28
This is the final installment in this stewardship series. This sermon is in two parts. Part 1 is based on Psalm 119:89 “Forever, O LORD, Your word is firmly fixed!” The Holy Scripture is THE foundation of our Christian faith. This is a teaching that has been shared often in this congregation. It comes to us from The Brief Statement of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod 1932, paragraphs 1 and 2. “We teach that the Holy Scriptures differ from all other books in the world in that they are the Word of God. the Holy Scriptures are the sole source from which all doctrines proclaimed in the Christian Church must be taken and therefore, too, the sole rule and norm by which all teachers and doctrines must be examined and judged.” Basically that means that the Bible has the last word in any discussion. Therefore, when we have a topic like stewardship, it is not the IRS, or current trends in the business market that defines Christian stewardship; it is the Bible. In 1 Chronicles 29:14 King David prayed, he acknowledged (O LORD) “all things come from You!” The Apostle James wrote, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father!” (James 1:17). We must remind ourselves of that Biblical truth, because, as sinful, imperfect people we are selfish and possessive. If it is a thing it either has sentimental value or it has monetary value. I have a black, heavy wooded tool box. It is in many ways cumbersome and impractical. I am neither a mechanic nor a carpenter but I do yet want to part with it. It is not wrong or evil. Yet, like two year olds playing on the floor we do not want to surrender or share our possessions. In Genesis 19 there is a sad story of a woman who valued too much the things of this world. Her possessiveness destroyed her. For us movie fans there are two characters in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade who chose unwisely and paid dearly for it. When it comes to Christian stewardship the choices we make have consequences. Basically Jesus said, that the sky above and the earth beneath will pass away but His Word endures forever (Matt 24:35 & Luke 21:33). So, the bottom line of part 1 of this devotion “It all belongs to God. It all comes from God. We only have use of it for a short time. Cherish it, appreciate it but don’t idolize it.” Part two is also foundational. It is based on Genesis 1:27-28 “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female God created them. 28 God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth subdue it, and have dominion over it.” For thousands of years home and family has been understood by many to be the cornerstone of human civilization. The Greek philosopher Plato (424/423 – 348/347 BC) considered the state to be dependent upon the family. Martin Luther understood that both the state and the church are firmly tied to family. In the Scripture the creation account quickly turns its attention to family. In Genesis 2 Adam and Eve the only two people on earth are called husband and wife. Now obliviously a person does not need to be married to be family. Being single is not bad. Jesus never married and the Apostle Paul never married, but they had family. How important is family? Consider this. A person works 9 to 5. If that person does not work, the employer will find someone who will. In the church if a person does not serve in some fashion, someone will. City hall will not suddenly grind to a halt because of an absent individual. Yet, that is not exactly true in the family. No other individual occupies the place you fill in the family. That is a part of the uniqueness of our individuality. In my lifetime there have been 12 Presidents of the United States. They have all left their mark on the office. But there is no void in my life because this one or that one is out of office. However, when a family member is removed there is a void. Yes the world is full of fathers and mothers, sons and daughters and so on and so forth. Yet, only you fill that place that space in family. In that place 80 years old or 8 you have a Christian stewardship. In the Catechism, Martin Luther added the Table of Duties, which covers most all satiations of life. Briefly let me share what Scripture says to parents and children. Ephesians 6:4 (Parents) “do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” The stewardship of parents includes being the primary source of Christian education. It is not the pastor, Sunday school teacher, or the church. Mom and dad are the first ones in line with that responsibility. The Christian community, the church is there to help, but the responsibility rest upon the parents. Children also have a Christian stewardship, and it is not easy. Ephesians 6:1 “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” Baptized in the name of Jesus, we as children are to obey father and mother. Mom and Dad bring you to Sunday School you behave yourself. Mom and Dad want you to fold your hands for the table prayer --- you behave and fold your hands. Basically, children are to help the parents to do the things of God. Now I would like to conclude with this thought about family. It is a concept that perhaps we do not emphasize enough. In John 1:12 we read “To all who did receive (Jesus), who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.” We are the family of God. That thought goes way beyond sentiment. That thought is much more than a warm fuzzy feeling. It literally means that we belong to the family estate, nothing less than the kingdom of God. If it helps, you might look at your Baptismal certificate as the “deed to the estate.” The Apostle Paul as he neared the end of his life spoke these words to the Christian Church, Acts 20:32 “I commend you to God, to the word of His grace, which is able . . . to give you the inheritance.” May God Almighty keep us as His very own children and may we inherit the home of heaven. Amen.
Grace Iola Kansas: Date: March 31 2019
Title: Stewards in the State Text: Romans 13:1
As Christians we cannot avoid Romans 13, when talking about the state. It is foundational to our understanding. This is verse one “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” I think it is safe to say that for many of us in this world “government” is an easy target to belittle and disrespect. I can honestly say that I have done my share of belittling and disrespecting. The Scriptures call us to a higher standard. Allow me this observation. Ours is a representative form of government. Therefore, many in public office are there because we voted for them. Still, if you are anything like me, you might lament, “It is not my fault! I didn’t vote for the idiot!” Now there are maybe two things about that statement; 1) it is disrespectful to the person who occupies that office, and 2) it is disrespectful to those who voted for that person. Romans 13, and other passages reminds us of how disrespectful that attitude is. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit the Apostle Peter wrote, 1 Peter 2:17 “Fear God. Honor the emperor.” As Christians, confessing the name of Jesus and the authority of Scripture, we are called to a very high standard. As a flawed sinner it is difficult to think and behave properly. Still, we cannot avoid the demand of God and His Word. However, that does not mean that we are to surrender willy-nilly to power. Listen to these passages. This one is often used by those opposed to abortion on demand. Proverbs 31:8-9 “Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. 9 Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.” That was a mother’s advice to her son the king. The king was to be the voice, the defender and protector of liberty and justice. Through His prophet Isaiah God required all Israel to “Wash yourselves; remove the evil from before My eyes, 17 learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression” (Isaiah 1:16-17). There is a shared responsibility to address wrongs in society that are sins against God. We could list many. Let’s consider one. Oppression as mentioned by God would include the abuse of authority and power, and manufacturing wrongs for personal, political, or financial gain. That was a major sin in Isaiah’s day. Amos who was a contemporary of Isaiah wrote this about corruption in the legal system. Amos 5:12 (Thus says the LORD) “I know how many are your transgressions — you who afflict the righteous, who take a bribe, and turn aside the needy in the gate.” What we call the” public square” they call “the Gate.” People were using the law (a show of right) for personal gain. Well, let’s get back to Romans 13. In the Bible one of the basic job descriptions of government is found in Roman 13:4 (The person in office) “is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain.” Law and order is the responsibility of government. Oddly enough the highest official in the land at that time was Nero. According to some historians Nero planned the Great Fire in Rome which burned for six days. In that burned out section of the city Nero built an elaborate estate for himself. When the Apostles told Christians to “Honor the emperor” the man himself was not honorable. But the office was to be respected. How do we go about doing that? The Bible gives the Christians some instructions to being stewards in the state. Matthew 5:44 (Jesus said), “Love your enemies and pray for them.” 1 Timothy 2:1-2 “I urge that prayers, be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions.” These prayers would include bringing an end to wickedness. It was a good thing that wicked rulers like Nero were brought to an end. Still, we are to pray that such people would see the error of their ways, repent and believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We cannot all hold political office but we can pray for those who do. Matthew 22:21 (Jesus said), “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.” When, the law of the land is NOT in conflict with God’s Word, it is to be obeyed. Related to that passage is this one concerning the hypocrisy of the Pharisees; Matthew 23:2-3 “The Pharisees sit on Moses' seat, 3 so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice.” God’s Word is God’s Word even when spoken by scoundrels and IT is not to be dismissed. This one is interesting, Romans 13:7 “Pay. . . taxes to whom taxes are owed.” That would include taxes paid to a corrupt and pagan government. Still when it comes to citizenship my favorite passage is Philippians 3:20-21 “Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like His glorious body.” Jesus entered this corrupt world of injustice, greed, hate and so much more. Those traits reside in all of us. We all have sin enough in our lives. Thankfully God Almighty is not content to let us suffer over long in this broken world. His plan is to call us home to heaven the land of our true citizenship. It is not some ghostly, strange world. It is a world, a place where we will be right at home. Our Savior has promised to change these lowly bodies beset by sin, death and devil and make them glorious, healthy and whole in the resurrection unto life everlasting. God grant it to all of us amen.
Grace Iola Kansas: Date: March 24, 2019
Title: What Matters Text: Acts 2:42 Placed for a Purpose part 2
The sermon text is a well known and very important verse from Acts 2:42, “They devoted themselves to the Apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” This takes place shortly after the day of Pentecost, roughly 2 months after the resurrection of our only Savior Jesus Christ. I want to take this verse and break it down into parts. So I begin with this “They devoted themselves.” Who are these people? (This does not mean they were at the same place at the same time. Wherever and whenever this is how they behaved.) First “they” are the 3,000 who were baptized on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:41). “They” are also the disciples. In Luke 10 we are told that Jesus sent out 72 men on a missionary tour. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus are included in the word they. In John 19 we are told that they were afraid of the Jewish authorities but were secretly disciples. In Luke 8 we are introduced to some women; Mary Magdalene, who had been possessed by 7 demons. High society women like Joanna and Susanna are included. Matthew the tax collector and Simon the Zealot are also included. Then of course there is Mary the Mother of your Savior. You have in this group a mishmash of people with their own personal history and reputations good or bad. But they have a thing in common. “They devoted themselves to the Apostles' teaching”. That word devoted is important. It means they committed themselves, they submitted themselves, like in a marriage they made themselves exclusive to the teaching of the Apostles. That means the Word of God. That means the things Jesus taught to the Apostles. They devoted, committed themselves to what the Apostles taught concerning who Jesus is and what Jesus taught. They were NOT devoted to who they thought Jesus was. They were NOT devoted to what they thought Jesus taught. Now this sounds harsh but God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, does not ask for our opinion. God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is not defined by our opinions. We do not inform or teach God. God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, tells us who He is and what we need to know. Now consider this In Acts 2:42 the only Scripture that exist is the Old Testament. Matthew and Mark are probably the first Gospels to be written. They were written 15 to 20 years after Easter Sunday. The Apostles taught about Jesus from the Old Testament. In Acts 17 we are told that the Apostle Paul taught the people about Jesus from the Old Testament. When the people from the city of Berea heard what Paul taught they checked it out. Acts 17:11 says the Bereans eagerly examined the Scriptures to see if these things (taught by Paul) were true. Now we here in America have trouble with this. From little on we are taught that we are individuals with individual rights. From little on we are taught that we have our own dream to follow our own path to make. From little on we are told that we must make up our own minds and do what is right for ourselves. Therefore, when we read scripture and come to church we bring this culture of individualism with us. Sometimes we do not like what we read in the Bible. Sometimes we do not like what we are taught in the church. Now this is an odd statement but I think you will get the point. Two things happens with the Bible and Church, 1) You learn God and 2) You unlearn yourself. This is what Jesus says to us, John 8:31 “If you abide in My word, you are truly My disciple” and Luke 9:23 “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” The abiding and denying include accepting the authority of Holy Scripture. Ok, now let’s finish up Acts 2:42, “They devoted themselves to the Apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” In the Bible “fellowship” means “a oneness” “a commonness” “something shared.” In the Bible “fellowship” is always linked to worship, faith and confession. In the Bible “fellowship” is not a social gathering or an informal get together. Therefore, the people devoted themselves to worshiping together around a common confession about the “who” and the “what” of Holy Scripture. They devoted themselves to the breaking of bread, Holy Communion as taught and commanded by Jesus. “They devoted themselves to the prayers.” That is an interesting statement “the prayers.” It does not say “They devoted themselves to praying,” but the prayers. People the world over pray but they are not the prayers. People the world over are praying, but only Christians have the prayers. The Apostle John wrote this in his first epistle, 1 John 5:14, “This is the confidence that we have toward (Jesus), that if we ask anything according to His will He hears (pays attention to) us.” They devoted themselves to praying for self and others in the name, in the confession of Jesus. We have a stewardship of submitting to God’s Word. We have a stewardship of fellowshipping together. We have a stewardship to the Biblical confession to Holy Communion. We have a stewardship for praying the Lord’s will for ourselves and for one another. We can devote ourselves to these things because Jesus devoted Himself to our salvation. The Apostle John wrote this to us, 1 John 4:10 “This is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” That is an, odd word, propitiation. It is not a word that we use in everyday conversation. Loosely propitiation means to make up for something or to appease. In the Bible propitiation is linked to sacrifice. In the Bible Jesus is the propitiation, the uniquely, exclusively the only truly acceptable sacrifice that makes up for our sins. On the Cross Jesus said, “It is finished” (John 19:30). He was not talking about His pain and suffering. He was talking about His work of saving our souls. Everything needful and necessary for the forgiveness of sin was accomplished. Everything needful and necessary for our eternal wellbeing was accomplished --- only by Jesus. For us Christians it means that the door of hell is closed and the door of heaven is open. Let us devote ourselves to that faith and hope. Amen.
Grace Iola Kansas: Date: March 17 2019
Title: Placed for a Purpose: Part 1b Text: Matt 14:13-21
The Holy Spirit inspired the author of Hebrews (1:3) to write (Jesus) “upholds the universe by the word of His power.” Since the LORD upholds all things we are assured of His providential faithfulness. Since the LORD upholds all things we are assured that He will “Give us our Daily Bread.” In our Catechism we are taught that Daily Bread includes everything needful in life. Listen to this event read from Matthew (14:16-20) 16 “Jesus said (to His disciples), you give the people something to eat.” 17 They said to him, “We have only five loaves here and two fish.” 18 And He said, “Bring them here to Me.” 19 Then He ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, He looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Then He . . . gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. 20 And they all ate and were satisfied. The feeding of the 5,000 is found in all four Gospels. It is an amazing miracle; 5,000 men plus women and children. That is like the entire population of Allen County Kansas! He did that with 5 loaves of bread and two fish. Jesus did not need any bread or any fish. Jesus could have miraculously fed that hungry crowd out of thin air. Simply by saying the word, or snapping His fingers, or just thinking it. Listen to this from Genesis 1:20 and John 1:3. On the fifth day God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures. All things were made through Him.” According to the Gospel of John the Son of God was right there on the fifth day calling into existence all aquatic life. In fact over and over again we are told in Scripture that God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, spoke into existence all things. Other than Adam and Eve who were made from the dirt of the earth; God merely spoke “Let there be . . .” and it was so (Gen1:1 & Heb 11:3). Jesus could have spoken and the people would have been content. However, He did not; He used 5 loaves of bread and two fish. There are stewardship lessons in this miracle. Such as, God uses means, tools, things and us to accomplish His will. Having created everything from nothing, He now uses everything to do something. Some examples would include. He takes ordinary water and combines it with His Word to give us the gift of Holy Baptism. In Holy Communion we are given the Body and Blood of Jesus, under the means of ordinary bread. He takes imperfect men and calls them to be “stewards of the mysteries of God” (1 Cor 4:1). He gives gifts to equip imperfect people “to do that which is pleasing in His sight” (Heb 13:21). He uses our daily life, our vocation in life for the wellbeing of ourselves and our neighbors. He uses our tithes and offerings that we place into His hands to extend His kingdom around the world. I have here the “special services and offerings” list. It seems like a small thing, a short list. However, it is a testimony that something is going from our hands back to His. From your hand to His hand this “little” is blessed and touches unknown numbers of people, in many different places. All of that is wonderful; however, we have a common problem. The disciples had it too. This is the common problem. Matt 14:16 & 17 Jesus tells the disciples to give the people something to eat. Yet the Disciples could only see what they did not have, namely, enough for so many. I do that. Do you do that? I look at the “what” in life, and see what I don’t have. I look at daily life and get discouraged because it seems too much. This miracle is a lesson to disciples of every generation. Do not get caught up in the “what” you have or don’t have. Remember what Jesus said to the devil (?) Matthew 4:4, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” This miracle is a lesson to disciples of every generation. Do get caught up in the “who” you have and “who” has you. Jesus took some bread and two little fish and made much with it. Consider this, when you were little you were brought to the baptismal font. Little you, was placed into the hands of Jesus. He did not say “so little, not enough, what can I do with this!” You are a treasure in His hands. I like what Isaiah wrote about us. Isaiah 62:3 “You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the LORD, a royal diadem in the hand of your God.” From the day of your Baptism you have been in the hands of your Savior. He has chosen to use you. You can place all you are and all you have into His hands. For those hands are the hands that blessed and healed and forgave. Those hands are on your shoulders every day. Those hands will welcome you home when you depart this earthly life. Those hands will raise your body from the grave on the day of the resurrection unto life. May God grant it to each and every one of us. Amen.
Grace Iola Kansas: Date: March 10 2019
Title: “Placed for a Purpose” part 1 Text: Psalm 95:1-7
As you can see from the bulletin this is the First Sunday in Lent. If you look up the history of Lent you are sure to come across a comment like this “Lent is a somber religious observance in the Christian Church that begins on Ash Wednesday. During Lent the believer prepares for Easter through prayer, penance, repentance, almsgiving, and self-denial.” Now since I am an honest person I will admit that I really do not practice Lent in those ways. Mostly I groan and mutter to myself “What am I gonna do for midweek Lenten Services?” Therefore most of my Lenten observance is geared toward preaching. Well with that said let’s go back to the description of Lent. It is a time of prayer, penance, repentance, almsgiving, and self-denial. Most of us have a pretty good idea about prayer and repentance. Maybe for many the idea of “penance and self-denial” more closely resembles New Year’s resolutions, which are never kept. “Almsgiving” usually means money given to or for the poor. So anyway this year in these Lenten Sundays we are going to focus on stewardship. I begin by drawing your attention to Psalm 95 which we sang in the liturgy. “1 let us make a joyful noise to the Rock of our salvation! 2 Let us come into His presence with thanksgiving; 3 For the LORD is a great God 5 The sea is His, for He made it, and His hands formed the dry land.” When you think of stewardship do you ever think of verses like those? Most likely you do, maybe not with the words of Psalm 95. However, we do know that everything comes from God. There is that old spiritual “He’s got the whole world in His hands.” Sometimes we actually believe it. Sometimes we doubt it. Sometimes we think God is not taking care of us. Fear of want and necessities can rob us of hope and confidence. About 1,800 years ago an early Church pastor named Tertullian was concerned about over population and diminishing natural resources. Thoughts of great famine and devastation floated in his mind. “1 let us make a joyful noise to the Rock of our salvation! 2 Let us come into His presence with thanksgiving; 3 For the LORD is a great God 5 The sea is His, for He made it, and His hands formed the dry land.” Is this the God who cannot supply the world’s daily bread? Tertullian’s fears never materialized. Some 220 years ago a man named Thomas Malthus (studied the effects of population and food production) was concerned about over population and diminishing natural resources. About 50 years ago Paul and Anne Ehrlich published a book The Population Bomb. They warned of mass starvation and major upheavals that was sure to fall upon us in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Fear of want and necessities can rob us of hope and confidence, in the God of creation. He who made the sea and formed the dry land is able to supply the world its daily bread. But sinners do not believe. Christians succumb to fear and doubt. I must admit that I look around and groan and worry. Not because of global warming, over population and diminishing natural resources. I groan and worry (dare I say doubt God’s will and work?) I groan and worry about decaying and eroding morality and such. When I was ten years old socialism / communism were dirty words. Today some who champion such things have been elected into high positions in our government. I must tell myself and warn myself that the Rock of salvation, who made the seas and the dry land, is not stymied by such things. I have to remind myself that concern can quickly become the sin of worry. The only way I know how to combat sinful fear and worry is with prayer, worship, scripture and the fellowship of my Christian brothers and sisters. The best prayer we have is the one Jesus taught us to pray. In worship, with our appointed readings we cover all the major teachings of Holy Scripture, including God’s providential care. One of my favorite verses about God’s care is from Genesis 8:22 “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” The Rock of our salvation cannot be defeated by global warming, over population, diminishing natural resources, or falling asteroids. Together we encourage one another and build one another up with God’s Word. Sunday School and Bible class is a convenient means for us to do that. We have no better encouragement than the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is the Gospel that tells us of the great and abiding love God has for us. It is the Gospel that tells us that all our misspent thoughts and misspent behaviors, and misspent desires are forgiven. Not one offensive thing stands between us and our salvation. We are told in the Bible, Romans 5:6 & 8 “God showed His love for us in that while we were still sinners, while we were still weak, Christ died for us.” God has placed us here for our salvation. We are here together so that we may encourage one another with hope founded on the promise of God, that He will never leave us or forsake us (Deut 31:6 and Heb 13:5). Let me close with this word of hope found in Ephesians 3:20, (Thanks and praise to Him) “who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to (His) power at work within us. Amen.
Grace Iola Kansas: Date: March 3 2019
Title: “Jesus Beautiful Savior” Text: Luke 9:28-36
(As Jesus) was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white. Luke 9:29
In France, in the year 1740, Gabrielle Villeneuve wrote one of the world’s favorite fairy tales, Beauty and the Beast. In 1991 Disney released the animated film Beauty and the Beast. The movie ends with the transformation of the “Beast” into a “Man.” I am going to assume that most of us here know the story. I am going to draw parallels between that story, and the Gospel lesson. But first -- It has been said that the arts, music, painting, story, and so forth are intended not to just entertain or make money; but to “move” a person emotionally, intellectually, and even spiritually. Jesus told stories, parables, with which He “moved” people to contemplate spiritual truths. Recall the story of Beauty and the Beast. (In this illustration I am not commenting on the fairy tale / movie but how I am “moved.”) Now think a moment about the Beast. Why is he a beast? Now we might think that he is cursed by a witch. We might think that he is “poisoned” by a cruel ugly creature. We might think that, but we would be wrong. Listen to a couple of Bible passages. They say the same truth (about you and me and everyone) but with different words. Job 14:1, “Man who is born of a woman is few of days and full of trouble.” Psalm 51:5, “I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” (NIV) Romans 3:23, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” In the fairy tale, the young prince did not turn into a beast. He was born that way. His soul was already sinful, beastly. His body became what his soul is. In keeping with our Beauty and the Beast illustration, listen again to Psalm 51:5, “I was a beast at birth, a beast from the time my mother conceived me.” (NIV) In the movie the Prince, the Beast has only one hope. His only hope is love. Only unconditional love, pure love can transform the beast into a real human being. In the story Beauty and the Beast, Belle (French for beauty) is that unconditional, pure love. Like the prince who is the Beast because he is beastly; Belle is good because she is good. Belle does not become good because she DOES “good.” Belle is everything that is wholesome, good and beneficial. Belle does “good” because she is good. Listen to these Bible passages. They say the same truth but with different words. Isaiah 9:2 “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.” (NIV) Ezekiel 36:26 (The LORD says) “I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit . . . And I will remove the heart of stone. ” John 10:10 (Jesus said) I came that (you) may have life and have it abundantly. In the story the good and wholesome Belle goes to a dark and dangerous place, the home of the Beast. In the Bible the Son of God leaves heaven and comes to earth, a dark and dangerous place, full of beast. Jesus enters a sinful world. In the story the love of Belle removes a beastly heart and spirit and the prince receives the heart and spirit of a “true human being.” The transformation of the “Beast” into a “ True Man” brings us to the Gospel lesson. In that event Jesus is not changed. Jesus has no sin. There is nothing of the “beast” about Jesus to change. The three disciples, Peter, James and John see Jesus in His full and complete magnificence. They see Him in all His goodness. What they see is the promise of our transfiguration. In the Collect which we prayed a moment ago we said, “O God, in the glorious transfiguration of Your beloved Son, You foreshowed our adoption by grace. Mercifully make us co-heirs with (Jesus) in His glory and bring us to the fullness of our inheritance in heaven.” This is the promise of the resurrection. This is the promise of God our Savior. This is the promise that our sin, our imperfection will be removed. This is the promise of God that we will be fully and completely restored to the image of God in which we were created. Judgment Day, the day of our resurrection, the day of our transfiguration, is the day when all sin, error, sickness and death will forever be removed. The “beastly, sinful nature” will be forever gone leaving us as the “true people” of God in the true image of God. May God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit bring us all safely to that beautiful day. Amen.
Grace Iola Kansas: Date: Feb 24, 2019
Title: Joseph: Sign of Christ Text: Genesis 45:3-15
The story of Joseph is very popular. Very often it is held up as an example of what we should be or how we should respond to others. That is a very good application. However, we need to be careful when using Biblical people as examples. Our default thinking is always good works; it is always about us. When we hold up people like Joseph, as role models, we tend to think “If I behave like Joseph than I too will be a good person.” We must always remind ourselves as St. Paul wrote Titus 3:5 (God) saved us, not because of works done by us . . . but according to His own mercy!” That is not just and only St. Paul’s opinion. It is the very heart and mind of God. Jesus said the very same thing with these words found in John 6:63 “It is the (Holy) Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all.” Salvation is given to us by God. “The flesh,” our human behavior, does not aid, help or assist in any way. This is a difficult concept for many to accept or comprehend. By default people want to think and / or believe that we must in some way decide, cooperate or be more receptive to the things of God. However, the Bible has a totally different concept. According to the Bible every person born on earth is by birth, dead, lost, separated, and an enemy of God At this point let me share two Bible verses. Romans 8:7 “The mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God!” Colossians 1:18 (Jesus) is the head of the body, the church.” If we put those two passages together we might well get this “A person without Christ is angry at and ignorant of the true God.” The only way that can change is by the work of God in a person’s life. That work of God is reflected in Joseph. In the Old Testament lesson Joseph is a mirror reflecting the heart and mind of God. Joseph reflects how God Himself works, operates with angry ignorant sinners. Let me refresh your memory. When Joseph (the second youngest of 12 brothers) was about 17 years old, his 10 older brothers became very jealous and spiteful. Joseph was a very talented, and blessed young man. His brothers resented him. One day they conspired, they plotted to get rid of him. They were getting ready to kill Joseph when Reuben, the oldest said, “No! Let’s sell him into slavery” (Gen 37). Eventually Joseph ends up in Egypt. The LORD continues to be gracious and merciful to Joseph. By the time we get to Genesis 45 he is about 35 years old. By God’s grace and mercy Joseph is the second most powerful person in Egypt. He has the power of life and death over his brothers. In Genesis 45 we see how God works. There are a number of things to take note of. 1) Joseph’s 10 older brothers are guilty of conspiring to commit murder. 2) They are guilty of selling their brother to salve traders. 3) They are guilty of lying and deceiving. For some 20 years they let their father Jacob and everyone else in the family, believe that a wild animal attacked and killed Joseph. These are not little boys involved in youthful high jinks. These are life changing, serious sins. The brothers represent all of humanity, namely guilty sinners. Jacob was not the same man. Jacob was devastated. He was not the same man when he was told “Your son Joseph was eaten by a wild animal.” In Egypt as a slave Joseph’s life was in danger. He was accused of a crime he did not commit. He was placed in a forced labor camp. Now in the life of that one family we see all of humanity. True we have not all experienced just these things. However, every person, every individual, and every family has its own story and its own guilt. Husbands and wives sigh, wishing they had been a better spouse. Fathers and mothers sigh, wishing they had been a better parent. Sons and daughters sigh, wishing they had done better honoring father and mother. Eventually in life we all have that shadow of guilt. The Apostle John wrote, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:80). John had his own sin. When Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, John ran away. Later in the courtyard of the High priest John heard false accusations leveled at Jesus. He did not defend Jesus (John 18). Like us the Apostles had their own regrets in life. However, this is not a sermon about regrets. It is a sermon about the love of God and forgiveness. In Genesis chapter 45 Joseph the son of Jacob and Rachel, mirrors, reflects, (more accurately prophesies) the grace of God to sinners. Notice what happens; first through a sequence of events Joseph intensives his brother’s guilt. This is not done out of spite or revenge. This is necessary to a sinner’s salvation. The Ten Commandments are not rules to live by. The Ten Commandments are God’s tools by which He exposes human fault and the danger of hell. Every worship service begins with a declaration, an acknowledgment of personal sin. Following that confession, comes the absolution, words of comfort, reconciliation and forgiveness. In the Old Testament lesson Joseph says to his brothers, “Come near to me. Do not be distressed or angry with yourselves. You shall dwell in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me . . . I will provide for you . . .” This is the heart and will of God for us. Jesus would say basically the same thing. Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” John 14:2 “In my Father's house are many rooms . . . I go to prepare a place for you!” Joseph’s brothers stood guilty. Everyone on earth is guilty before God. Joseph, because he loves his brothers forgives them unconditionally. God because He loves us has forgiven us unconditionally. With love and concern Joseph provides what is necessary for his brothers, a home and food for his brothers. With love and concern God provides what is necessary for us. Jesus, the Son of God, pays the penalty for all sin with His life, with His death on the cross. In the Gospel reading Jesus said, 27 “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you. 28 Bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (Luke 6:27–38). Joseph did this to his brothers. From the Cross, Jesus did this for everyone. Two-thousand years ago, battered and bloodied, hanging on the cross, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them!” (Luke 23:34). Jesus spoke those words for us. Thanks be to God. Let’s us hold onto them. Amen.
Grace Iola Kansas: Date: Feb 17 2019
Title: Curses or Blessings Text: Jer 17:5-8
One of the literary devices often used in Holy Scripture is that of contrast. The Old Testment lesson is just such an example. There we read “Cursed is the person . . .” which is contrasted with “Blessed is the person . . .” Therefore having read Jeremiah 17 we might ask ourselves, “Do I want to be ‘cursed’” or “Do I want to be ‘blessed?’” It seems like a no-brainer. After all who wants to be cursed? Well, lots of people choose to be cursed. I will explain. Historically there are about 100 years between Isaiah and Jeremiah. It was a turbulent time for the Hebrew people. Major military powers were on the move. The Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Persian, the Egyptians, they were all fighting for control of the Fertile Crescent. By and large the Hebrews were at the cross roads. They were often caught between “a rock and a hard place.” Politically it is easy to understand why they would form an alliance with foreign powers. There is strength in numbers. However, in the Bible the Hebrews were often warned about making alliances with foreign powers. God warned the people through Isaiah “Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help and rely on horses (and) who trust in chariots . . . but do not look to the Holy One of Israel!” (Isaiah 31:1). We know what the Hebrew kings did. They did not listen to God’s prophets but made treaties with foreign powers. Those alliances and treaties backfired and the result was death and chaos. Eventually the Great Temple would be looted. The Ark of the Covenant would be lost. The original hand written books of Moses would be lost. We need to remember that Isaiah and Jeremiah were not street corner prophets of doom. They often met face to face with kings and others in positions of authority. These kings had to make decisions. They could trust in God whom they could not see or hear or they could trust a foreign king and his army which was clearly visible. Many Hebrew kings did not choose wisely. In Romans 15:4 we are told “What was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through . . . the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” Therefore, what Jeremiah wrote some 2,650 years ago is now, today written to us. What does it say to us? In a nutshell it says “Be careful with the decisions you make. Is it God’s will or your will that is being done?” Listen again to Jeremiah 17:5 “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the LORD.” Now let me re-word that passage “A boat load of trouble and disappointment awaits the person who trusts in . . .” now here we can make a list; A boat load of trouble and disappointment awaits the person who trusts in . . .
1) bank accounts.
2) retirement plans.
3) lottery tickets and so one and so forth.
A boat load of trouble and disappointment awaits the person who trusts in . . .”
1) finding that special someone to have and to hold
“A boat load of trouble and disappointment awaits the person who trusts in . . .”
1) human education and philosophy
2) man-made law and government
3) presidents, popes and others in positions of power and authority.
In the days of the Old South, the Confederacy printed its own money. After April 1865 it was worthless. Human relationships can be fragile. Death, divorce and disagreements can quickly change everything. In the 1930’s President Franklin D. Roosevelt promised that your social security number would never be used for identification purposes. Until 1972, the bottom of the card said: “for social security purposes -- not for identification.” Governments are notorious for breaking promises. Consider a moment what Jesus said about life money and family. Matthew 6:24 “You cannot serve God and money” Matthew 10:37 “Whoever loves (family) more than Me is not worthy of Me!” God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit will not be second place. But back to Jeremiah 17:5 “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the LORD.” A boat load of trouble and disappointment awaits the person who trusts in . . .
1) their own goodness
2) their ability to take care of themselves
3) their education
4) their ability to make decisions
5) their self-confidence and determination
Here I want to share two well known passage of Holy Scripture. Psalm 20:7-8 “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, 8 They collapse and fall!” Proverbs 3:5 & 7 “do not lean on your own understanding. 7 Be not wise in your own eyes.” Over the last 20 years or so books, movies and songs have encouraged people to “follow their own heart” to “listen to the still quiet voice inside.” The Bible has never given such advice. In fact the Bible says Jeremiah 17:9 “The human heart is deceitful above all things!” According to the Bible the sad reality of life is that many people every day are choosing curses above blessings. So what is it that brings you to church? For me, it is often two things first this world is a boat load of trouble and disappointments. The second thing is found in 1 John 5:12 “Whoever has the Son of God has life.” We are here this morning, if even for a little while to shift our eyes away from all the distractions, and complications of life out there. We are here this morning, if even for a little while to shift our eyes towards Jesus. We are here to focus on the ONE; who for us was crucified for all sin and bad decisions. We are here if for just a moment to focus our attention on the risen Savior. For His resurrection is our promise that beyond this broken world is a perfect world. His resurrection is His promise to us of a world of eternal contentment and joy. May God grant it to each of us this day and always. Amen.
Grace Iola Kansas: Date: Feb 10 2019
Title: Isaiah Set Apart Text: Isaiah 6:1-8
I would like to share some facts (as best as we can know them) and applications concerning the Old Testament reading. We begin with Isaiah 6:1 “In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple.” The King dies the same year that Isaiah is set apart to be God’s prophet. This is about 740 years before Jesus is born. When it comes to history, people, places, events and so forth the Bible is the most reliable religious text in the world. No other religious writing gives us so wonderful a picture of the past. As a factual religious document the Bible has no rival. Isaiah says that he saw the LORD sitting upon a throne. The Bible does not explain how Isaiah saw the LORD. We do not know if this was a dream, a spiritual vision, or if Isaiah saw with his physical eyes. By way of contrast Ezekiel (chapter 37) had a spiritual vision of a valley of dry bones. If you and I had been there we would not have seen what Ezekiel saw. Moses on the other hand actually saw the burning bush (Exodus 3). If we had been there with Moses we too would have seen the burning bush. Most likely Isaiah has some type of supernatural, not of this world vision. That assumption is based mostly on such passages as Exodus 33:20 where the LORD says to Moses “No man may see My face and live.” So, what does Isaiah see in this supernatural, not of this world event? This is very Old World stuff that Isaiah describes. He sees the LORD on a throne high and lifted up. There are a number of applications here. (Thought) # 1 The throne is an emblem of power Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me (Matthew 28:18). That power and authority is stated this way in the Creeds, “(Jesus) ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.” (Thought) # 2 High and lifted up means everything else is below. This made me think of the 1st Commandment, and what Jesus said, John 12:32 “I, when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself.” (Thought) # 3 the train of his robe filled the temple. We are told in Ephesians 4:6, that there is one God over all people and He “is over all and through all and in all.” The power, the love, the grandeur of the LORD encompasses everything. There is no godless vacuum; Jesus said “I am with you always” (Matt 28:20). (Thought) # 4 “Above the LORD stood the seraphim.” This means that the seraphim were in position, ready and able to do the LORD’s will. They were ready to serve. Why they covered their face and feet is not directly told. The common understanding is that this reveals the humility, the awe and respect that the angelic host has for their creator. This should be an example to us. If the angelic host who are without sin show such devotion and respect how much more should we sinful creatures show devotion and respect to our Savior God. It is a humbling thought. It makes me cringe to think that as a human being, created in the image of God I have actually given more devotion and attention to household pets than to the God of my salvation. Isaiah had pretty much the same thought. Actually it went deeper, because of this vision he thought he was going to die and go to hell. In a near panic he says, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips.” Isaiah is convinced that his sin will be his doom and damnation. Fortunately, the LORD God has other plans. God is the God of life. His first thought, motivation, principle and desire is love and life. One of the most common description or ascription about God goes like this, (by the way, first spoken by God to Moses), Exodus 34:6 “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” (That was the reason Jonah gave for not wanting to go to the Assyrians in Nineveh). In that grace, mercy and love the LORD save Isaiah. In this supernatural vision (a favorite word today is paranormal), one of the seraphim flies to the altar, in the Temple, takes a hot coal and puts it to Isaiah’s mouth. This is very interesting. We all know that boiling water cleans and sterilizes. We also know that fire does the same thing. Only we say that fire purifies or fire removes impurities. The seraphim, says to Isaiah, “This has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” There are some wonderful applications here for us today. The LORD works through the seraphim. The seraphim, is a servant of God working at the Altar of God. Pastors and other called workers are also servants of God working at the Altar of God. The seraphim, takes from the Altar and gives the forgiveness of sins to Isaiah. The Pastor takes from the Altar, the precious Sacrament, and gives the forgiveness of sins. The grace, mercy and forgiveness that Isaiah received is the same grace, mercy and forgiveness that we receive. Isaiah was set apart to be God’s servant. We are set apart to be God’s servant. Some 2,740 years ago Isaiah heard the voice of God “Who will go for Me?” and Isaiah answered “I will.” May God Almighty give us the grace to will and to do for Him this day and always. Amen.
Grace Iola Kansas: Date: Feb 3, 2019
Title: “Set Apart” Text: Jeremiah 1:4-10
A moment ago we read the Old Testament lesson. We heard verse 5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” When you heard it what was your first thought? For many today the first thought is about Roe vs. Wade. Recently the governors of both New York and Illinois signed laws to extend and further promote abortion (cited by LCMS President Matthew Harrison). Such passages as Jeremiah 1:5 and Psalm 139:13 “You knitted me together in my mother's womb” are often applied to the tragedy of abortion. They and other passages do indeed rightly have application to the topic, but that was not their first intended purpose. Jeremiah 1:5 and Psalm 139:13 are more closely related to this famous passage from Ephesians 1:4 (God the Father) chose us in (Jesus Christ) before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before (the Father). Jeremiah was chosen by God before Jeremiah was conceived. God chose Jeremiah for salvation. He was chosen to proclaim the Law and the Gospel. He was chosen by God to confront kings. Such passages as Jeremiah 1:5, Psalm 139:13 and Ephesians 1:4 inform us that it is God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) that choses, set people apart for salvation. Such passages assure us that despite our sinful frailty our eternity, rest in the firm hands of God. But let’s go back to Jeremiah. In very Old Testament language Jeremiah was given this commission, (Thus says the LORD) “I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.” Allow me to share three or four things about Jeremiah’s mission. First is the thought “I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms.” Here we have what we call the separation between church and state. Jeremiah is NOT chosen to be a king with armies and weapons of war. He is NOT a revolutionary that breaks down, destroys, and overthrows governments. Jeremiah is a prophet and his weapon (also our weapon) is the Word of God. With that Word of God he is to break down that means to bring sin out into the open. The Apostle Paul wrote Ephesians 5:11 “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.” The Law of God exposes sin of all kind, sins we call great and small. The motivation for that exposure is love. The purpose of breaking down, destroying and overthrowing, is repentance. The Epistle reading reminds us of that motivation. There St. Paul by inspiration of the Holy Spirit writes, “I will show you a still more excellent way” (1 Cor 12:31b). Now that verse is not talking about repentance. That verse is about love which is the more excellent way far above all spiritual gift. It is love that is the motivation for breaking down, destroying and overthrowing. In Romans 7:7 St. Paul wrote, “If it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin.” Think of it like this; before you can plant your garden, you have to break, turn over the soil. The law of God turns over the soil so that the Gospel seed may be planted. So in this illustration the Law is the plow of God that turns over a person’s life, exposing their need of the Savior. The preaching of the Law is painful, both to proclaim and to receive. Jeremiah’s heart ached at the preaching of the Law. He took no pleasure in turning people’s lives upside down. He gave voice to his pain with these words, “My joy is gone; grief is upon me; my heart is sick within me” (Jeremiah 8:18). Still God does not set His prophets; His people apart only to berate people with sin and guilt. God Almighty chose Jeremiah before he was born to proclaim freedom and forgiveness. Jeremiah was set apart “over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.” The prophet was given the same message we have today. He was given the same Law and Gospel we have today. Jeremiah preached Christ the Savior. This is the message he preached, Jeremiah 23:5 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.” Jesus is that righteous branch. Jesus is the Son of David who by His life and death and resurrection would bring justice and righteousness, the forgiveness of sins past, present and future to people bullied by sin, death and the devil. Rev. Matthew Harrison, president of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, recently released a statement in the wake of recent events. In that statement he wrote,
“61 million children have died since Roe v. Wade. That’s nearly 50 times the number of American soldiers killed in all wars. Life, not death, is the goal of humanity. Our conscience is bound by both the Word of God and reason to speak for life as a precious gift of God and to speak against any and all who promote the killing of unborn children.”
The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, as a Christian Church Body has always stood on the side of life. Just as Jeremiah was set apart by God, before conception to be a prophet, so too have we been set apart for salvation in Jesus Christ. Listen again to Ephesians 1:4 (God the Father) chose us in (Jesus Christ) before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before (the Father). That passage of Scripture applies to the prophets of old. It applies to the Apostles of old. It applies to all baptized Christians who confess the name of Jesus, Son of David, Son of Mary, Son of God. I want to conclude with this quote from President Harrison,
“The resurrection of Jesus is God’s grand statement that life is the goal of this creation. The resurrection of Jesus proclaims that all creatures find the goal of their existence in life. Just as God raised Jesus from the dead, so we learn that God treasures life over death.” God grant that we also treasure the life God has given. Amen.
Grace Lutheran Church Iola Kansas:
Title: “The One Who Ruffles Feathers”
Text: Luke 4:16-30 Date: January 27, 2019
Among historians and others economic and territorial gain and religion are said to be the major causes of war. As a Christian I think that assumption leads to pride. It may work like this “I am not greedy. Therefore I am not a trouble maker, a warrior.” ---- “I am an open-minded, tolerant person. Not a religious nut, therefore I am not a trouble maker, a warrior.” People like to excuse themselves. I think people like to find a cause or an outside reason for war. War and other bad stuff are not caused by outside influences. Recall these famous words from Jesus, Matthew 15:19 “Out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.” Everything bad starts in the human heart, starts within. That is not a fun or pleasant thought. That does not mean that we as individuals are to be blamed for everything. On August 4, 1892 in Fall River Massachusetts a man and his wife were brutally murdered with an ax. The main suspect was the daughter. She was arrested, accused and stood trail. However, Lizzie Borden was found not guilty. The murder remains unsolved. You did not commit that murder and neither did I. However, according to Jesus “Out of your heart, my heart come evil thoughts, theft, lies, immorality murder and worse bubble up.” In the Gospel lesson Jesus is in Nazareth where He grew up. He is in the synagogue, the house of prayer. The Bible does not say but it is no stretch of the imagination to think that He is with neighbors, friends, family. Luke informs us that “all spoke well of Him and marveled at His gracious words.” Wow home town boy does good. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son? Wow what a proud and happy father he must be to have such a son.” Smiles all around. But then Jesus goes and spoils it. He tells the people the truth, and the truth always hurts. Let me summarize what Jesus said. “In the days of Elijah the prophet, at the time of the great famine many Hebrew widows were starving to death. But Elijah the prophet went and stayed in the land of idol worshippers. There were many Hebrew men afflicted with leprosy. But your enemy general Naaman was the only one who was healed.” I don’t know how long it took but eventually they got the point. Jesus compared them to idol worshippers. Jesus compared them to the enemies of God. If Jesus had been raised in Kansas . . . He just called them “good for nothing sinners.” They did not like that. Out of their hearts murderous intent bubbled up. Jesus did not make a mistake. He ruffled their feathers and He meant to. In our Catechism we are told that God’s Law summarized in the Ten Commandments has three (3) purposes. They are: First, the Law helps to control violent outbursts of sin and keeps order in the world (a curb). That is why we have police, military and other authorities. As we say the long arm of the law keeps us on the straight and narrow. Or when you come to a four way intersection and the second car on your left is a patrol car; you come to a complete stop. Second, the Law accuses us and shows us our sin (a mirror). This is what Jesus did with the people in the synagogue at Nazareth. Jesus used the Bible like a mirror so that the people would see themselves as they truly are. The truth hurts. We do not like to come face to face with our own wrong. Most often what is our first response when confronted with sin? Anger, denial, self-justification, retaliation, shift the blame. That is what happened in the synagogue at Nazareth where Jesus grew up. It is very likely Jesus is there with neighbors, friends, and family. The people got angry, denied the truth and shifted the blame to Jesus. Now we know sitting here what they should have done, don’t we? They should have examined themselves and confessed themselves to be poor miserable sinners. Instead of confessing and trusting in God to forgive they made their sinful condition even worse. Now the Bible does not tell us what happened to these people months later or years later. Maybe some of them did eventually repent and receive the grace of God and the forgiveness of God, that we are not told. However, this event in its own way foreshadows the very plan of God. One day Jesus would be presented to the people and they would cast Him away. It is Good Friday Pontius Pilate presents Jesus to the crowd with the words “Behold your king! And the people respond, “Away with Him!” In that moment Jesus did purposefully, willingly and we might even say gladly accept the blame of the people. In that moment Jesus “set at liberty those who are oppressed, and to proclaimed the year of the Lord's favor.” Jesus took the blame for all sin. We were all held captive by sin, death and the devil, but Jesus Christ set us free. From the Cross Jesus spoke these famous words, “Father, forgive them” (Luke 23:34). By those words and in that forgiveness we are the free people of God living our lives in the time of His favor. That is why our Catechism includes the third purpose of the law, namely “The Law teaches us Christians what we should and should not do to lead a God-pleasing life (a guide). The power to live according to the Law comes from the, from the blood of Jesus Christ.” Thanks be to God Amen.
Grace Iola Kansas: Date: Jan 13, 2019
Title: Baptism Benefits Text: Luke 3:15-22
This is a topical sermon concerning Baptism. In our Catechism we are told that this is the benefit of Holy Baptism; “It works forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare.” (LSB 324) This Bible verse then follows, Mark 16:16 “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” Both of those are trustworthy and true statements. Both of those statements assure the Christian of faith and of salvation. However, let’s expand on what the Catechism says. First, “It works forgiveness of sins.” Let me ask this, “What sins does Baptism forgive?” The short answer is all of them. Unfortunately we do not always act like they are or think that they are. In his early days Martin Luther had a great deal of trouble. He was often burdened by guilt and fear. As a monk in the monastery he would often go to the confessional booth. Luther would take great pains to recall and enumerate any all sins. There are stories told that he would leave the confessional booth only to return minutes later with a burdened conscience. He was terrified that one unconfessed sin would damn him for all eternity. Fortunately for him and for us, Luther began to read and study the Bible. He learned as we have learned from St. Paul, Romans 6:10 “The death (Jesus) died he died to sin, once for all.” Notice those words once for all. I like to say that “When Jesus was baptized He was baptized dirty.” When He was baptized He took every sin and we might say “Claimed it as His own.” According to 2 Corinthian 5:21, every one of your sins became His. Yet, I have been asked by Lutherans burdened with guilt, “will God, can God forgive me that sin?” The short answer is yes. However, I am compelled to offer more. Listen to this from King David, Psalm 19:12 “Who can discern his errors? Declare me innocent from hidden faults.” That is a passage that every guilty heart should hold dear. “Declare me (O God) innocent from hidden faults.” The word hidden does not mean that we are hiding things from one another too embarrassing to tell. No. The word hidden in Psalm 19 means “the sins of which I am unaware.” The forgiveness of God is not limited to our ability to recall and confess them. The benefit of Holy Baptism is the forgiveness of sins; even those which we are totally unaware of in our daily life. Thoughts, attitudes, words and behaviors that may seem totally ok to us but to God they are not ok. Let me share a bad example, a hypothetical situation. In the Scriptures God told Adam and Eve, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” (Gen 1:28). Then later we read this about the tower of Babel, (The people said) “Let’s build a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, otherwise we will be separated over the whole earth” (Genesis 11:4). This is the hypothetical example. All over the world there are skyscrapers. Many people love them. Many people find the big city skyline beautiful. We have no problem with skyscrapers, but let’s say it is a hidden sin. We are not aware that God finds skyscrapers hideously sinful. Holy Baptism covers even those sins of which we are unaware. That is the power, authority, grace and love that God has put in Baptism. St. Peter wrote, “Baptism . . . saves you . . . through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 3:21). Now let’s look at the second benefit of Holy Baptism. We are told that it rescues from death and the devil! At almost every Lutheran funeral, these words can be heard at graveside. “May God the Father, who created this body, may God the Son, who by His blood redeemed this body, may God the Holy Spirit, who by Holy Baptism sanctified this body to be His temple, keep these remains to the day of the resurrection of all flesh.” In the Bible the word “death” has many implications. In Genesis 2 Adam is told that the day he eats from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil he will die. Adam ate the fruit. In Genesis 3 Adam eats the forbidden fruit and the ground is cursed, thorns and thistles it yields. Adam lived 930 years with the death of heartbreak, disappointment, fear and anxiety. Adam lived 930 years with the memory of a perfect world now lost. Adam lived 930 years and then he died and was buried. That and much more is physical death. All the aches and pains great and small are under the umbrella of death. There is also the spiritual death with which we contend. Adam lived 930 years but death was his companion because the true and full image of God had died in him. The Apostle Paul summarized spiritual death with these words from Romans 7:15 I do not understand my own actions. I do not do what I want, --- but I do the very thing I hate. No person on earth can stop sinning against God, neighbor and self. Yet, spiritual death goes deeper. For those without faith in Jesus, the soul itself is dead in trespasses and sins (Eph 2). That is a condition that leads to a horrible conclusion. Physical death is unwanted, Spiritual death is a struggle in the Christian. For those without faith in Jesus our only Savior eternal death is the worst of all “deaths”. There is no relief from trouble in hell. There is no love in hell. There is no hope in hell. There is in hell eternal loneliness because in hell one is forsaken by God (God’s love is not known). The benefit of Holy Baptism is that it rescues from death and the devil! The benefit of Holy Baptism is that God has promised forgiveness of any and all sins. The benefit of Holy Baptism is that God has promised the eternal peace, joy and love of heaven. The benefit of Holy Baptism is that God has promised eternal life. Baptism promises the resurrected life when all Christians resting in the grave will rise to life, body and soul. The benefit of Holy Baptism is that God has promised our return to perfection; the image of God. The benefit of Holy Baptism is that when Jesus was baptized He took our rags of sin and gave us His robe of righteousness. May it be so for all of us this day and always. Amen.
Grace Iola Kansas: Date: Jan 6 2019
Title: “Where Is He” Text: Matthew 2:1-12
The Wise Men went to Jerusalem and asked “Where is He?” We will answer that question. However, let’s take a moment and review some of the events recorded in God’s Word. The first thing to note is the Wise Men enter a house (Matt 2:11). In the house they visit Mary. According to Luke 2:22 the 40 days of her ritual purification are over. She can welcome guest into her home (Lev 12). The Wise Men give gifts to the Christ Child (Matt 2:11). The term Wise Men basically means magician but today that is misleading. For us a magician is a performer of tricks. In the ancient world they were men in touch with the normal world and the paranormal. For illustrative purposes Wise Men might be comparable to J. R. R. Tolkien’s Gandalf; not to be mistaken for “some conjurer of cheap tricks!” For illustrative purposes Wise Men might be comparable to those who we call “psychics.” In the Bible some Wise Men have extraordinary abilities. In Daniel chapter 2 King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon has a dream. It greatly disturbed him. He called for the Wise Men and this is what he told them. Daniel 2:5 “(I promise you) “if you do not make known to me the dream and its interpretation, you shall be torn limb from limb.” None of the Wise Men could tell what Nebuchadnezzar dreamed. The King was about to kill them. Daniel intervened, he prayed for God’s help. The LORD answered and made known to Daniel the details of the King’s dream and its interpretation. The King was so impressed he appointed Daniel as chief of all the Wise Men. It was position that Daniel seems to have kept for the rest of his life. In the Gospel lesson the Wise Men go in search of the Christ Child because God revealed the birth of Jesus to them. Some Wise Men like Daniel were indeed no mere “conjurers of cheap tricks.” The Wise Men follow the Star of Bethlehem. Exactly what this “star” is, is not made known to us. For the last 2,000 years many people have tried to figure out “just what exactly was that star?” Well today according to some like Dr. Don DeYoung, President of the Creation Research Society the Star of Bethlehem, was something more spectacular than a nighttime “star.” According to Dr. DeYoung stars always --- no exceptions --- always move from east to west due to the Earth’s rotation. In Matthew 2:9 the “star” rose before the Wise Man and led them from north to south and it stopped over the house where Jesus was. Many Bible students believe (and I am one of them) that only the Wise Men could see this “star” because it’s a miracle. https://answersingenesis.org With that said let’s consider the question “Where is He?” It is noteworthy that the Wise Men are most likely not Hebrews. They are most likely Babylonians or Persians. However, they are extremely interested in finding the Christ Child. Jerusalem the city of the king is where you would expect the King of the Jews to be born, if you were a Gentile. Now the Bible does not say why the LORD allowed them to go to Jerusalem. Why He did not make sure that they went straight to Bethlehem is not revealed to us. It could be that God Almighty is giving King Herod and others the opportunity to repent and be saved. It is clear from Matthew chapter 2 that King Herod is not willing to repent and worship the Christ Child. His heart is cold. His heart is murderous. Herod was not a good guy. When the Wise Men ask “Where is He who is born King of the Jews?” Matthew writes “When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.” Some Bible students understand that when Herod is troubled, people die. The people of Jerusalem are afraid. “Where is He? The chief priests and scribes know. The scribes, it is said, have much of the Old Testament memorized. “Where is He who is born King of the Jews?” They know where He is to be found. The prophet Micah (5:1-2) had predicted that He would be born in Bethlehem. That is where the Wise Men were sent, that is where they found Him. They found him where God Almighty had ordained it. He is found today where God Almighty has ordained. Jesus the Son of God, the Son of Mary is found in the Word of Holy Scripture. It was from the Scripture that the Scribes knew where to find Him. The Wise Men knew where to find Him from the same Scripture. The Apostle Paul in Athens said to the Greeks, “He is actually not far from each one of us” (Acts 17:27). Almost every year around Christmas and Easter some magazine or TV program does a piece about Jesus. Very often those programs purport to separate myth, facts and truth. Very often the tag line goes something like this “Join us as we discover the real Jesus of Nazareth.” There is no discovering the “real Jesus.” Christmas and Epiphany IS God revealing Himself to the world. Christmas and Epiphany IS God showing Himself to us. Where do you find the real Jesus? Where is the real Jesus to be found? The only true and reliable source is the Holy Scripture. Where is Jesus? He is in the Bible. Where is Jesus? He is in the Sacrament of the Altar. He is here with us today. He is giving us the forgiveness of all sin and the assurance of eternal life. The prophet Isaiah writing about Jesus called Him Emmanuel a name that means “God with Us.” Where is Jesus? He is here, He is “God with Us.” Amen. John 8:31-32 Jesus said, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Amen
Grace Iola Kansas: Date: Dec 30 2018
Title: Consolation Text: Luke 2:25
I have heard it said and I have read it here and there, that there are well over 300 individual prophecies in the Bible directly pointing to Jesus. I do not know if that number is accurate or not. What I do know is the Scripture both the Old and the New Testament is about Jesus. The appointed Gospel lesson underscores that statement. It is an important statement. The Scripture both the Old and the New Testament is about Jesus. Listen again to Luke 2:25, “Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.” As of today we do not know who this “Simeon” is. Sometime in the future archology may turn something up, that sheds more light on his identity. However, for now Luke chapter 2 is all we have. We do not know if he was a priest, politician, or produce vender. Still, Luke 2:25 gives a wealth of information. Again, we do not know much about the who and the what of this man. We do not know his age, occupation, marital status or his education. However, we know the man’s soul, his life, and his hope. Luke writes, “There was a man named Simeon, and he was righteous.” This is a man with true Biblical faith. He was not trusting in his own goodness or ability to be a good man. He was not trusting in his ethnic origin. You will recall that both Jesus and John the Baptist warned the people, “Don’t think you are going to heaven because Abraham is your ancestor.” Just because a person can trace their family tree to “way back when” does not assure their future in heaven. Simeon is a righteous man, a saved man, a man of faith, because he believed what he had been taught in the Old Testament. Simeon is a righteous man, a saved man, a man of faith, because he believed in the promise of God. In this Christmas season our attention is often drawn to Isaiah 7:14 “The Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Simeon believed that God Himself would enter human history and rescue us from sin and hell. St. Luke called Simeon a devout man. This is understood to mean that Simeon lived his faith. As some say today Simeon “walked the talk.” Perhaps one of the strongest passages in the Old Testament about “walking the talk” is this from Leviticus 19:18, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” That verse is easy to read and say. It is very difficult to live. The Apostle Paul in Colossians 3:12 & 13 tells us how to love our neighbor. He wrote, 12 “Put on as God's chosen ones compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you.” According to St. Luke God saw Simeon as a man of faith living / practicing his faith. Therefore, we see in Luke 2:25, Simeon’s soul, life, and hope. Still there is more. A moment ago, I mentioned that some people say “there are well over 300 prophecies in the Bible pointing to Jesus.” Well I do not know about that number, but the Bible is about Jesus. What is written concerning Simeon supports that statement. Listen again to Luke 2:25, “Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.” A little history. Luke 2:25, Jesus is only 40 days old. Good Friday and Easter, and Pentecost Sunday are 30 plus years in the future. The New Testament has not been written. The only Scripture that Mary and Joseph, and Simeon and Anna have is the Old Testament. We are specifically told that Simeon was “waiting for the consolation of Israel.” What do Mary and Joseph, and Simeon and Anna know from the Old Testament. The short answer is the same things we know.
1. Since the time of Adam and Eve, everyone is a sinner.
2. Since the time of Adam and Eve God promised that the woman’s son would bring an end to Satan’s power.
3. Since the time of Adam and Eve that rescue would be achieved by the Son through His pain and suffering.
4. Simeon said that he could die in peace. From the Old Testament he knew that there was a peaceful life waiting after death.
5. Mary and Joseph, and Simeon and Anna know from the Old Testament that this 40 day old baby is the fulfillment of ancient prophecy.
6. Simeon knows he will die. After that will come the consolation of Israel. Mary and Joseph, and Simeon and Anna believed in the resurrection when all the faithful, the Israel of God, the Old Testament and New Testament faithful would be raised from the dead. And the great distress of sin forever banished from us. And God’s full and complete comfort (the image of God) will rest on one and all. God grant it to us this day and always. Amen.
Grace Lutheran Church Iola, KS: Date: Christmas Eve 2018
Title: Christmas Distractions Text: 2 Corinthians 4:4
(Satan) “has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”
In 1965 an exasperated Charlie Brown asked: “Isn't there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?” It seems like an easy question to answer. However, it really is not easy. It can be truly puzzling, profound and problematic. The answer to that question is a matter of faith. Without faith the answer to that question remains elusive. Charlie Brown asked: “Isn't there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?” The devil does, he knows, but he does not want people to know. Therefore the devil works hard to distract, to blind the world to the true meaning of Christmas. We know who lies in the manger bed; the Savior God who entered human history, “To save us all from Satan's power; when we were gone astray.” Let’s take a moment and consider our enemy’s, the devil’s “Christmas Distractions.” I like Christmas. I like the songs silly and romantic. I like the hymns that sound forth the true meaning of Christmas. I like Christmas stories. I like Christmas movies. Concerning Christmas movies I found this from a number of people. It comes under the category of “life lesson learned from Holiday movies.”
Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer -- Celebrate the differences in others.
Frosty the Snowman -- Make the most of the time you have.
It's a Wonderful Life --You have more of an impact than you realize.
Die Hard -- at a Christmas party don’t take your shoes off.
Scrooge, A Christmas Carol -- You’re happiest when you share your time and resources with others.
Home Alone --- it may be fun, but being with your family, is the best.
By themselves those life lessons may not be all bad. Although I think some were socially and politically motivated. But, they really do not help Charlie Brown answer his question: “What is Christmas all about?” The most common answer I found on the internet went something like this “Christmas is about love and family.” It sounds so warm and fuzzy doesn’t it? “Christmas is about love and family” it sounds so right. Who would disagree? Human beings expend enormous amounts of energy on home and family. Weddings are a huge event. Baby’s first birthday is a major event. People who do not normally go to church will be there to watch the baby get baptized. Fourteen years later they will be in church again for that child’s first communion. I think it is fair to say that family dominates our lives. No wonder millions upon millions have accepted, “Christmas is about love and family.” What if I say it is a lie? What if I say it is not true that “Christmas is about love and family?” Listen again to Holy Scripture 2 Corinthians 4:4 (Satan) “has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” We often think about temptation as something evil, ugly, twisted. However, our enemy the devil is far too sly and tricksy; he uses even the good things of life, against us. St. Paul wrote this (2 Corinthians 11:14) “Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.” Consider how Christmas has been packaged and presented to us. Think of all the things that have been built around Christmas. Let me give you an example. In all the world Japan has the fewest numbers of Christians. Maybe 1% of the population claims Christianity as its faith. Yet, Christmas is celebrated in Japan with many of the same decorations that we have in our homes --- churches and street corners. For them Christmas is like our Valentines’ Day. In Japan Christmas is a sweethearts’ celebration. What could be wrong with that? Who doesn’t want a sweetheart to give chocolates to? Who doesn’t want house and home, family warmth and joy? It is in books, magazines, movies and song “Christmas is about love and family.” Satan tries to worm his way into Christmas. He tries to prevent people “from seeing the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” The devil did not hide the Christ Child under something ugly and twisted. He attempts to hide the Savior under something we all cherish “love and family.” Do you know that Jesus Himself warned us about this? It is harsh to hear but this is what Jesus said, “Whoever loves father or mother . . . whoever loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me” (Matthew 10:37). To look into the manger bed and see anyone or anything other than Jesus --- well it’s unbearable. Thankfully, the devil, even though he is dangerously sly, wicked, and devious, cannot remove the Christ Child from the manger bed. In 1965 an exasperated Charlie Brown asked: “Isn't there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?” Thankfully Linus was there to say “Yes Charlie Brown ‘Unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger’” (Luke 2:11-12). Every year millions of people watch that cartoon and they see in the manger bed the Savior. The LORD God will not let the evil one triumph. Try as he might the evil one cannot stop the love of God in Christ Jesus. Like the shepherds of olden days God’s message, His Word still brings people – brings us -- to the manger bed. Here we are tonight looking into the manger bed and by His word the Christ Child looks back at us and HE says, “I know My own and My own know Me, Everyone who looks on the Son and believes has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” (John 10:14 John 6:40) May our eyes of faith always look upon our Savior. Amen