Sunday, May 17, 2009

"It is NOT burdensome!" (1 John 5:3).

S-1120 5/17/09 6SAE/3B Hymns: (O) #457; (S)# 276; (C) #651

Texts Acts: 10:34-48; 1 John 5:1-8; John 15:9-17

Theme: "It is NOT burdensome!" (1 John 5:3).

Question: “How would you describe your life?”


Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen! Indeed! Alleluia! The text for our meditation is from the Epistle lesson: “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3).

Saints in Christ, LIFE can be viewed from two different perspectives. To put it another way, it all depends where you are in life. Consider this: Holes in the road are considered a burden and a headache for us because they ruin our cars and make the road bumpy, but for the birds of the air, they are a blessing because God provides for them pools of waters to drink and play. Hitting a deer is burden for us, because we are inconvenienced to be without a car and the money we have to pay to fix it; but for the body shop owner it is a blessing because this is a job security through which he/she is able to provide for his/her family.

There is no greater example of the matter of perspective than the cross. Just think about it. If we look at the cross on face value, all we see is a beaten and bloodied Jew. As the Prophets would say, we would be more likely to turn away in horror rather than gaze upon Him. But if we look at the cross from the perspective of the sinner in need of a Savior, there can be no more beautiful sight. For there, in the beaten and bloodied body of Jesus, we see light. In His death, we see the life that is ours for an eternity! It is all in how we look at it. And only faith can have this correct perspective.

And our life as a Child of God takes on this perspective issue as well. We see it in these words from St. John’s first letter. The challenge for us this morning as we consider the text which the evangelist John by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit has given us; is this: Do we consider what Christ has given us His beloved Children to do as a blessing or a burden? The answer, it all depends from which view you are looking at this text.

If we are truly children of God, hearing and believing what He give us, then what He commands us do is not a burden, but a blessing. On the other hand, if we live as our own gods, seeking our own pleasures, only thinking of ourselves; then it is a burden.

As His blood bought beloved children, following His example, we do what He has asked of us—to keep His command and these commands are not heavy or burdensome; but are a joy to the believer to share with others. What a blessing to be invited by the Author of Life Himself so that we can share His love with a world that desperately need to be freed from the burdens of this life and the shackles of the devil.

Because in our call to be children of God we often forget the message and power of the cross; John reminds us again today that Christ’s Commandments are not burdensome. Why, because Jesus said so. Listen to the text again please: “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3). Here it is in black and white. To live as a child of God is not a burden. To serve God is not a burden. To love God is not a burden. To serve neighbor is not a burden. Only a blessing because it draws us to our loving Savior and those we serve.

Our heaven-sent Savior and Lord, Jesus bids us to cast our burdens on Him. In the Gospel of Matthew 11 we hear Him say, “Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I Am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light” (28-30). Did you hear the fabulous promise from the lips of Jesus? Hear it again: “For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light”.

Indeed, the yoke that Jesus gives us is not a burden, but a blessing—to love one another as Christ has loved us. Here Jesus changes the way we look at it. Having been loved by Christ, we love one another. The love that we have flows from the heart of the Savior, who loved us and demonstrated that love as He carried the burden of our sins on the cross and paid for them with His whole life.

For this reason, you and I as children of God, know that in the Resurrection victory we rest and celebrate what Christ has given us—new life in Him, salvation, peace, joy and FORGIVENESS FOR ALL OF OUR SINS. PAUSE.

The key to understanding this relationship between love and commandments is who we are made to be by God. If we get this wrong and think that this is something we make ourselves to be, of course the commandments would be burdensome if we were to LOVE in order to be children of God. But the cross changes things! Since we are already children of God through the cross and the empty tomb; His commandments to us are not burdensome. It is nothing other than being what God has made us to be in Christ!

And yet so many people walk around as they are carrying all the world’s burdens on their shoulders. They view themselves as useless, unappreciated and unwanted by God or others. They are not happy in life. Many are looking for a way out. Many try to play god, in order to remove the burdens that is overwhelming them; even to the point of taking their own lives.

Do you know that in this country there has been a great increase of people committing suicide? The increase is carried out by young teenagers and older adults. But to those who view their lives as empty, worthless or inferior because they can’t carry out their purpose in life evaluate how God uses all situations for our good and for His glory. Consider the story of Joseph (Gen. 37-43) Rejected and disowned by his own brothers, this man of faith was sold as a common slave for 20 pieces of silver. Yet God worked it out in his life that he would save many. Hear Joseph’s own words: “And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors” (Gen. 45:5-7).

For those who are so overwhelmed and feel it is time to depart from this world, and wish that God would intervene and take them home, consider the words of the Apostle Paul, “I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account” (Phil. 1:23-24).

For those who think that their lot in life—disability renders themselves useless and worthless and only a burden to others. Consider how God uses every situation for our benefit: And His disciples asked Him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ Jesus answered, ‘It was not that this man sinned, or His parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him(John 9:2-3).

Certainly in life there are burdens, heartaches and pain. But as the beloved children of God we do what Jesus exhorts us to do—love one another; share His love and spread His Gospel. The Apostle Paul said it this way: “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2).

To fulfill the law of Christ is to love God and honor Him, even when it is not easy or pleasant to do. In the O.T. the prophets had the burdens to preach the Word of God and call people to repentance. And, we, as the children of God of the 21st century have the same honor and privilege. Sometimes it is not fun telling people they are living in sin; it is not fun asking them to turn from their evil life-style; but it is important for us to do, since Christ has done that for us.

We don’t do these things because we want to earn God’s favor or more of His love; but since He has already loved us—we follow His decrees. For in Jesus we see the true meaning of what love is. Look closely and you will see that He offers you forgiveness on the anvil of His cross. There the hammer of sin’s punishment pounded mercilessly. But when Good Friday’s darkness was over, the sunshine of God’s forgiveness shone brightly. And you and I get what Jesus paid for—salvation, life and peace. PAUSE.

Today, by the grace of God we have come, we have left our burdens at the foot of the cross and received the love that He gives us. Having drank from the fountain of love, we leave here to sprinkle others with His love and lighten their burdens by sharing that love with them. God grant us the joy and privilege to share the blessings of His commandments today and always. Amen.

Now the peace…

Sunday, May 10, 2009

“Are You listening?” (1 John 4:5-6)

S-1119 5/10/09 4SAE/3B Hymns: (O)#5; (S)# 296; L.S. #314; #642 LSB; #200 (C) #53

Texts Acts 8:26-40; 1 John 4:1-11; John 15:1-8

Theme: “Are You listening?” (1 John 4:5-6)

Question: “How is your listening skill?”


Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen! Indeed! Alleluia! The text for our meditation is from the Epistle lesson: “…They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error” (1 John 4:5-6)

Saints in Christ, on April 27th 1994, I received a call from a church called Redeemer Lutheran Church, Armour, SD. I didn’t know where Armour was. However I was very excited to come and serve as your pastor (as many candidates are). After I got the call, I asked one of my colleagues who had been serving as a pastor for a year, what is the greatest advice you can give me? He said, “Listen to your people!” That’s a great advice. I pray that I have done so since I have been with you.

Listening is an art that takes time. Many people hear but don’t listen. To listen, you have to be intentional. You have to pay attention. You have to be aware of your surrounding. It is not important just to hear, but to listen; really LISTEN.

A story is told of a Native American who traveled to New York City to visit one of his friends. As he and his friend were walking down the streets, the visitor said, “I hear a cricket!” His friend said, “How can you hear a cricket in this great noise of cars and buses and people?” The visitor responded, “It all depends what you are listening for!” The visitor stopped closed his eyes and listened more intently and said, “The noise is coming from those bushes!” He and his friend walked towards the bushes, and as he pushed the leaves away the cricket ran for cover.

In the Epistle lesson for today, John tells us of the importance of listening to the voice of those who know God. Those who know God listen to Him and to His followers. John can share these thoughts with us, because as you know He was one of the inner circle of Jesus. He along with Peter and James spent many hours with their Master and Lord. He learned the art of listening because he heard Jesus teach on this subject often saying, My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of My hand’” (John 10:25-28). And again, The one who hears you hears Me, and the one who rejects you rejects Me, and the one who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me (Luke 10:16). And again, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Rev. 2:29).

The same close inner circle of Jesus’ disciples were invited one day to go with Him to a high mountain. There they beheld His transfiguration. But at the same time they heard the voice of God saying, “This is My Son, whom I love; with Him I Am well pleased. Listen to Him!” (Mt. 17:5).

So how is your listening skill? Are you listening to the voice of the One who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light? PAUSE.

Children of God today our nation observes and celebrates Mother’s day. It is fitting that the text for today exhorts us to listen to our mother for many a mother has said, “Are you listening to me?” They ask this question because they want their children and even their husbands to hear what they are about to say because it is important.

Sadly many don’t listen to the voice of their mothers or Mother Church. Many ignore the warnings that are given by God in His Word. Many disobey the decrees of God. Many even challenge the teachings of the Church. Who said, “Homosexuality is sin?” Who said, “Women can’t be pastors?” Who said, “There is only one way to heaven—through Jesus Christ!” Who said, “You shouldn’t get a Scriptural divorce!” Who said, “You can’t be happy pleasing and thinking only of yourself!”

There are many voices in this world that are screaming at our ears to listen to them. There are many voices that want to distract us from the truth. Satan, self and sin beckon us to listen to our thoughts and ideas instead of God’s Word.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, a few weeks ago, I preached a sermon called, “Let No One Deceive You!” That same message still applies today because there are many who attempt to deceive us to listen to the voices of the world, rather than the voice of the Savior.

Today, John speaks of God’s children who listen to the voice of their mother-the CHURCH. Those who are true children, who know the truth, are not ashamed to listen to the teachings of Christ—the teaching that reminds us how dearly we are loved by God. God’s love story is told for all who would listen.

We know of this love story. We hear it often. Many of us have learned this from our mothers. We learned it when we were children and continue to listen to it even as we grow older in years. The story of how Jesus listened to the voice of His Father. How do we know that He listened? Read the Scripture and see what it tells us. He listened to every syllable of God. He listened by suffering our punishment. He wore the crown of thorns. He took our beating. He was nailed to the cross. Jesus listened and was obedient to the will of God even to giving up His life on the cross of Calvary. There He taught us the blessing of listening to the voice of God and even now calls us to listen to His voice and to all of those who teach His commandments.

As children of God we have been listening to the voice of God ever since the waters of Baptism were sprinkled over us. By the Spirit’s power our ears have been listening to Jesus’ Words and decrees. We have come to His house often to hear Him say, “I forgive you all of your sins!” We have heard the invitation, “Come and eat, Come and drink…this is My body and My blood given for you!” We have heard the message to go out into the world and share His love. We have heard the truth that we are the beloved of the Lord. What a blessing for us to listen to the voice of the Master teacher, Jesus Christ.

For after all He is our Good Shepherd and His true sheep listen to every Word He says because it brings us to a closer walk with Him. PAUSE.

A famous actor was once the guest of honor at a social gathering where he received many requests to recite favorite excerpts from various literary works. An old preacher who happened to be there asked the actor to recite the 23rd Psalm. The actor agreed on the condition that the preacher would recite it also. The actor’s recitation was beautifully intoned with great dramatic emphasis, for which he received a lengthy standing ovation. The preacher’s voice was rough and broken from many years of preaching, and his diction was anything but polished. When he finished, there was no applause; but there also wasn’t a dry eye in the room. After the gala had concluded, someone asked the actor what made the difference. He replied, “I know the psalm, but he knows the Good Shepherd.”

When it comes to our relationship with God and our eternal well-being, the saying applies, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” By God’s grace we know the Good Shepherd; not just with knowledge of the facts but with firm and solid trust.

Jesus said, “My sheep know Me.” Consider the miracle of that statement. By nature we don’t know God. We neither know all the facts about Him, nor do we claim any relationship of faith and trust.

However, due to the Gospel of Jesus Christ; His love for us; His death and resurrection which He endured for us; we have a different picture of our loving God and Savior. Through His Gospel, God has introduced Himself to us, not as an impersonal judge but as a loving Shepherd. What a wonderful thing He has done for you. Think of all the voices crying out for your attention and allegiance. Follow me! No, follow me. Jesus tells all those forces of evil that want to make us wayward sheep, “No, My sheep know Me. They trust Me. They love Me. They listen to Me. They know that I will keep them on the road to glory in heaven.”

What a blessing for us as the Children of God, (even mothers are children too), to be in God’s house to listen to His voice yet once more and be fed again at His table and send out into the world blessed by Him because He loved us so much. Amen.

Now the peace…