Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Living the Gift of Life

S-1060 6/25/08 7SAP/3A (O) # 7; (S) # 279; L.S. # 399; # 457; # 400; (C) # 338

Texts: Jeremiah 20:7-13; Romans 6:12-23; Matthew 10:5a, 21-33

Theme: “Living The Gift of Life” Romans 6:22-23


Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! The text for our meditation is from the book of Romans. “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 6:22-23).

Question: “What do you do with the Gifts you get?”


Saints in Christ, this text is so special that it grabs you by the throat and heart. There is one special word that really grabbed me—the word GIFT. That one little word got me thinking. I used to think that gifts were primarily a Christmas sort of thing. But the older I get, the more I am struck by the fact that gift giving is a year round task. We know about birthdays, and Christmas. But it is so much more than that. The time of the year changes, but the need for gifts doesn’t. We just got through the time of year where there were confirmation and graduation parties that we get invited to. There were also Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Now, deep in the month of June/July we are besieged with wedding invitations that demands gifts. It seems like we are always looking for the right gift to give to those we care and love

To complicate this, there are those gifts that we pour our hearts and souls into. We save the money and we search high and low. We find that perfect gift. We get it engraved. We package it with the greatest of care. We make arrangements to have the gift given in just the right setting, with just the right words. And then the moment comes and everything goes the way we want it to go only to have the receiver not place the value on our gift that we had. As if gift giving wasn’t hard enough….

This is what St. Paul was driving at as he was writing to the Roman Christians. You can’t read Romans or all of the Scriptures for that matter, without the Holy Spirit clearly showing us that our salvation to be anything but a gift. In the heaven-sent messenger, God’s gift to mankind—Jesus Christ we have received the greatest gift of all time. The life, death and bodily resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus has GIVEN us the greatest gift. This gift was not purchased from Menards, Wall mart, Target and not even Concordia Publishing House. It was not purchased with gold or silver. Not earned by time and talents; but given by Christ our Savior and Lord. And as we unpack this GIFT, we realize this gift is a lot more than meets the eye—it gives us the forgiveness of sins, faith and the Holy Spirit. It has defeated death. It grants us exactly what verse 23 says. The gift of God is eternal life.

This gift was exactly what fallen humanity needed. No toaster oven would do. No Channel Five to cover the stench of sin. No bouquet of flowers would suffice to cover the paleness of death. This gift is given to us in the perfect manner and in the perfect way. It came to us wrapped in the humanity of the Man from Nazareth, Jesus Christ.

This God was adorned with thorn and splinter, spike and spear, beating and blood. The cross of Christ is the greatest gift that you will ever receive this side of heaven. It may not sparkle like a diamond or glitter like gold, but it is worth more than all that our Lord created. This gift has freed you and me and all believers in Christ from slavery to sin and the fear of eternal death. Our sins earned wrath, but our Heavenly Father’s gift to us is eternal life in the life, death and bodily resurrection of Jesus!

Now that is a gift. It is priceless and timeless. It is unlike any gift that you have either given or received. We didn’t earn this gift. It is freely given by grace through faith on account of Jesus Christ. In addition to being of inestimable value, it is totally practical! You ladies wouldn’t dare wear the Hope Diamond on your hand or neck because it has such value. You would keep it in a safety deposit box with a security system that would make homeland security proud. A baseball fan wouldn’t keep a mint condition Honus Wagner baseball card in his wallet because it is worth $2.8 million.

Unlike the things of great worth that we would hide away for fear that they would be taken from us, the gift of eternal life that we have in Jesus Christ is one that is so practical because it is given to us so that we might live it! God’s gift of eternal life that is ours in Jesus Christ is meant to be lived! Used! And applied! This is why our Father has given it to us. God intends for us to use this gift, apply this gift and live this gift of life.

The best part of this eternal life that we have received is that we are already called to live it now! We so often want to assign our eternal life to something that is yet to come. And it is. But it is also a life that we are called to live right now! When we hear the Word of our Lord, receive that Gospel in its sacramental forms and then live that word in the world, we are living the gift of eternal life.

When we don’t live the gift of eternal life that we have in Christ in the here and now, we are putting that gift on the shelf and ignoring the love that provided that gift. Can you imagine taking Jesus and sticking Him on the shelf like an out of style necktie? When we return to our slavery to sin after we have been called to the freedom that the Gospel of Jesus Christ has won for us, this is exactly what we do. We tell Jesus, as He is hanging there, bruised and bloodied, that we don’t want His gift. Can we do anything more heartless? Can we do anything more deserving of hell itself?

This is the key as well. When we abandon the gift of eternal life in our return to sin, we are telling God that we don’t want His gift. When we return to our old ways of slavery to sin, we are choosing to be a slave to sin again. And Paul tells us where that old life of sin leads. It leads to death. Every sin we commit is a momentary return to death. We are refusing to be free. We choose to be a slave to sin. We choose death over life.

Does that even make sense? NO! No rational human being in their right mind and of sound body would choose death. Even those of us who are Christians and know that our death leads to an eternal reality that makes this world look pitiful would not necessarily seek out death. But when we make anything or anyone more important in our life than God Himself, when we willfully take the name of the Lord in vain, when we refuse to hear God’s word, when we do anything that goes against the will of our Father and against the welfare of our neighbor, we seek out death even if we don’t we are doing so. We refuse God’s gift of eternal life.

But here St. Paul reminds us who we are. We are the baptized children of God in Christ. That is what he tells us at the beginning of chapter 6. We are baptized into Christ’s death so that we are baptized into His resurrection. This baptism is when we receive the gift of eternal life that our Lord wants us to have.

It is also where our Lord leads us when, in our sin, we seek out death. The Lord reminds us that we are called to live a life of willing obedience. This willing obedience is the eternal life we have been given. It is not what we earn; it is what we are given. Each night when we close our eyes in confession, we sleep knowing that we ALREDY have an eternal life that can’t be stolen from us. We can give it away, but it can’t be taken. Then, after our confessional sleep, we arise in the morning to live in the absolution that we have in Jesus.

What a privilege our loving Father gives us as His blood bought children. By grace alone, we live a life of obedience to the Law of God. We do this not because we have to, but because we GET to. Not because we ought to, but because we are blessed to. This we do, because we know what it was that our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ was willing to do to give us this precious gift!

What an honor for us to be here today, to hear the Apostle Paul speaks of the love of God the Father, who doesn’t ask us what it is that we want, but gives us what we need—the Greatest GIFT of all time—His Son, Jesus Christ. On account of this GIFT, we already have the freedom from sin and death. We have the sure and certain eternal life now and we long to the joy of being in the presence of the Eternal Gift Jesus Christ forever. Oh, what a Gift God has for us for now and always. Amen.

Now the peace…

Tuesday, June 17, 2008



We all love to hear, read, and see a happy ending of a rescue mission. Many of us sat at the edge of our seats as the firemen and rescue teams went into the rubble of the Twin towers looking for survivors. And when someone was found, a great voice of jubilee went up in thanksgiving.

I remember sitting and watching TV as many of you did, back on October 14, 1987, as an 18 month old baby girl from Texas Jessica McClure fell into a well. “Baby Jessica,” was the centerpiece of a 58-hour rescue drama that commanded the attention – and the emotions – of a town, a nation and the world. After the rescue efforts there were tears of joy for all involved, and a happy reunion of Jessica and her mother.

We know in our own state of people who have been rescued from being trapped in their cars from a blizzard; lost in a corn field, buried beneath the rubble of a tornado, or lost while hiking. We rejoice when the rescue mission is successful and the people are reunited with their families and loved ones; and we are saddened when the rescue efforts fail, like the six minors who were trapped in Utah last year.

As you study the book of Exodus you will read of the fate of the Jewish People—God’s chosen Israel. They were forced into slavery by the Egyptians. To work in the heat of the day making bricks was bad enough. Add to that the terrible method of birth control that the Egyptian had enforced on the Jewish women: ordering baby boys born to Israelite women to be thrown into the Nile to drown or be food for the crocodiles.

The Israelites couldn’t deliver themselves; they needed help—major help! And to the rescue comes not a fire squad or a rescue team, but God Himself gets involved. His heart was moved by the cries that went heavenward. He called Moses (an Israelite infant saved from being thrown into the Nile), to be the deliverer.

Moses was commanded by the Great Deliver God Himself to go to Egypt and tell Pharaoh and tell him, “Let My people go,” (Exodus 5:1). Pharaoh didn’t want to loose his power over the slaves. After Pharaoh repeatedly hardened his own heart God confirmed Pharaoh in his deep unbelief. God hardened Pharaoh’s heart after Pharaoh himself first hardened his own heart. Such a heart would not let God’s special possession go. But God forced him to release them by sending upon Egypt the great plagues. At long last Pharaoh was forced to set the people of God free.

In the book of Exodus we read these words, “You yourself have seen what I [God] did in Egypt” (Ex. 19:4a). The Lord used this incident to teach the people of Israel of His grace upon them, His favor to them, and His love for them. The Israelites still have the memories of the plagues fresh in their memories. They could still hear the cry of the Egyptians as the Angel of the Lord struck their first born. They could envision the Red Sea divided by the outstretched hands of God and the Egyptians soldiers and their horses are dead on the shores. This was the rescue mission of God to His people Israel. It was all by grace. The only contribution of the Children of Israel was petrified fear. Through a salvation by water event God redeemed a nation of slaves.

As Moses recorded these great acts of salvation for us, he wrote them to point to the coming of a grandeur and more glorious rescue mission –the rescue mission of God to save the world. This mission would be more majestic than the delivery of the Israelites from the bondage of slavery of Egypt—this would be the cosmic rescue mission of the world through the heaven-sent Savior and Redeemer Jesus Christ.

The greatest rescue mission was not accomplished by firemen, police officers, volunteers or others. No! It is carried out by God Himself to deliver us from the slavery of sin, the chains of the devil and the power of death. What Jesus accomplished for us was to rescue us from the slavery of sin which was greater than any other slavery we could imagine. Jesus’ outstretched arms on Calvary’s cross were the means by which this Rescue Mission was completed.

You and I are as helpless as the Israelites were against the Egyptian slave-drivers—as helpless as a victim of tornado, flood, or fire; who stands in the middle of the turmoil and not able to do anything about it.. You and I were shackled by sin and doomed to eternal damnation and hell that we deserved. But in His mercy and grace God had other plans—a rescue mission.

The Apostle Paul wrote this to the Colossian Christians: “For He [God] has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves,” (Col. 1:13). This is the Grace of God to us sinners. We have been rescued, redeemed, restored from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of Light.

We all love happy endings. The stories that we see hear and read about move us to be thankful for the efforts of those who labor hard to rescue those lost, trapped, or in danger. How much more we, who have been rescued by the Great Rescuer, Jesus Christ should give thanks to God for what He in grace has accomplished in our lives.

Thank you Jesus for RESCUING me through Your suffering, death and glorious resurrection. Amen.

In Christ’s love and in His service,

Rev. Nabil S. Nour Pastor and Foot Washer Phil. 1:6

Saturday, June 14, 2008

“Amazing LOVE” Romans 5:8

S-1059 6/15/08 6SAP/3A (O) #32 SOD; (S) #57 SOD; (C) # 351

Texts: Exodus 19:2-8; Romans 5:6-15; Matthew 9:35-10:8

Theme: “Amazing LOVE” Romans 5:8


Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! The text for our meditation is from the book of Romans. “But God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).

Question: “What are you willing to do for LOVE?”


Saints in Christ, it is amazing to hear and read love stories. These stories show the devotion and dedication of lovers to each others. These stories connect us and at times make us hope that we can show love like them, or perhaps receive this kind of love. There are books, movies and songs written about love.

Both history and Scripture paints a picture of people doing things for love. In December 1631, the fifth Mughal Emperor, Shah Jahan, commenced the Construction of one of the greatest monuments of all time, the Taj Mahal. It is a mausoleum built in the memory of his beloved and favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal, fulfilling one of the promises
that he made to her as she lay on her deathbed. She must have been a ravishing beauty. The Taj Mahal cost well over $500 million dollars.

In the O.T. we read of Jacob who worked 7 full years for the love of his life—Rachel. “So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her” (Gen. 29:20). David the great king of Israel gathered all of the materials to build God a temple, and his son Solomon built it at an enormous cost of time and many. It took 46 years to build this magnificent worship house as a way to say, “God you deserve my adoration!

But none of these monuments and events compare to the blessed Good News that the Apostle Paul speaks to us today in his letter to the Church at Rome. As we look at this portion of the Living Word, we, by the power of the Holy Spirit come to see the Awesome, Amazing and all surpassing love of God—a love that doesn’t enter the mind of man or can be comprehended by man.

New Testament writers use three Greek words for “love.” Philia is the love of friends; eros is the love of intimacy, (this is erotic love in a good sense). We applaud these kinds and expressions of love as we witness them in others. Yet, all of these various forms of love can be abused or neglected. There are those who only feign eros love to get what they want. There are those who fake Philia (brotherly) love to gain an advantage.

Both of these types of love: friendship and intimacy are good experiences. The problem, however, is that both of these types of love are tentative because they depend on the condition, circumstance, and concern of the one loved. Haven’t you heard someone say, “I just don’t love her any more; that is why we are getting a divorce!” Something happened so that the spouse is no longer loveable. And it is also true with friends whose friendship dissolves.

But there is a third type of love, AGAPE love. This kind of love is unconditional, unmerited, and undeserved. ONLY God can love with this kind of love with eternal consistency. This is the love that the Apostle Paul shares with us today. This is the Amazing and Awesome LOVE God has towards His created beings.

What kind of love is this? A love that is not dependant on what I say, look or do, but rather totally on the ONE who loves us—God. This is the marvel of this text, that Paul wants us to grasp as he wanted it to be caught by the Christians at Rome.

My translation of this Greek text is like this: “God introduced His AGAPE [love] towards us in that while we were sinners Christ died for us.” This is the love that God gives to us regardless of what we do or think or say. No matter how much we sin, He loves us. No matter how far we stray from Him, He loves us. No matter how we curse Him, blaspheme Him, deny Him, dishonor Him, He loves us.

You and I are not like God, and thank God that we are not. For if someone treated us in the same manner, we treat God, we would get impatient and say, “He doesn’t deserve it anymore!” I don’t have to show them love; I don’t have to care for them.

Our love is often fickle and fizzles, sour and sorry when we are not loved back. A wife said this, “If that’s the way you feel about it, forget it”. She asked him would he do it again, he responded, “I don’t know.” She no longer was willing to work on the marriage. How could she go back to him if he didn’t appreciate her love or would remain honest towards here?

Do I have any rights to complain against God if He treated me the same way? How many times has He forgiven my past unfaithfulness? How many times have I denied Him? How many times have I not kept my words of promise towards Him? If He were like us, He would say, “Forget it.” But God doesn’t think and feel the way you or I do. His love doesn’t depend on what I do. He doesn’t show goodness only to those who are good. That would make His love as imperfect as mine. The love of the world is conditional.

But not so with God. God’s love is truly amazing; beyond our mind’s ability to grasp that someone could love me still after all I have done. The reason God loves me is because of Christ’s suffering and death. On account of Christ’s total obedience to His Father’s will, we are LOVED. It is not enough for God to tell us He loved us while we were sinners, but He carried it a step further in the sending of His Son, our Savior to be the propitiation for our sins.

This is Agape in Action. God’s grace was carried out for us through His Son’s shedding His blood. As Paul reminds us in today’s text, “While we were sinners, Christ died for us”. Did you hear that? “While we were sinners.” While we were the scum of the earth. While we were the filth of the world; while we were the disobedient children, He died. PAUSE.

On this Father’s Day, as we take time to reflect and give thanks to our earthly father’s for all of the love they have showered upon us, we want to be much more thankful for the love of God the Father, who called us by name in the waters of Baptism, gave us His Son, as our Redeemer so that we may know the true AGAPE love.

Saints in Christ, the marvel of God’s love is in Himself, not in the lovability of the people He loves. We are sinners doomed to death! Unlovable! Unqualified! Unworthy! Not deserving of any favors—but loved with such a love that God gave His only Son to be our Savior. Not as soon as we get good enough! Not as soon as we do enough good works! But because God is love we are loved.

The sweet story of the Gospel is simply this—Christ died for me and all people while we were still sinners. God’s eternal Son came to earth to give His life as a ransom for me while I was noting but a disobedient, defiant, devilish, dirty, damned sinner. His grace that brings me salvation in Christ is entirely one-sided. It is totally underserved by me, a working of His Divine AGAPE love. That is the way our loving Heavenly Father feels about me. And I am glad that He does.

By the grace of God, we have been brought to His house of LOVE. Here you learn anew the meaning of the words, “For God so love the world…” [that is you Nabil, Don, Millie..] God is LOVE. His love is given you freely so that you may know that you are loved as His beloved children.

What an amazing God we have. Better yet, what an Amazing LOVE He gives us in His Son our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ; to whom be all the glory now and forever. Amen and Amen.

Now the peace…