Friday, February 27, 2009

“His Time” Gal. 4:4-7

S-1101 2/25/09 Ash Wednesday/3B Hymns: (S) #342; (L.S.) #145; (C) # 92

Texts Joel 2:1-12, 12-17; 2 Corinthians 5:20b -6:10; Matthew 6:1-6; 16-21

Theme: “His Time” (1st sermon series in Lent on HIStory, Galatians 4:4-7).

Question: “Have you ever said, ‘this is my time?’”

SOLI DEO GLORIA

Saints in Christ, I remember the day as if it was yesterday. We were expecting our first child. We had come back late from some friend’s house and had gone to bed. Early Saturday morning @ 1:10 my wife jabs me on the side and says, It’s time! My response was “go to bed, I am tired”. Few more minutes had gone by and again she jabbed me and said, It’s time! In a grumpy voice, I said, “Time for what?”It’s time for the baby to be born,” was her response. I jumped out of bed so fast and started getting ready while still removing the sand out my eyes.

“Its time!” Those were wonderful words to hear on that Saturday morning December 13, of 1979, because the Lord was about to bless us with a gift of a child—Tony. The time had finally come after nine months of growing in the womb. It’s Time to greet the world and be loved by his parents.

Today by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit the Apostle Paul speaks these words: “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

God was saying “It’s time! Time to fulfill the promise made to our first parents in the Garden. Time to carry out the plans God shared with father Abraham to bless all the nations of the world through his son. It was time to save mankind from sin, and death; and to redeem them from the punishment of hell and the jaws of the devil.”

God the Father determined when the time was right for His Son to come to earth, as man and God. Revelation 13:8 says that the Lamb (Christ) was slain “from the foundation of the world.” This world, the cosmos, is the world apart from God, and that world was founded when Adam and Eve sinned. When sin entered into God’s creation, given God’s purpose for mankind to be made into His image, it was necessary that there be a method of reconciliation between man and God. This reconciliation was only possible through the perfect sacrifice of Christ.

We must keep in mind that God is not a procrastinator, He may seem delayed in His time but He is never late. Just at the right time God set in motion the plan of redemption. God began to carry out that which all of creation has been longing for—deliverance from the bondage of slavery under the tyranny of sin and death and hell.

Study the Gospel of John and you will notice that in the 1st 12 chapters, the comments are “it is not His time yet.” Here are few examples: “When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to Him, ‘They have no wine.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what does this have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come’” (Jh. 2:3-4), “So they were seeking to arrest Him, but no one laid a hand on Him, because His hour had not yet come (7:20), “These words He spoke in the treasury, as He taught in the temple; but no one arrested Him, because His hour had not yet come (Jh. 8:30). And then the pendulum swings the other way, that the time had are arrived. Here are few examples: “Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end” (Jh. 13:1), Father, the time has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son may glorify You. For You granted Him authority over all people that He might give eternal life to all those You have given Him” (Jh. 17:2).

In the fullness of time Christ began to march to the drumbeat of God’s will. In the fullness of time Christ began to look at Jerusalem with intentional mission. It in the fullness of time Christ was heading to Jerusalem to fulfill the deliverance of man. In the fullness of time, Christ was willing to give His life for you and me by dying our death and receiving our punishment.

Paul is clear here; when the time had fully come Christ came into the world in flesh and blood. What Paul is saying is this: When the best possible moment in history for the advent of Christ into the world, He arrived on the scene of human history. He came during the Pax Romana (the peace of Rome). The economy was good and they had peace in the land, but morality was bad. And it was at this time that Jesus came. And by His arrival into the world, and His mighty deeds on the cross of Calvary, we become the recipients of all that He accomplished for us through the empty tomb.

One of my colleagues asked, “What is the best Ash Wednesday present you have ever received? Most all of us will agree, I think, that we don’t usually receive AW gifts. That is true. By the grace of God we can start a new tradition, but these are the best gifts we’ll ever receive—forgiveness of sin, becoming children of God, calling God “Abba”, and heirs with Christ.

This text is often used for Christmas day. But I am using it for Ash Wednesday to remind us of God’s great goodness to us in the sending of His Son. During this time of the year there are no reminders in the stores of how many days are left to shop. There are no trees or tinsel to draw our attention. There are no radio announcements to get to the stores to buy that gift.

During this night we are privileged to open, no correction, to re-open God’s most precious gift to us—the gift of His Son, to be our Savior and Lord. And what a gift! It is by that gift are we truly blessed indeed. So blessed that we can’t fathom what it is that God has accomplished through the sending of His Son.

What does this really mean for us: We are heirs with Christ. Do you understand what that means? You as a child of God receive all of the blessings from God, life, forgiveness, peace and eternal life. PAUSE.

A very wealthy man had planned well for his family’s future. He had opened accounts for His children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. The inheritance would come to them at the specific time when they reach the age of 30. Now these children and grandchildren grew in their homes knowing that they have a lot of money coming, but couldn’t use it until the right time. But when they reached that age, that money was all theirs. Now having grown under the watchful eyes of their grandfather, they appreciated the gift. Just think overnight these people became Millionaires.

We as the children of God are millionaires. Not in dollars and cents, but in grace. Overnight we became saints because of the shed blood of Christ on the cross of Calvary. On this Ash Wednesday when we mark our brows with ashes we are reminded that we are dust and to dust we will return. But the cross on our foreheads reminds us that death is no longer our master, but our means by which we receive all of God’s blessings on account of Christ.

It was time for my son to be born my wife told me. Tonight the Apostle Paul reminds us that on account of Christ, it is our time to be included as the saints of God rather than excluded as the children of the devil. Jesus took upon Himself that curse to redeem those who were already under the curse What He did on the cross was to complete the forgiving of our sins which means that we are no longer held accountable for any of our sins, of word or deed. Jesus, the heaven-sent Savior, at the right time took the punishment upon Himself with the words, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

Beloved in the Lord, remember that time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you. We master our minutes, or we become slaves to them; we use time, or time uses us. By the grace of God we can use our time for His glory as we feed at His table in His house. By the mercy of God, we are invited to His house to view again and again what it that our Savior has accomplished for us on the cross of Calvary—our redemption; our salvation; our adoptions as sons.

Tonight, we begin our journey to Calvary and we reflect on HIStory and how HIStory shaped ours. And we can be thankful for His time in our lives. Time spent on the cross to save us. May we cherish this time as we spend it with Him throughout the next 40 days and beyond. Amen.

Now the peace…

Sunday, February 22, 2009

“I Saw! I Heard! I Speak!” (Mark 9:5)

S-1100 2/22/09 Transfiguration Sunday/3B Hymns: (O) #135; (S) #413 LSB; LS. #415 LSB; #306; #359 (C) #416 LSB

Texts 2 Kings 2:1-12; 2 Corinthians 3:12-14; 4:1-6; Mark 9:2-9

Theme: “I Saw! I Heard! I Speak!” (Mark 9:5)

Question: “Do you ever wonder why we observe Transfiguration before we begin Lent?”

SOLI DEO GLORIA

This sermon will be preached in a first person dramatic narrative. Peter is visiting Armour today. (Peter is dressed with burlap garment, sandals, a fishermen’s pouch, head dress (purple), waist band (green). I have stubble for a beard too.

A week ago, the Rabbi from Nazareth Yeshua was teaching us that He must go to Jerusalem; suffer at the hands of our Jewish leaders, be put to death and rise on the third day. I stood up to him and objected to what He said. He told me “Get behind me satan! You don’t have in mind the things of God, but of man” (Mark 9:33).

Today began like many of the other days my companions and I spent with the Rabbi from Nazareth around the Sea of Galilee, or so I thought. A little later into the day, Yeshua asked John, James and I to join Him in going to a private place. We began the climb up the steep mountain. I remember vividly the day. The wind was light; the sky was as blue as the Sea, and not a cloud in the sky. And the sun’s beams were radiant on our backs and faces. The warmth of the sun made the journey beautiful. The higher we climbed the sun appeared brighter.

On the mountain the most amazing thing I ever saw with my own two eyes (point to the eyes), happened. Yeshua’s appearance changed completely—from the inside and outside. His face shown with the glory that is brighter than the Palestinian sun ever shown. And this glory didn’t beam from the sun upon Him, but came through Him and outshone the brightest sky I have ever witnessed. It was so bright that I couldn’t look at Him. His face looked like the face of God. He glowed as with majesty and beauty that boggles the mind.

And with my eyes blinking at the image that was standing before me, I saw two other men standing with Him. I shook my head (shake head), I rubbed my eyes (rub eye), at the images that were standing there, Yeshua, Moses and Elijah. I truly couldn’t believe what was happening. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I was afraid that I was dreaming. But no, this was no dream. But I was witnessing something beautiful and real. But who was this Yeshua? Why did He invite me and the others to join Him on this mountain-hike? Pause for few seconds (I would know sometimes later).

With my own eyes, I was looking at a most beautiful scene—Yeshua, My Rabbi, Moses and Elijah were on the mountain and I, Peter the fisherman from Capernaum, was privileged to see this event. I wanted to preserve this moment. I wanted to cherish this moment. I wanted to bask in this moment. I didn’t want to come down from the mountain. I didn’t really know what to say, but saying nothing just didn’t seem right either. But you know me, silence isn’t in my nature. Before I knew it, my mouth was opened and I began saying: “Rabbi, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for You and one for Moses and one for Elijah.”

And this is not all I saw. As I attempted to hear the conversations that the Rabbi, Moses, and Elijah were speaking about—they spoke about a new kind of Exodus, a dramatic departure for Yeshua, some unknown activity that my Rabbi was to carry out. I was still trying to figure it out and all of a sudden a cloud came over us. And out of the cloud a voice spoke saying, “This is My beloved Son; listen to Him.” Fear filled my heart at the voice, and the sight that I was witnessing and I fell to the ground (drop on the knees).

What was happening on that mountain? Who was this Yeshua the Man from Nazareth? How could it be that His whole being changed and became brighter than the sun? How could He glow with such brilliant beams of light? And the cloud, where did it come from? Was it the same cloud that led my people in the wilderness? Was I standing before God Himself? If so, can I see God and live?

(Stand up), Fear, trepidation and panic were all over my face. I knew that I was witnessing with my own eyes God walking among us. I knew that I was hearing the voice of God. There on the mountain God and Man were standing face-to-face. I knew this was special—very special indeed and something that I wanted to tell others about. I was so excited to tell others of what I saw and what I heard. (Move a little towards the steps).

But as we began to come down from the mountain, Jesus said to us, “Don’t tell anyone about this, until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.” I didn’t understand what He was talking about. I didn’t understand why not. I didn’t understand what it meant for the “Son of Man to rise from the dead.” And yet, I now know what I saw, Yeshua’s whole being beamed with the glory that is brighter than the sun. And I heard God’s voice saying “This is My Son, listen to Him.” PAUSE. (Move to another place).

It was sometimes later that I realized what this shining moment on the mountain meant, for my Rabbi. His conversation with Moses and Elijah were being carried out. He traveled to Jerusalem and there He taught many in the temple and reached out to many who needed healing. His compassionate hands were busy doing many good things—healing the diseased, caring for the needs of the sick, concerned for the outcast and raising the dead. Among the people His popularity increased, but among the Jewish leaders it decreased. The people loved the Rabbi, but our Jewish leaders hated Him. I didn’t know why. I didn’t know what I was seeing or what I was hearing.

But then, it all became clear. I saw with my own eyes the Rabbi from Nazareth taken from among us in the Garden as a prisoner by the soldiers of our Jewish leaders. I saw Him dragged to the courtroom. I saw Him mocked and spit upon. I saw Him beaten. I saw them put a crown of thorns on Him. And the funny robe they dressed Him with. And I heard all kinds of accusations against Him. It seemed that everyone was against Him.

In fear I left my Rabbi alone to face the hungry eyes, and the evil hands of the enemies. This was not my shining moment. I was afraid they might take me as a prisoner. I was afraid they might beat me. I was afraid they might hurt me. So I ran, and ran and ran. PAUSE.

I couldn’t run far enough as not to see the crowd filling up the streets of Jerusalem. I couldn’t run far enough not to hear the verdict—crucify Him. I don’t know why there was such hatred for Him. For My Rabbi hadn’t done anything to deserve death. What He did was good and beautiful. He blessed the little children and said, “Let them come to me.” He raised the dead from the grave. He fed the hungry. He opened the eyes of the blind. He forgave sins. MINE TOO.

Compassion flowed from the Man from Nazareth. Love poured out from His mouth like sweet water. Care was demonstrated by Him as He got involved in the lives of my country men. And yet the Jewish leaders hated Him and wanted Him dead.

Well, they put Him to death. They put Him in the grave. But they couldn’t stop Him. They couldn’t silence Him. They couldn’t destroy Him. For in three days He rose from the dead.

I saw the grave myself. I ran early that morning after hearing from Mary Magdalene that He has risen from the dead. The grave was empty. I can assure of you that. I saw it empty. And then I heard my My Rabbi speak.

Then, only then, I understood what He told me that day on the mountain, “Don’t tell anyone about this, until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.” I know why. Because He is not just a Man from Nazareth, He is not just a Rabbi, He is not just a miracle worker, He is not just a prophet that came upon the scene; but He is God’s very own Son. He is My Savior, who died and rose for me—Peter. PAUSE (move to another place).

With these two eyes (point) I saw my Savior on the Mountain. With these two ears (point) I heard the voice of God, and now with my own lips (point), I tell you of what I had seen and heard. Now I know why the Holy Spirit moved me to speak saying, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here...” because I was able to see Him as more than mere man. I saw God face-to-face and I lived. I was able to hear the voice of more than mere man, I heard the voice of God—a voice of love for sinners like me.

Today, I am among you telling you what I saw and what I heard. I tell you that Yeshua carried out a greater Exodus than the one Moses did—He split the rock on Good Friday; He exited from the tomb on Sunday. He appeared to us that evening. I tell you about it to strengthen your faith on the journey of life. I tell you of what I saw and heard so that you can be assured that same Rabbi Yeshua came to forgive YOUR sins too. I tell you of what I saw and heard so that you can be certain of the victory He has won for us—all of us (point to the people). I tell you of what I saw and heard so that you know for certain that someday you, too, will see God face-to-face and be with Him in the Paradise of heaven. But you don’t have to wait to go up to a mountain to see Him or to get to heaven to see Him, You see Him now. He comes to you right here and now in His living Word. He comes to you today even on the plain through His meal of bread and blood. And you can feel good for being here. For you too, have the Transfiguration of Christ before your very own eyes.

My dear friends, I tell you of what I saw and heard so that you too may tell others of my visit with you today about my Savior; God’s Son whose glory is brighter than any Palestinian sun could ever glow.

I saw. I heard. And today, I speak.

(Peter leaves quietly from the side door)

Saturday, February 14, 2009

“CANNOT Contain It” (Mark 1:45)

S-1099 2/08/09 6SAE/3C Hymns: (O) #398; (S) #32; (C) #134

Texts 2 Kings 5:1-14; 1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1; Mark 1:40-45

Theme: “CANNOT Contain It” (Mark 1:45)

Question: “Do you remember the last time you were touched by the Savior?”

SOLI DEO GLORIA

This sermon will be preached right during the Absolution from the right side of the Altar.

Upon this your confession, I by virtue of my office as a called and ordained servant of the Word, say to you, “don’t worry about your sins; forget it; it is no big deal; it is nothing; no problem and it is only a mistake.” What is wrong with this absolution that I have just shared with you? (Please be seated)

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! The text for our meditation is from the Gospel lesson “But he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in desolate places, and people were coming to him from every quarter.” (Mark 1:35).

Saints in Christ, it interesting to note how we as Christians view sin. It seems the only place we use the word sin is here in church. But when what we used to call sin happens in the world, we make it to be simply a minor mistake and not to be concerned with its consequences. Consider what has filled the news in the last couple of weeks with the nominations that President Obama wants for his cabinet. Treasury Secretary Tim Geither said, “He was careless in failing to pay $34.000 in Social Security and taxes.” He apologized to Congress. Tom Daschle said, “His mistake of not paying $128.000 for his chauffeur was mishandled and unintentional”. Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico surrendered his bid for Commerce Secretary when allegations of corruption surfaced.

In the sports news, Michael Phelps was pictured holding a bong smoking pot. He apologized by saying, “I acted in an inappropriate behavior”. Some of his sponsors said, it is a “nonissue”. Alex Rodriguez of the Yankees said after being caught using enhancement drugs, “I am sorry and deeply regretful for my actions.” Are these people sorry for what they have done, or are they sorry for being caught? We will never know.

As you listen to the news you can see their views on these “mistakes”, “inappropriate behaviors” or “nonissue”. “Don’t worry about your sins; it is no big deal; it is nothing; no problem and it is only a mistake.” And that is exactly how we in the Church at times think of sin. IT IS NO BIG DEAL, don’t worry about it, it is only a mistake. PAUSE.

Today, St. Mark reveals the compassionate and passionate Christ who meets a leper in need. As Jesus is out preaching in the nearby villages a leper comes to Him, and asked Him, “If you are willing, You can make me clean.” (Mk. 1:40). The compassionate Lord stretches His hand and touched him and restored him to a good health. After the healing, Jesus demanded that no word of this miracle should be uttered.

But what happened was contrary to the wishes of the healing Christ. The leper in his joy COULDN’T contain himself; but instead he shared the news with everyone around him. Rather than keeping quiet, he tells the whole world about the miracle that took place in His life through the man from Nazareth called Jesus.

Why couldn’t this leper contain it? Because, what happened to him is more than what meets the eye. This man, who was an outcast from society, from his family and who had to cry out when he saw other people “unclean, unclean!” now is completely restored to the community and his family. Jesus did more to this leper than we can envision—He gave him a new lease on life.

This leper is now restored to the community and to his family and home. He could embrace his wife. He could kiss his children. He could hold his mother’s arms again. And for this, He couldn’t contain his joy. But there is more—he is also restored spiritually. Jesus gave him both physical and spiritual life. And nothing would hinder him from sharing the joy that fills his heart on account of the cleansing by the man from Nazareth.

Have you done that lately? Did you ever go out of the church and say to each other, “Today, God for Christ’s sake forgave me my sins?” When was the last time we left God’s house with great joy not complaining at the length of the service, but rather saying, “God has restored me to the community of believers? God has cleansed me from the leprosy of sin through His death and resurrection? God has washed me by His blood and made me whole again?”

It really is a sad thing that we don’t take these words from the Pastor to heart, “in the name and the stead of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ I FORGIVE YOU ALL OF YOUR SINS.” We don’t believe them because our views of sin are distorted and twisted. It is similar to the men I mentioned above. These men have admitted to doing something wrong, but not really “sinning.” They point to the fact that we all say, “what I did wasn’t really that bad,” but refuse to call sin, sin.

These men, because of their sin, have endangered their relationship with God, and endanger others as well. When they ignore the serious nature of sin, they put themselves at risk as well as others. When WE sin, we not only affect ourselves, but we affect others. For example when anyone with an addiction gets to a point where they will steal or even kill even their loved ones, just to get money to buy another “hit.” Our sin effects everyone, especially those we love, and those who are close to us. For this reason we also need to yell, “Unclean! Unclean” because our sin, our sinful behavior WILL hurt others and separate us from God.

By realizing our sin and the consequences of it, only then does the absolution become of the utmost important; because it shows that we too need to be made whole and clean again. Should we not be joyful and not able to contain the blessings of sins forgiven?

Truly, we don’t appreciate the forgiveness of sins. For if we did; we couldn’t contain our joy either. If we believed this message from Christ, we would be knocking down the door of the church and coming in to receive this blessing of sins forgiven; not only on Sunday but ever day. If we believed it we wouldn’t care how the long the service is. The sad reality we DON’T take God’s Word to heart when He says “I forgive you”. PAUSE.

When Christ forgiveness fills my life and His love colors my days, smiles not frowns, are in place. When my Savior, the Friend of sinners stands besides me, I CAN’T help contain the joy of knowing my sins are forgiven. When Jesus through the Pastor announces the absolution to us, a miracle takes place of greater value than the cleansing of the leper in our text today—we become, pure, holy and righteous in the sight of God. PAUSE.

It is hard for us to believe this message because there is an ocean of sin in our hearts—an ocean that quickly takes us deep into the abyss of despair and death. And as we look at this ocean, we wonder if God can really forgive me. We wonder if He really cares to cleanse me. We wonder if He would extend His compassionate and passionate hands to us and restore us again.

There is no room to doubt brothers and sister about what Christ has done and continue to do. Look to the cross and see those outstretched hands that carry ALL OF YOUR SINS. Just as Jesus touched the leper, He touches us also!  When I as your Pastor (God’s man in this place) pronounce the absolution, “by the stead and by the command,” it is not I, it is Jesus Christ. We simply confer what Jesus gives. Jesus touches you, through the voice and hands of His servant. Oh the joy that fills my heart, knowing I have been transported from death to life; from sinner to saint, from hell-bound to heaven-bound. I CANNOT CONTAIN IT; any more, than I can contain the joy of sharing with you the birth of my grandchild.

What joy the good news then brings! “Your sins are taken away. Jesus has paid the greatest price, His own blood, for all of you. His righteousness clothes you for heaven.” That’s the joy of faith that clings to the promise of Christ.

Remember, we are forgiven not because we ask. Rather we ask because we are forgiven. Therefore, ask the Lord to give you daily what Jesus urges us to have: A heart crushed by the realization of the horror of sin and a heart caught by the love of the message of God’s kingdom of love. For today, the Savior says to you and me, “I will; be clean!” And you are clean.

Upon this your confession, I, by virtue of my office, as a called and ordained servant of the Word, announce the grace of God unto all of you, and in the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ I forgive you all of your sins in the name of the Father and the + Son and the Holy Ghost. Amen.

Now the peace of God…

We will continue with the confession of sins on page 47.

“Private Place” (Mark 1:35)

S-1098 2/08/09 5SAE/3C Hymns: (O) #24; (S) #159; L.S. #39; #307; #59; (C) #36

Texts Isaiah 40:21-31; 1 Corinthians 9:16-27; Mark 1:29-39

Theme: “Private Place” (Mark 1:35)

Question: “Do You have a Private Place?”

SOLI DEO GLORIA

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! The text for our meditation is from the Gospel lesson: “And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, He departed and went out to a desolate place, and there He prayed” (Mark 1:35).

Saints in Christ, in 1996 the government issued the HIPAA rule — HIPAA--Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. This was done to allow people to bring their own insurance with them, protect the patient and stop the juicy gossip that might take place in a hospital and clinic. This program is both good and bad. Good that it protects many from circulating the gossip, but bad; sometimes the ones that should know don’t know.

In our day and age, privacy is very important. We all want to have privacy, but not many have it. We long to have the private life, yet we advertise almost everything we do, on Face Book, My space, Bebo, shutter fly and the like. Yet, we complain when someone finds out something we have done in secret.

In today’s reading we meet the Savior Jesus Christ in His private place. These verses reveal the great passions that moved the heart of the Savior. This brief glimpse into one early morning quiet time reveals what was important to the Lord Jesus Christ. But before we look at this early hour encounter, let’s consider what was going on in the life of this man from Nazareth.

The demands of the Sabbath had been brutal. After preaching in the synagogue, Jesus was confronted by demon possessed man. Jesus cast out that demon. He leaves the synagogue to go to Peter’s house for lunch and quiet time. When He arrives at the home, He find Peter’s mother-in-law sick with fever; Jesus reaches out to her in compassion and heals her. She didn’t go to the pharmacy to get the medicine. The medicine was right in front of her and immediately she was healed. When sundown comes, many from Capernaum bring the sick and the possessed with devils to be touched and healed by Jesus. And He does. I am positive that this took a long time and perhaps late into the night.

Here we see the Divine One showing with mighty power His authority over all illness and diseases and demos. He showed what God in the flesh can do. This is a wonderful picture of the Savior, but the next that follows is even more compelling.

Staying up late does not prevent Jesus from an early morning meeting with His heavenly Father. Mark tells us that Jesus got up “very early in the morning” and went to a private place to pray and commune with His heavenly Father. We see here this Divine One in His full human nature. He needs the strength and stamina to carry on the ministry and mission that God has sent Him to do.

This is not the only time we find the Lord Jesus Christ taking time to be in a private place and communion with the Father. In fact His ministry is marked by times of privacy with the One who sent Him to earth. His life was a portrait of times in prayer and communion with the Father. Study Scripture and you will notice a minimum of 25 times that Jesus prays in private. His whole life is marked by prayer. From His high priestly prayer, to the prayers of anguish in Gethsemane and on the cross, Jesus takes time to be in private place. Communion with the Father was one of the marks of the Messiah Isa. 50:4

If the Author and Creator of life does that, shouldn’t we? If in His humanness Jesus demonstrated how important it is to be in private time with His heavenly Father; how much more should we? PAUSE?

Do you have a private place? Do you have time where you just pour out your heart to God? Do you take time to ask God the Father to help you live as His son/daughter? Do you have Him to be part of your plans? We should. Our lives should be marked with the life of prayer also; after all, we are the Redeemed of the Lord.

To be sure, we have our private place alright. But it is not one where we would want Jesus to be. Our private place is the center of our lives where our sin and selfishness dwells. Our Private Place is littered with Lust, Contaminated by Corruption and deluded by desires that are not pleasing to God. We run to our private place, not like Jesus who went to meet the Father, but more like Adam and Eve who ran to their private place to hide their shame from God.

But here is where the Law of the Lord strikes. Our Lord even has the keys to our most private of places. He is there when we peruse pornography. He is there when we gush with gossip. He is there when we are loaded with lust. He is there when we are silent in the face of sin. WE DON”T have a private place on our terms.

But our Lord has not come to spy on us. Instead He comes to the most public of places, Calvary, so that we truly might have a private place WITH HIM. You see, prayer is not some magical spell that we cast to ward of demons, depression and despair. No, Prayer is nothing other that the exercise of the gift of faith which we receive from the Lord Himself. When we pray we are conversing through the Savior with the King of the Universe. When we pray we are crying out to God for all of our needs. When we pray we are asking our heavenly Father to hear us for the sake of His own Son, Jesus Christ. And even better, we don’t come in fear. We come in faith, love and confidence, even as a very young child comes to their earthly Father.

Our private place is not a right, but a privilege. It is a gift from God. And it is a gift we get to use. It delivers to us a sense unlike any other. As John Bunyan says He who runs from God in the morning will scarcely find Him the rest of the day”. This private place can be anywhere. At the bedside, at the meal table, in the car…anywhere the Lord’s name needs to be invoked. To neglect this is serious business. Luther put it this way: If I should neglect prayer but a single day, I should lose a great deal of the fire of faith.”

We can never run to this private place too much. It is only when we run to it too little that we find ourselves in the greatest peril. Early African converts to Christianity were earnest and regular in private devotions. Each one reportedly had a separate spot in the thicket where he would pour out his heart to God. Over time the paths to these places became well worn. As a result, if one of these believers began to neglect prayer, it was soon apparent to the others. They would kindly remind the negligent one, “Brother, the grass grows on your path.

There is no grass on the path of our Savior. We can take much from what we see our Savior doing. We see it at the cross. There with splinter and spear piercing sinless flesh, our salvation is secured. But we also see in this text something that brings comfort to those of us awaiting the Savior’s return. We see a pattern of communing with the Father. It is the communion with the Father that we can never get enough of.

It is for this reason that the Lord has gathered you here today—to be in communion with Him. His Word speaks to you with the Law’s full force and the Gospel’s sweetness. It is here in this place that the Lord fills us with Christ’s body and blood. And it is here, in our very public, yet private place that we get to converse with our Heavenly Father. And not only here, but in your own private place He meets you and commune with you. I have my private place both at home in a chair and in my office at my kneeler. I pray that you do too.

Saints in Christ hear Him speak to you this day. Treasure this “private place.” Return to this place as well. For it is here that you find the peace we so covet. HIPPA may rule at the Hospital and the doctor’s office. But JESUS rules here. For this we sing eternal praise! AMEN

Now the peace…

“A New Leader” (Deut. 18:18)

S-1097 1/25/09 4SAE/3C Hymns: LSB #; (S) #583; #; #

Texts Deuteronomy 18:15-20; 1 Corinthians 8:1-13; Mark 1:21-28

Theme: “A New Leader” (Deut. 18:18)

Question: “Whom are you trusting?” SOLI DEO GLORIA

Trinity Lutheran, Orlando, FL

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! The text for our meditation is from the Old Testament lesson: “I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him” (Deut. 18:18).

Saints in Christ, on January the 20th in Washington, DC., Barak Hussein Obama, became the 44th President of the United States of America, after taking the Oath of Office. President George W. Bush left with very low rating, and President Obama is coming into this new Office with high rating. As you listen to the media and their reporting it is evident that they think President Obama is the New Leader who will usher America into the land of plenty and prosperity, the land of peace and power. Many people on the street think that President Obama is the one who is going to turn this country around with the changes that he is proposing. They believe that this New Leader will solve all their problems, get the economy back on track, provide jobs for millions of people and restore our disgraced image with other countries. I am amazed at how many people believe President Obama is going to be their Savior—the One who will fix up every bad and evil thing Bush did.

Every good citizen should be thankful that President Obama articulated in his opening days that he hopes his presidency will be marked by rule of law and transparency.  Our prayer is that rule of law will be rule of moral law, the rule of genuine love—for the born as well as the unborn—for all people of every color and nationality; that he will support the rule of laws which are ageless and timeless in terms of core content. The Bible implores us to pray for our leaders (1 Tim 2:1-5) and that is no small matter. So we will pray for him and all our leaders that they will exhibit a good measure of true justice, true righteousness, true love, sound moral law, and not laws that are expedient or contrary to the wisdom of the ages revealed through Sacred Scripture.

In today’s text Moses the Prophet of God speaks with the Israelites concerning the One who will lead in the future. We see Israel standing on the plains of Moab, needing someone to lead them into the Promised Land. This spokesperson who has lead them for the last 40 years in the wilderness since they left Egypt, will not be able to do so because of his disobedience to the Lord’s command (Num. 20:12). So the Lord of Hosts promises another prophet who will lead His people by means of the divine Word.

It is interesting to note that people of every age have been looking for a leader, a Savior of a sort. People looked to Jim Jones, but he ended up killing over 800 people. In Germany people looked up to Hitler to lead them, but he dragged them to war and were destroyed. Karl Marx spoke of socialist society that will bring prosperity in Russia, but it brought poverty and death to many.

People today, are still seeking and searching for the one leader who will bring them happiness, peace and prosperity. People continue to look for the one who will make a difference in their lives. Even Christians are caught up with this mentality. Some are seeking a savior in material possessions, others seeking a Messiah in power or prestige and still others just any one who could relieve them from the burdens of daily routines. PAUSE.

Beloved in the Lord, it is not wrong to look for a leader who will make our lives better and more comfortable. It is not wrong to look for a leader who will honor God with his services. It is not wrong to long for a leader who will help us and give us hope for the future. But it is wrong to put our trust in humans who will disappoint us rather than in the God of help and hope and heaven.

I am very concerned that there is in many quarters a euphoria hysteria, an almost worldly kingdom of God on earth set of expectations for our new President to bring about. This is very dangerous whether anyone, Democrat or Republican, holds this high office. There is only one Messiah, one Savior, one King of kings, and Lord of Lords, Jesus the Christ.

Even if things improve economically, that’s not where the improvement needs to be made. This is not the kind of leader Moses was speaking about. This is not what we need in this society and in this country. For if we needed financial assistance God would have sent us an economist; if we needed help with wars, God would have sent us a general; if we needed help with running the country, God would have sent us a politician; if we needed help with the afflictions of the body, God would have sent us a physician. But we needed help with our sins lest we spend eternity in hell; and thus God sent us a Savior—His Son to lead us to the Promised Land.

The prophet from among your brothers that Moses was speaking about is none other than the Lord, Jesus Christ. He is the fulfillment of all of the prophets. Jesus is Israel’s final prophet who teaches “as one who had authority, and not as the scribes (Mk. 1:22). By means of this authoritative Word, Jesus leads His people out of the realm of death and into life eternal. Jesus the True Prophet is the One who will usher His people into the Promised Land of Heaven.

This is the One of whom Moses spoke about. Jesus, Israel’s true Leader is the One who will give peace that surpasses all understanding. Jesus, Israel’s true Prophet is the One who will cover our sins with His blood. Jesus, Israel’s true Messiah is the One who will destroy our enemies—sin, death and the grave. Jesus, Israel’s true Savior is the One who will save us from the punishment of hell.

Jesus, Israel’s true leader is unlike any leader of any country. The leaders of today walk around with security forces to protect their lives. The leaders of today are not easily accessible. The leaders of today live behind secured walls and palaces. But not our True Prophet. Jesus doesn’t walk around with security guards to protect His life. He doesn’t wear a bullet proof vest. Instead, Jesus walks among us and with us through His Word. Jesus wears a crown of thorns. Jesus hangs on a cross for the sins of all people. Jesus dies our death, and takes our punishment and instead gives us life and salvation.

This Leader—Jesus will not disappoint us ever. This Leader—Jesus, will always be available for us. This Leader—Jesus comforts us with His words of grace and forgiveness. And this Leader—Jesus gives us His body and blood to strengthen us on the journey to the Promised Land.

Few days ago, a New Leader took the helm in Washington, DC. President Barak Hussein Obama promises to do all things well. My prayers for Him as my president that he might be blessed in his presidency and all that the Lord will give him to do. But it is the True Leader—the Prophet Jesus who will give us more than we can ask for—life and salvation because of His great love for us.

Jesus the Messiah is the One who gives to us unworthy sinners’ guidance and directions through His Word and sacrament as we journey in this barren wilderness and leads us to the green pastures of His holy Word in heaven. May we continue to look up to this New Leader and trust Him with our whole heart, mind, body and soul in all that He does for us. Amen.

Now the peace…

“They Left” (Mark 1:16-20)

S-1096A 1/25/09 3SAE/3C Hymns: (O) #412; (S) #421; L.S. #451; #313; #310 (C) #52

Texts Jonah 3:1-5, 10; 1 Corinthians 7:29-31; Mark 1:14-20

Theme: “They Left” (Mark 1:16-20)

SOLI DEO GLORIA

Question: “Have you heard the call lately?”

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! The text for our meditation is based on the Gospel lesson: “Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, He [Jesus] saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.’ And immediately they left their nets and followed Him. And going on a little farther, He saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. And immediately He called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed Him” (Mark 1:16-20)

Saints in Christ, there are two days in our US history that stand out as “Days of Infamy”. December 7, when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, and 9-11 when Alcaeda attacked the Twin Towers of New York. When the enemy attacked us, Presidents Roosevelt, and George W. Bush called upon our brave men and women to take arms and fight the enemy and destroy them.

Many heard the call, and in one symphony they left to the drum beat of the Commander In Chief to take arms and fight the intruder who has riled up the Big Eagle. They left and marched from country and city, farms and factories, colleges and corporations, family and friends and enlisted in the service of their country. They left to avenge the memory of those whose lives came to an end at the altar of hate and injustice. They left because the Commander In Chief asked them to keep America safe and Freedom reigning.

In the Gospel reading today, we hear the Words of Jesus calling the disciples to follow Him into the service of His Kingdom. And as Jesus did, they left and followed Him. They followed Him not knowing where they would go and what they will do. But they left their homes, friends and family and followed not the Commander In Chief, but the Commander of Faith—Jesus Christ. They left because the Holy Spirit stirred their hearts to hear the call. PAUSE.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, you and I too as the children of God have a call. We have a call to be faithful followers of Jesus Christ and His mission of saving the world from sin, death and hell. In this place we get our training. In this place we are given the tools to fight the enemy not Japan or Alcaeda, but the devil and his cohorts. In this place we are armed with the greatest weapon—the Word of God—which is His Sword. And from this place we leave as God’s ambassadors to the world.

May we never forget who we are, and whose we are. We are the redeemed children of God. We are the baptized children of the heavenly Father. We are soldiers of the cross. We are God’s ambassadors. We are the missionaries to the world. Yes, you are, whether you are father or mother, son or daughter, farmer or fighter, Lawyer or layman; we are called to be fishers of men. And we leave this place and take in our hands and hearts the armament that will destroy the enemy and free those who are still under the bondage of sin, and hate and injustice.

As followers of Jesus we have our challenges. As followers of the Savior, we are to point others to what Christ the Commander of our Faith has done. As believers in the Risen Christ we are to be the hope and help for others. But sometimes we lose focus of what it is that God has called us to do as His beloved children. When things get tough we begin to complain and grumble against God and other followers of Jesus. We complain about the mundane things and consider the many sacrifices made. PAUSE.

This is similar to what is going on in our nation now. When President Bush called our brave young soldiers to arms shortly after 9-11, all who heard the call left with one accord and with one mission—find Osama Bin Laden and destroy those who hate us. But as the war lingered on, the media’s and public uproar began to be heard in every place. They began to say, “That we went to war by mistake. President Bush didn’t know what he was doing when he called us to arms. We should bring our entire troops home; and bring an end to this war.”

So it is with us as followers of Jesus. We question the Commander of our Faith. We question why we have to go through the many challenges. We question why people don’t appreciate what we do for them. We question if we are doing the right thing. We question God on many fronts.

The reason we do this, is because we are self-centered and selfish. Even though we are serving God, yet we want to serve ourselves because we know what is best for us. We tell God, “Yes, Lord I will follow You and serve You more only to the place I desire.” Even though we have heard and heeded the call, yet we want to be in charge of where God takes us. God says, “Sit in the wheelbarrow and let me push you.” We say, “Gladly.” But with one leg on the inside and another on the outside, so that God doesn’t push us down the steep hill of His choosing.

Oh how much we get tangled in the affairs of the world and forget the call that the Savior has called us to do by following Him and making disciples of all nations. We tend to listen to the devil and ignore the will and ways of the Commander of our Faith. We forget that we are called to go where He sends us, rather than where we want to be.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, indeed we have made sacrifices for the sake of the ministry. We give freely of our time. We joyfully (almost always) give of our finances to the Lord’s work. We participate in Bible study and other Christian activities. And we consider these things as great sacrifices. However, these sacrifices pale in comparison to the Father and Son mission of redeeming the world. It pales in comparison to the call that the Father extended to His Son in the heavenly kitchen saying, “Son, You need to go down and save the human race from the destructive power of hell, and sin and death.” And Jesus did. PAUSE.

Jesus heard the call and He left His heavenly Throne and went on the greatest rescue mission the world has ever known. He left to free us and redeem us and restore us to the right relationship with His heavenly Father. He left and came to earth and brought with Him the Gospel of love and life. He left and came to earth and taught us to forgive others for His sake. He left and came to earth and showed us in word and deed the truth of being a faithful follower.

His life was a reflection of His rescue mission. The cost of the success of this rescue mission was not the billion dollars, armaments or time, but flesh and blood shed on the cross outside the walls of Jerusalem. The cost of the success of this rescue mission can’t be counted in words that fill the media, but the words spoken by our Fearless Leader, Jesus Christ who cried from the cross, “Father, forgive them…” And the Good News, God did for the sake of His Son,—the Commander of our Faith. PAUSE.

Saints in Christ, our work in this congregation is not done. We have much to do as followers of the Savior and soldiers of the cross. By His grace alone we have heard the call like the disciples and followed Jesus even to the point of giving up their lives for the sake of the Gospel.

Sadly many among our saints have left for the wrong reasons. Fathers have abandoned their families for the sake of pleasure. Mothers left their children for the sake of careers. Children left their parents because they didn’t want to live under their rules. Many just leave because they don’t want to hear or heed the Words of Jesus or come to Him for forgiveness. Our work is not done in this place.

We have much to learn dear saints in Christ from the words of the Savior, our Commander In Faith. When He called the Disciples they followed Him. But when the going got tough they abandoned Him in the Garden. When the soldiers came in the night to the Garden of Gethsemane all of them ran away and left Him all alone to carry on the Greatest Rescue Mission and He did it on the cross of Calvary and through the empty tomb.

And this same Jesus promises that He will never leave us or forsake us. You and I will never be alone. His signature is the blood He shed. When we carry out the ministry that we have been called to do, we go in His name and by His might. We can be certain that He will guide and guard our steps even as we go complaining and grumbling.

But as we gather around His Word and Sacrament, we are encouraged and equipped to go and continue going on the mission to which He has called us—calling sinners to repentance and pointing them to the ONLY One who loves them enough to die for their sins, Christ Jesus our Lord. God grant us the will and joy and privilege to hear and heed the call for Christ’s sake. Amen.

Now the peace of God…

“They Left” (Mark 1:18-20)

S-1096 1/20/09 Winkel @ Armour Hymns: #126; #421; #132; #20

Texts Daniel 12:3; Philippians 2:14-16; Matthew 5:13-16;

Theme: “They Left” (Mark 1:18-20)

SOLI DEO GLORIA

Question: “Have you heard the call?”

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! The text for this Sanctity of Life Sunday is based on the words of the Apostle Paul from the book of Philippians: “Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, He [Jesus] saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.’ And immediately they left their nets and followed Him. And going on a little farther, He saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. And immediately He called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed Him” (Mark 1:16-20)

Saints in Christ, there are two days in our US history that stand out as “Days of Infamy”. December 7, when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and 9-11 when Alcaeda attacked the Twin Towers of New York. When the enemy attacked us, Presidents Roosevelt, and George W. Bush called upon our brave men and women to take arms and fight the enemy and destroy them.

Many heard the call, and in one symphony they left to the drum beat of the Commander In Chief to take arms and fight the intruder who has riled up the Big Eagle. They left and marched from country and city, colleges and corporations, family and friends and enlisted in the service of their country. They left to avenge the memory of those whose lives came to an end at the altar of hate and injustice. They left because the Commander In Chief asked them to keep America safe and Freedom reigning.

In the Gospel reading today, we hear the Words of Jesus calling the disciples to follow Him into the service of His Kingdom. And as Jesus did the disciples left and followed Him. They followed Him unknown to where they will go and what they will do. But they left their homes, friends and family and followed not the Commander In Chief, but the Commander of Faith—Jesus Christ. They left because the Holy Spirit stirred their hearts to hear the call. PAUSE.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, you and I too, have heard the call to be followers of Jesus Christ and His mission of saving the world from sin, death and hell. We left family and friends, community and county, work and school and with one accord trained to be God’s ambassadors in this world.

Yes, we have left, and have made sacrifices for the Kingdom’s sake. We left occupations, family, familiars surroundings and friends and took with us the armament that will destroy the enemy and free those who are still under the bondage of sin, and hate and injustice. We left to do the right thing, but sometimes we loose focus of what it is that God has called us to do. When things get tough we begin to complain and grumble and question if God really knew what He was doing when He sent me to this church.

This is similar to what is going on in our nation now. When President Bush called our brave young soldiers to arms shortly after 9-11, all who heard the call left with one accord and with one mission—find Osama Bin Laden and destroy those who hate us. But as the war lingered there was a dissention among the troops and all kind of complaining. They began to say, “That we went to this war by mistake. President Bush didn’t know what he was doing when he called us to arms. We should bring our entire troops home; and bring an end to this war.”

So it is with us as Pastors, Pastors wives’ and children. We question the Commander of our Faith. We question the placement we have. We don’t like what is going on in the church and ask God to put us on a call list and send us to another location.

The reason we do this, is because are self-centered and ego-centric. Even though we are serving God, yet we want to serve ourselves because we know what is best for us. We tell God, “Yes, Lord I will follow but only to the place I want to go to.” Even though we have heard and headed the call, yet we want to be in charge of where God takes us. God says, “Sit in the wheelbarrow and let me push you.” Oh, yes, we sit but with one leg on the inside and another on the outside, so that God doesn’t down the steep hill of His choosing.

Oh how much we get tangled in the affairs of the world and forget the call that the Savior has called us to do by following Him and making disciples of all nations. We tend to listen to the devil and ignore the will and ways of the Commander of our Faith. We forget that we are called to go where He sends us, rather than where we want to be.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, indeed we have made sacrifices for the sake of the ministry. We have left loved ones behind. We have left home and friends and family and gone. But these sacrifices pale in comparison to the Father and Son mission of redeeming the world. It pales in comparison to the call that the Father extended to His Son in the heavenly kitchen saying, “Son, You need to go down and save the human race from the destructive power of hell, and sin and death.” And Jesus did. PAUSE.

Jesus heard the call and He left His heavenly Throne and went on the greatest rescue mission the world has ever known. He left with goal in mind to free us and redeem us and restore us to the right relationship with His heavenly Father. He left and came to earth and brought with Him the Gospel of love and life. He left and came to earth and taught us to forgive others for His sake. He left and came to earth and showed us in word and deed what does it mean to be a faithful follower.

His life was a reflection of His rescue mission. The cost of the success of this rescue mission was not the billion dollars, or armaments or time, but flesh and blood shed on the cross outside the walls of Jerusalem. The cost of the success of this rescue mission can’t be counted in words that fill the media, but the words spoken by our Fearless Leader, Jesus Christ who cried from the cross, “Father, forgive them…” And the Good News, God did for the sake of His Son, our Commander In Chief—the Commander of our Faith. PAUSE.

Saints in Christ, our work in our perspective places is not done. We have much to do as ones who have heard the call like the disciples and followed Jesus even to giving up their lives for the sake of the Gospel.

Our work is not, for we have many among our saints who have left for the wrong reasons. Fathers who have abandoned their families for the sake of pleasure. Mothers who left their children for the sake of careers. Children who left their parents because they didn’t want to live under their rules. Many just leave because they don’t want to hear or heed the Words of Jesus or come to Him for forgiveness. Our work is not done in the places He has placed us.

We have much to learn dear saints in Christ from the words of the Savior, our Commander In Faith. When He called the Disciples they followed Him. But when the going got tough they abandoned Him in the Garden. When the soldiers came in the night to the Garden of Gethsemane all of them ran away and left Him all alone to carry on the Greatest Rescue Mission and He did on the cross of Calvary and through the empty tomb.

And this same Jesus promises that He will never leave us or forsake us. You and I will never be alone. His signature is the blood He shed. When we carry out the ministry that we have been called to, we go in His name and by His might being certain that He will guide and guard our steps even as we go complaining and grumbling.

But as we gather around His Word and Sacrament, we are encouraged and equipped to go and continue going on the mission to which He has called us—calling sinners to repentance and pointing them to the ONLY one who loves them enough to die for their sins, Christ Jesus our Lord. God grant us the will and joy and privilege to hear and head the call for Christ’s sake. Amen.

Now the peace of God…

“Shine Like the Stars” (Phil. 2:15)

S-1095 1/18/09 Sanctity of Life Sunday Hymns: #126; #106; #132; #20

Texts Daniel 12:3; Philippianes 2:14-16; Matthew 5:13-16;

Theme: “Shine Like the Stars” (Phil. 2:15)

SOLI DEO GLORIA

Question: “How bright is your light?”

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! The text for this Sanctity of Life Sunday is based on the words of the Apostle Paul from the book of Philippians: “…that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (Phil. 2:15).

Saints in Christ, “How dare we as a Church remain silent and not speak up the Word of God clearly? How dare we as a Church keep quiet and dilute sin to be only a human error, a minor mistake or lack of judgment? How dare we as a Church call that which is evil good, and what which is good evil? How dare we allow the culture to influence the Church, rather than the Church influence the culture? How dare we defile and pollute the Church of God by allowing gay and lesbians to serve as ministers of the Living God? How dare we close our eyes and ears to the injustices that are going on around us? How dare we as a Church remain silent and not speak up against the human sacrifices on the altar of abortion? How dare we say nothing and do nothing as the children of God?

In today’s reading the Apostle Paul exhorts and encourages us to be different than the world. He bids us to live as children of God with a purpose and mission. He wants us to shine like bright beams of light to those who are walking in darkness. The Apostle Paul with these words reminds us our calling as the redeemed of the Lord. To live in His presence and by His power as stars that shine brightly in this crooked and twisted world.

But to live like the children of God in this perverse and twisted world is not easy thing. To be sure it is very difficult because we will go against the grain of society and the prince of this darkness. Sometimes living as children of God costs us lots of pain, grief and anguish. Case in point.

It was during World War II when the Russians came down to the Baltic States while the Nazis where retreating. At first the Communist soldiers didn’t bother or persecute the Christians. But then persecution began in full force. It was in the country of Latvia that the Communist wanted to emphasize that they will no longer tolerate Christianity. They went to the Lutheran Church and got hold of their outspoken and God-fearing man Jerumus. They dragged Jerumus to the town square and asked him to deny his Lord and his faith. Jerumus replied I can’t do that. They threatened him with death by holding a gun to his head and asked him again to deny his Lord and his faith, and again he responded “I CAN’T do that!” Then the Communist soldiers dragged his wife and two sons to the town square and holding a gun to the wife’s head said, “We will kill your family if you don’t deny your Lord.” His wife with tears in her eyes said to Jerumus “DON’T DO THAT, EVEN IF THEY KILL US WE WILL SEE EACH OTHER AGAIN IN HEAVEN.” The soldiers were mad and asked Jerumus one more time and he said, “I CAN’T!” with the first bullet the wife went down. Again they asked, and again he said, “I CAN’T!” and with another bullet, the second child went down. And with another bullet the third child laid in blood before his father right along his mother and brother. With this completed the soldiers walked away and left Jerumus all alone with his dead family. Jerumus was heart broken and devastated. This man shone like a star in this crooked and twisted world of sin holding on to the mighty power of God’s Word and the hope that is found in it. PAUSE.

This past Wednesday, while in St. Louis I went out for supper with my friend Roland Lettner (The host of the afternoon show on KFUO, St. Louis). He asked if he could bring few friends to meet me. “Yes” was my response. At the dinner table I met Andy Whaley a pastor from Plano, TX. He shared his story. 3 years ago Pastor Whaley got married to a beautiful young lady Jen. Jen got pregnant and in her first trimester with the aid of the ultrasound, the doctors realized something was terribly wrong with the baby. The baby had Down Syndrome and other major complications. The doctors consulted with the Whaley’s and informed them that they should abort the pregnancy. They would give them sometime to visit alone and then wait for their decision. Pastor Whaley said, “No need to deliberate over this, the pregnancy will NOT be terminated, for this child is a marvelous creation of the heavenly Father”. Over the next six months, the doctors again and again asked the Whaley’s to abort and each time they said, “NO!” When Katy was born she had much more complications than anticipated. She also had a hole in her heart. Her father baptized her on the spot and she went to the operation table immediately. For three weeks Katy lived on this earth, but now she lives in heaven with her real father. Pastor and Jen Whaley lived like the stars in this crooked and twisted world giving testimony that life is precious even if so called expert think other wise.

Beloved in Christ, Holy Scriptures is filled with examples of men and women who lived their lives as the children of God and shined like the stars in their crooked and twisted generation. People like Abraham, Joseph, Nathan and Ruth to mention but few.

But what about us? Are we taking the words of the Apostle Paul to heart and shining with the bright light of the Gospel in this dark world? Are we making a difference in our society or is the society affecting us? Do we live like bright lights or like dark clouds? When people see us, do they realize that we are the children of the heavenly Father, or the slaves of satan? When people see you, hear you, work with you do they know that you are a Christian one who takes the Word of God to heart and live by it?

Indeed we haven’t always lived like shining stars. At times we lived our lives like dark clouds. We at times shut our ears to the cries of those who are massacred on the altar of abortion for convenience sake. At times we treat the aged as useless and insignificant. At times we treat the handicapped as a burdened rather than a blessing. May God forgive us for our many sins.

But not the Savior—our Morning Star.” During this Epiphany Season we come to realize that His life on earth was shining brightly. His place of birth was indicated by the bright star that shone above Bethlehem. He shined like a star when He was twelve and taught the teachers of the Law in the temple. He shined like a star on the Mount of Transfiguration before His disciples. He shined like the stars when He healed the many sick and raised the dead. But our Savior’s lights never shone as brightly as on that dark and deadly Friday outside the city walls of Jerusalem. Having beat him, spat on him, mocked him and nailed him to the cross He continued to shine in this dark world. From the cross the light shined with all of its glory as He endured the wrath of God and the punishment of hell for us. The Son of God shined upon this crooked and twisted world with His acts of mercy and grace by doing what we often don’t do. He never remained silent of the injustices of this world. He never closed His eyes to the evil of this world. He never shut His ears to the cries of His children. On the contrary He lived His life as the bright beam of Light and hope in this dark and dead world so that those who believe in Him might live in that light and shine like Him in this place.

Hear me well brothers and sisters in Christ—I WANT TO ASSURE YOU TODAY THAT ALL OF YOUR SINS HAVE BEEN FORGIVEN—regardless of what that sin is, Christ’s death has atoned you. He has died for the sin of abortion, adultery, gossip, denial of the faith, treating others like dirt with unkind and uncaring words. Don’t leave this place burdened by sin. Know for certain God has forgive you ALL OF YOUR SIN because His Son Jesus the heaven-sent Savior died for all of them and rose again to assure you they are all forgiven.

The Bright Morning Star our Savior has called us to shine like the stars in this crooked and twisted world. He has called us to make a difference in the dark recess of our family, church, community and nation. He wants us as His beloved children to diagnose with the bright light of the Gospel the sin that separates us from Him and puts us to death. Our morning Star calls us to shine with the bright beam of hope so that we can glorify our heavenly Father with the work that we do.

What a privilege the Lord gives us today as His beloved children to shine in this crooked and twisted world. What an awesome blessing the Lord gives us each day as his stars in this world to shine with the power of the Gospel leading others to see in the crucified Son of God life and hope and light and love.

I pray, on this Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, that we would speak up and stand up in defending the unborn; protect the aged and infirmed and make a difference in the lives of those who are still captives of the devil and living in the darkness of sin. God grant it for Christ’s sake who is our bright Morning Star. Amen.

Now the peace…

“Good Job!” (Mark 1:9-11)

S‑1094 1/11/2009 Baptism of the Lord (O)#131; (S)# 134; L.S.# 301; #316; #298; (C)# 20

Texts: Genesis 1:1-5; Romans 6:1-11; Mark 1:4-11

Theme: “Good Job!” (Mark 1:9-11)

Question: “When was the last time someone told you “good job!?”

Armour, SD. SOLI DEO GLORIA.

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! The text for our meditation is from the Gospel lesson:In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when He came up out of the water, immediately He saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on Him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are My beloved Son; with You I Am well pleased(Mark 1:9-11).

Saints in Christ, a basketball player comes off the court and his coach says, “Good job!” A student turns in a test, and her teacher writes, “Good Job!” An employee gets a message that the boss wants to see him, and when he goes to the office the boss say, “Good Job!” A new military recruit is in training, and his commander tells her, “Good Job!” Today, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we hear God telling us that His Son is doing a Good Job.

Mark informs us that many people were going out in the wilderness to be baptized by John. And while John was baptizing many repentant sinners, Jesus comes and stands among the multitudes and is baptized like the rest of humanity. As He comes out of the water we hear the voice of God’s approval on His Son’s mission to save the world with these words, ‘You are My beloved Son; with You I Am well pleased’” With these words, God was saying to Jesus, “Good Job!”

Why is it that even at the beginning of Christ’s mission that the Father speaks these words? Why are not these words spoken after everything had been completed by the heavenly guest who came to earth? Because when God spoke these words, it is as if the events had already happened.

This mission which Jesus was about to embark on following His baptism was the saving of humanity from hell’s destruction. Christ began saving us by taking our sins and the sins of the whole world on Himself. Jesus comes to the Jordan River as an innocent and holy child of God, yet associates Himself with sinners by being baptized just like them. Please keep in mind that Jesus didn’t need to be baptized for His sins. He had nothing for which to repent, for He was spotless and sinless. But He did it for us to fulfill all righteousness. He did it as the Lamb of God who took upon Him all of the world’s sins. And by this act, Jesus shows us how important Baptism is and what a good job He did in this marvelous gift.

In Baptism, we have a mighty work of God, by which our sinful nature is drowned, and a new man in the image of Christ is brought forth.  So Baptism is not merely a minor event that happened in our past.  It is a great treasure with deep meaning for our life as Christians. And because we are baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection, God’s ultimate job for our sake, we would want to do a good job so that the words that were spoken by our heavenly Father at the Baptism of His son might be spoken over us as well. PAUSE.

We live in a world that demands that we do a good job or we will not be accepted. Consider the ratings that President Bush has many would say, “He didn’t do a good job as a president.” Many in the Republican Party say John McCain didn’t do a good job running his campaign. Many in the stock market tell us that Madoff didn’t do a good job protecting his investors’ money; instead he stole from them billions of dollars. Many would say that Coach Brad Childress of the Minnesota Vikings didn’t do a good job last Sunday in the playoff game.

But what about us? Have we done a good job? If God were to view our lives, will He say to us “Good Job”? Will He be pleased with how we live our lives for Him? Will He be pleased of how we spend our money? Will He be pleased with the use of our talents? Will He be pleased in how we treat our neighbor? Will He be pleased with our mission efforts? Certainly not!

Why not? Because most often we live for ourselves rather than for God and His Kingdom. We are so different than our Savior. Our Savior, the sinless Lamb of God came to earth to carry out the Mission of God. On the other hand, we want to carry out our mission. We live for our personal gain. We live for the moment and not eternity. We don’t do the good job that we are supposed to be doing, as the Apostle Paul reminds us in Ephesians: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them”. (2:10).

Indeed, this is why we are still around in this world. We have been baptized. By that act we have become children of the heavenly Father. By this act we become soldiers of the cross. In Holy Baptism we pledge ourselves to the blood flag of our Redeemer. Through this act, Jesus our big brother lives in us to do a good. But we have failed miserably in that department.

But on account of Christ we can be thankful for all that He has done. In Mark 7 we read these words: “He has done everything well!” (36). The people who came in touch with Jesus saw in His Words and deeds the image of God carrying out the ministry of love in action. Jesus did do a “Good Job”—healing blind eyes, opening deaf ears, healing crooked legs and arms, liberating people from leprosy, comforting the crumbled heart, freeing those imprisoned in their own sin—yes, Jesus does all things well for our benefit. And He still does them even today.

The Good Job of the Savior was begun at His baptism, was carried out in Gethsemane when the Good Job of Christ was fulfilled in Him giving His life in death on the disgraced cross as a Lamb. And it was completed by Christ’s rising from the dead on the third day. The Good Job of Jesus is ours by faith alone. The Good Job of the Messiah will never be taken away from us. The Good Job of Jesus is ours today. He showers us with His good job as He forgives our sins; as He blesses us in receiving His body and blood and He sends out in is peace to do a good job for Him.

For this reason we Lutheran Christians cherish our Baptismal day. For on that day we became children of God. On that day the grace and Mercy of God became ours on account of our Savior, Jesus Christ. On that day the power of death was removed from us and life in heaven was given us. On that day forgiveness was granted us in the simple means of the water and the Word. On that day life as a child of God was begun. Pastor Paul put it this way in our Epistle reading: “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 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” (Romans 6:1-4).

Beloved in the Lord, the water has long since evaporated from your skin.  But the Blessing remains, now and forevermore because God says to us, “with You I am well pleased”. And because God at Christ’s baptism accepted His saving work, He is well pleased with us.

Christ’s baptism is important not only for Himself but for us also. Because Jesus was baptized for our salvation, we are baptized and given salvation in His name. He clothed us in His robe of righteousness, and that gift of salvation is what makes God say to us, “Good Job son/daughter! Good Job of reaching the lost! Good Job of sharing the Good News! Good Job of being my faithful disciples! Good Job in loving your neighbor! Good Job in living for me. Good Job in your stewardship life” PAUSE.

A young man rejoices in being praised by his coach. A young woman is happy when she gets the results on the test saying, “Good Job!” How much more for us the followers of the Savior, to hear our heavenly Father say, “My son, My daughter with YOU I am well pleased!?”

God grant us always the joy of hearing theses words spoken to us solely as a gift by His grace alone. Amen.

Now the peace of God…

Friday, February 6, 2009

this is a test...

Thursday, February 5, 2009