Sunday, June 28, 2009

“Don’t Be Afraid…Only Believe?” (Mark 5:36)

S-1127 6/28/09 3SAP/3B Hymns: (O) #649 (S)#410; (C) #47

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

Theme: “Don’t Be Afraid…Only Believe?” (Mark 5:36)

Question: “Do You Always believe everything?”


Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen! Indeed! Alleluia! The text for our meditation this morning is the Gospel lesson: “But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, ‘Do not fear, only believe’ (Mark 5:36).


Saints in Christ, in last week’s sermon I said, “Sometimes the storms in our lives are externals and others are internal. These storms that come into our lives cause us much fear. Fear of not knowing what to do, where to go, what to say, or who to see.” A politician once said, “There is nothing to fear except fear itself!” Today’s text deals with two internal storms that affected two different people as they came in contact with Jesus. These two people were dealing with fear. Fear that grabbed them. Fear that grounded them. Fear that gagged them.

We all have fear of some sort. It affects our lives, our outlook and our activities. And fear is no friend of the preacher or the people of God. Fear causes us to do things that we would never dream. Fear makes us irrational. It leads us to surrender the things we treasure most. Fear is nothing other than a tool of the devil.

It was fear that kept the woman in our text from coming to Jesus face to face. She had been suffering from a “bleeding problem.” We aren’t talking about a scraped knee here. We are talking about menstrual issues. Now, this doesn’t seem like much to us today, but for her, it was a serious issue. She had two things to fear. The first and most pressing fear was that she would never be rid of this condition. If you have ever dealt with chronic illness or watched someone you love live through a chronic disorder, you know the frustration. She had seen the best “doctors” of the day and they brought her no relief but grief. Jesus might well be her last great hope.

Now, for us, Jesus being the last great hope would be nothing to be afraid of. However there was another problem. This bleeding issue presented an even bigger issue. It made her unclean. No rabbi or priest would ever touch her. To do so would make them unclean. So here is the woman’s greatest fear: Her last and only hope is walking by, but under the rules of the day, He wouldn’t touch her. In her mind, no touch meant no healing. The fear of this caused her to do the unthinkable. She tried to sneak some healing. PAUSE.

There is even more fear in this text today. There is the great fear of Jairus. This fear made him do the unthinkable. As a leader of the synagogue, it would be career suicide for him to approach Jesus. But the fear of the loss of his place in the community was outweighed by an even greater fear. That fear was the illness of his daughter. It was the fear of this loss that would cause him to do the unthinkable. He goes to Jesus and beggs Him to come “lay His hands on her” and make her well.

In our text we find two people that have fear driving them to do what they would never do otherwise. What about you? What has fear driven you to do? Are you in the midst of storms in your personal life that you are ashamed of so much so that you don’t think God would understand? Have you been so afraid of what others think of you that you are unwilling to be reconciled to a family member or brother or sister in Christ? Or has fear kept you from sharing your relationship with Jesus Christ with a loved one that either doesn’t have one or has allowed theirs to cool to the point of jeopardizing their eternal soul?

Or what are we as a congregation afraid of? There are so many challenges that face the people of God today. The world in which we live which at one point used to be so in tune with us now seems so dissonant. Our message of new life in Christ which was once common knowledge is now treated as a threat to our society. The message of salvation in Jesus Christ ALONE has even been called terrorist in some circles. It would be easy to be afraid.

And how does Jesus answer our fears? First and foremost He challenges them. When touched by the woman who was trying to sneak some healing from the hem of His garment, He would not let it pass. He stops the procession and silences the crowd. He zeroes in on the hoping to be hidden woman and singles her out. But instead of a tongue lashing, she gets touched with love by the Great Physician and commended her act of reaching out to Him. Her faith does more than makes her well. The actual word in the Greek means it saved her. She is saved from the bleeding, but more than that she is saved from her greatest problem. Her greatest fear is not the uncleanness of the bleeding but the uncleanness of her sin. And this has been done away with by Jesus’ loving touch. Here in this place we see the reason, why we need NOT be afraid to come to Jesus. He is the One who bids us come to Him. How many times do you read in the Scriptures Jesus’ kind, caring and compassionate invitations? And through His help, this bleeding woman is now brought forth to the family of God. Jesus is the answer to all of her fears.

The encounter with the woman allows Jairus’ fear to come to fruition. As the woman’s fears are answered, the news comes that the young girl has been caught in the clutches of death. Fear rules the day in the household of the respected man. That is, until Jesus gets wind of it.

Looking at the now distraught father in the eyes, Jesus utters what seems to be nonsense. “Do not fear, only believe!” Fear for his lost child would have been in order. Fear of not holding his daughter again tugged at the strings of his heart. Fear of not seeing His daughter again, stifled his mind. The power of grief is REAL. You know this power first hand. How many times have you felt the fear of helplessness in the face of death? Death seems so powerful, so final. PAUSE.

But not with Jesus! With a word death is defeated. With a simple word, “Little girl, get up!” death is undone. With a simple word, “Your faith has made you well,” blood stopped flowing. The greatest of fears is conquered by this Great Rabbi. He makes the unclean clean. He makes the dead live. He does the impossible. This Jesus is something else!

And imagine what this same Jesus wants to do for you! You see, even as Christians we face fears. We talked about some of them earlier. We are fearful of events in our world. We are fearful of circumstances in our lives that we can’t control or change. We are fearful of so many things. And yes, at times when we insist on making life make sense, we are even afraid of death itself. But these words are not just the words of a fairy tale. These words recorded by St. Mark so many centuries ago were meant for so much more than just “once upon a time” or “way back when.” These words of Jesus are here and now words. They are words that speak to our situations. These words are words of the faith in the face of fear. But this faith is not rooted in our ability to grab ourselves by the bootstraps and pull ourselves through. No, these words take us back to the person and work of Christ, whose living Word still speaks: Fear not, for I Am with you; be not dismayed, for I Am Your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand” (Is. 41:10).

Remember how we said that fear leads us to often do the unthinkable. How unthinkable would it be for you to willingly and intentionally send your only son to die in the place of people who constantly disobeyed and disbelieved you? There are a lot of people in this world that I love dearly. But there isn’t one of them for whom I would sacrifice my children.

Knowing that we would be lost for eternity and considering that the unthinkable, our Heavenly Father and gracious God did the unthinkable—He sent Jesus, His One and Only Son to the cross for US; fearful, faithless as we are! He did it as the only effort that could save you from your faithless fearfulness. This is a done deal. This is an accomplished reality. The cross happened in real time. It brought about real death. That death conquered real fear, because that cross was not the end. On the other side of the cross lays and empty tomb. Well, it was occupied for three day, but now and forevermore that tomb is empty. For with Jesus, death has met its match. Our GREATEST fear has been foiled.

Now to us, in the face of what Jesus has done, we hear those same words that Jairus heard. Don’t fear, only believe”. Our faith is rooted in the resurrection reality of Jesus Christ. When Christ has conquered death for us, there is really nothing we need fear. Sure, there are things that will unsettle us. There will be things that give us pause. There will even be times when our sin brings us to the summit of shame. But in each of these places, and a thousand more, Jesus comes to find us. He stops the procession. He silences the unbelieving and scoffing crowd. He looks directly into our eyes and hearts. And with a simple word, all our fears are done away with. In Word and Sacrament, a word read, a word preached, a word splashed or a word ingested, Jesus says to us “Don’t Fear. Only Believe”. Your sins are forgiven. Your eternity is guaranteed. Nothing can harm you. And in amazement and faith we can only say, AMEN.

Now the peace…

Friday, June 26, 2009

“Why Are You Still Afraid?” (Mark 4:37-40)

S-1126 6/21/09 3SAP/3B Hymns: (O) #649 (S)#410; (C) #47

Texts Job 38:1-11; 2 Corinthians 6:1-13; Mark 4:35-41

Theme: “Why Are You Still Afraid?” (Mark 4:37-40)

Question: “Are There Any Storms Raging in Your Heart?”


Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen! Indeed! Alleluia! The text for our meditation this morning is the Gospel lesson: “And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But He was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke Him and said to Him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ And He awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, ‘Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?’”

Saints in Christ, we who live in the Midwest know all too well about storms. We know about summer storms and winter storms. As it was this past week, almost every night people sat glued to the TV tracing the storms as they are coming from the South, West, North and whatever direction they came. Some followed the storms on the computer with live Doppler radar. As the storm was approaching our town, we were evaluating what we should do to get out of the way of the storm. And so it is also in the winter storms. When there is a total white out, you want to make sure that you are safe and protected.

Thankfully we have Doppler radars. Thankfully we have weather stations. Thankfully we have computers and TV’s that help us know the latest forecast, the warnings of impending storms.

Unlike us though, over 2000 years ago a band of disciples were on the Sea of Galilee. These were experienced fishermen. They lived by the Sea. They had made their living out of the Sea. And yet while they were in the boat, a storm raged. The storm was so big and so fearful, that even these experienced seamen, after attempting everything in their power, couldn’t control the situation. In desperation, they went to the One who was sleeping in the back and said, “Don’t You care that we are perishing? In another place, in Matthew and Luke the disciples cry out to Jesus saying, “Lord, Save us!”

And He gets up and with one simple word He says, “Peace! Be Still!” And the authors of the Gospels tell us that both the wind and waves obeyed Him and became quiet. In astonishment the disciples said, “Who is this that the wave and the wind listen to Him?” In the O.T. reading for today, you heard God the Almighty Father speak with Job, “Where were you when I told the sea this far you could come and no more?” Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Who are you that counsel men with stupidity?” (Job 38:1-11). PAUSE

You and I, only look at the things right before our own eyes. We don’t see that God is in total control of every situation. And many times we are sore afraid. When the storms of life come upon us, we cry out to God, “God aren’t You concerned about me?” “Don’t You care that we are perishing?” All of us have storms raging in our lives. Sometimes they are physical storms. You are driving down the highway and you see the Tornado coming and say, “Now what? Where do I go from here?” Or like the event that happened to me some 30 years ago. I was a student in college. I attended a workshop on Death and Dying by Elizabeth Kubler-Roth in Aberdeen, SD. I had one of those big cars (like a boat about 15 feet long), I along with five other women began the drive home. And it began to snow and the snow never stopped and I no longer could see the emblem on the front of my hood. A total white out. You talk about fear. Holding on to the steering so tightly that your knuckles turned blue, paying attention to every sound, and unsure where you are going or where the stop signs are. You are not sure if there is a car coming or out in front of you stalled. There is FEAR.

Storms rage in our life, that’s physical. But what about the one’s in our hearts? What about the storms that shake us to the core—that big word which we hate to hear from the doctor capital C—CANCER! What about the big letter D, that comes in the mail from the attorney—I want Divorce! Or what about the word from the doctor’s office, “Sorry, there is nothing else we can do!

Liberty sometimes is taken away from us, loss of life, loss of job, pain and heartaches; these are the storms that rage within our hearts, and we cry out to God, “Don’t You care that we are perishing?” The disciples cried out to the Lord. The Psalmist tells us that the Lord neither slumbers nor sleeps (Ps. 121:4). In His human form Jesus was sleeping on the cushion in the back of the boat; but the Divine Author of Life, was awake and in control of the situation. And regardless of what storms are raging in your lives today, be certain of this: Sometimes the Lord calms the storm. Sometimes He lets the storm rage and calms His child. Even though we know this we at times are afraid.

Just like the Disciples, they had spent three years with their Master; they had seen the miracles; they heard His Words “I Am with you always… Come unto Me...I will protect you…I will deliver you...” They had seen the miracle of Lazarus being raised from the dead; they have seen Him multiple the fish and the bread; and yet in the midst of the storm they couldn’t see anything save the storm itself. They didn’t see the Savior. PAUSE.

How many times are we like the Disciples? We see the storm, we see the pain, the agony, the afflictions as Paul talked about in the Epistle reading from 2 Corinthians 6:1-13), we don’t see the Savior. Yet in the midst of our storms we hear the Savior saying, “Lo, I Am always with you to the very end of the age” (Mt. 28:20).

Today, we observe and celebrate Father’s Day. One of the greatest blessings a man has is to be a father. You know any man can produce a child. But it takes a man who fears God and a heart for the Gospel that is a true father. The greatest event as fathers that you and I can do is not to teach our sons how to cook a good steak on the grill, to mow the lawn, or do the dishes around the house. All of these things are great. But the greatest thing a father can do is to wake up on Sunday morning and lead the way for his children to God’s house.

At times we are afraid not knowing what we need to do. It reminds me of a story I heard sometime back. One summer night during a severe thunderstorm a mother was tucking her small son into bed. She was about to turn the light off when he asked in a trembling voice, Mommy, will you stay with me all night?” Smiling, the mother gave him a warm, reassuring hug and said tenderly, “I can’t dear. I have to sleep in Daddy’s room.” A long silence followed. At last it was broken by a shaky voice saying, “The big sissy!”

How many times do we act like big sissy’s when the storms of life come raging upon us? We see the storm but we don’t see the Savior; we see the pain but we don’t see the Deliverer; we see the agony but we don’t see the Author of Life.

In this we text read of the Disciples coming to Jesus. “Master, don’t You care that we are Perishing?” And what does Jesus do? First and foremost He calms their raging hearts. “Why are you afraid?” He then, turns to the wind and says, “Peace! Be Still!” Actually the Greek word is stronger than that, “Shut UP!” He told the Sea, and immediately the Sea calmed down.

You and today, stand in the presence of God, the One who holds all of life; the One who made the Universe, the One who put the stars in the heaven, is the same God who is among us today. He says to us, “Be still and know that I Am God!” You need not be afraid because He went into the midst of the greatest storm of life ever. He met the devil head-on. The storm of the evil forces raged with its greatest might on that Friday. And the wrath of God was unleashed like no other Tsunami or Tornado or winter storm ever could so long ago on that dark Friday.

Jesus took that storm head on. At Calvary He was nailed, He endured the storms of anger, of hate, God’s wrath; He took all of the storms punishments—all of the sins of mankind upon His shoulders. On Sunday morning that storm was calm. He rose victoriously, so that He says to you and me, I Am the God who stills the storms of life whether it is Divorce, Cancer, loss of life or loss of job; I will take care of you.

What does Jesus say, “Come unto Me!” And how dare we approach the Author of Life? How dare we come to Him and ask Him to help us? How can we go to the One who made heaven and earth and say, “help me, save me Lord?”

Just like the Disciples came to Him, so can we by virtue of who we are—sons and daughters of the Almighty Father, who loved us enough to do the impossible to save us—by sending His Son into the storm of earth.

Today and every day, Jesus still calms the storms of our life, whether external or internal He is still here with His people through His Word. For His Word is the Rock eternal that assures “that I Am with you always.” In the Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, you hear His voice saying, “This is for the forgiveness of YOUR sins!” We need not be afraid any more for past sins, for Christ has taken care of them and even the ones we commit in the future. But let us not use this as a license to sin, but rather celebrate that He has overcome sin, death, hell, the devil and the grave.

What types of storms are raging in your hearts? Is it financial insecurity? Is it marital problems? Is it physical? Is it spiritual? Some of you, I am aware of the storms in your lives, others I am not. Don’t take my word to it, but take God’s Word to it. The Eternal Father who said in Isaiah 65:24 “Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear.”

Is there any greater promise that a Pastor can share with His saints? Your heavenly Father the Author of Life is here today, to calm the storms in your life. Whatever they may be, He is here to assure you again, and again, and again; that He who made the heavens and the earth; who placed the sea and its boundaries; He who made you and fashioned you as you are knows your need. So come to Him, cry out to Him, “Daddy, Help Me!” And He does. This is the certainty of the Gospel. This is the guarantee that He gave us. He calmed the storms for the Disciples, He calms the storms for us, and He will calm them for us tomorrow.

So why are you still afraid? Maybe because you are looking at the storm rather than Your Savior. By the Spirit’s power open your eyes and see the Savior, who is able to do everything for you. Look to the cross; to the Word; to Baptism; to the Lord’s Supper and take comfort in His voice as He says, “Peace be to you, for I Am with you today and forever.” Amen.

Now the peace…

Friday, June 19, 2009

“Only God Can Do…” (Ezekiel 17:24)

S-1125 6/14/09 2SAP/3B Hymns: (O) #32; (S)#320; L.S. #324; #311; #307 (C) #49

Texts Ezekiel 17:22-24; 2 Corinthians 5:1-10; Mark 4:26-34

Theme: “Only God Can Do…” (Ezekiel 17:24)

Question: “How Often Do You Play God?”


Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen! Indeed! Alleluia! The text for our meditation this morning is from the O.T. lesson: “And all the trees of the field shall know that I Am the LORD; I bring low the high tree, and make high the low tree, dry up the green tree, and make the dry tree flourish. I Am the LORD; I have spoken, and I will do it(Ezekiel 17:24).

Saints in Christ, many of us think that we are gods. So much so, that I am my own god. I determine what is right and what is wrong. I determine what truth is and what is false. We often play god even when we don’t think we are. Many of us become judge and jury and come to the conclusion that we are right in our decision regardless of what others think. Consider with me how often people play god.

All of the stories I share with you happened last week. Last Sunday in Wichita, Kansas, Late-term abortionist George Tiller, was shot and killed by Scott Roeder while serving as an usher @ Reformation Lutheran Church. Roeder killed him because he didn’t see eye to eye with what Dr. Tiller was doing. He was playing god. Ironically, Dr. Tiller was playing god determining that unborn babies need not be born. Last Monday, in Little Rock Arkansas, Abdul Hakim Mujahid Muhammad a recent convert to the “Religion of Peace”, killed Private William Andy Long because he believed that Private Long was an infidel. Abdul Hakim was playing god. On Wednesday in Washington, DC James W. Von Brunn, an 88-year-old white supremacist from Maryland shot and killed Stephen Tyrone Johns, a security guard for the Holocaust Museum. James Brunn was playing god. On Friday, in New Jersey a 17-year-old girl beat another with a bat and then ran over her 16-year-old friend with an SUV. The 17-year-old girl was playing god.

These are but some examples in our nation’s news. But these people are not the only ones who play god. We do the same. How often do we say something like this? It’s my body I can do what I want with it. We are playing god. Many deny the inerrancy of God’s Word and find much that offends them and do NOT believe it. They are playing god. Some say, being part of the family of God is not important or necessary and neither is church or being in the Word. They are playing god. Others say there is no hell or heaven; no sin or afterlife. They are playing god. We build our own golden calf to worship and adore. We are playing god. A man marrying another man is not sinful or wrong. They are playing god. Many have children out of wedlock and say there is nothing wrong with it. They are playing god. Some people live together before marriage which is contrary to God’s Word and say, it is not sinful. They are playing god. A husband leaves his wife and children for another. He is playing god. We condemn people to hell and call them sinful because we don’t agree with their political agenda. We are playing god.

We are all guilty of being gods in our own image. We determine what is right and what is wrong. We are the judge and jury all at the same time and no one, and I mean no one dare say anything to us about our life-style. It is no one’s business but my own.

It may not be my business, but it is God’s business, for He is the author of life. He alone is God. And He can do what He said He would. Listen to the words of the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Romans. “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen” (Romans 1:18-25).

People of every age and us at times play god because we want to be in control of the situation. But today, God says to us be still and hear what I profess and declare: I Am the LORD; I have spoken, and I will do it What is God declaring? That He alone is God. That He alone is to be worshiped and praised. That He alone can lift the lowly and bring down the proud. That He alone can save from death and hell and sin. That He alone can do what He has promised and He fulfilled every promise He has made in His son, Jesus Christ.

Only God can do what He said He would. He can execute judgment against us. Again, Paul said, “The wages of sin is death” Only God can condemn us to death and only God deliver us from death.

In the words of Ezekiel we see this clearly stated. We see it as God takes the branch from the top of the Cedar and plant it on the height of the mountain and makes it a fruitful tree. This tree will become the largest tree that brings life and shade to many. And this tree is none other than the tree of the Messiah promised of God. He will be taken from among His people Israel and planted on Calvary’s mountain. The Tree of the cross is the most important tree in all of history. It is the tallest tree in the whole world. The only tree that brings about shade and comfort; and by its leaves nations are healed. And beneath it, the birds of the air find refuge and a home.

Jesus in our Gospel reading today, compares the kingdom of God like a mustered seed. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, but when it grows up it will become larger than all of the garden plants and the birds of the air will build their nests in it and live under its shades.

Jesus was speaking of Himself in this reading. He is the tree that has been plucked from among the people of Israel. He was taken from the heights of heaven and brought low to earth. But His Kingdom grew and grew that now after 2000 years of history; it has become the largest tree in the world where over 1.5 billion followers admit that He is the ONLY TRUE GOD THAT SAVES AND DELIVERS.

Indeed ONLY God can do what we can’t do. We can’t save ourselves even if we try. We can’t be gods, even if we think we are or attempt to play god. We can’t erase sin’s stench and the sentence of death. We can’t prolong life, even though we spare no efforts doing so. ONLY GOD CAN.

God does what He said He would do. God does and did deliver us. On Calvary Jesus’ blood was strong enough to cut sin’s filth and get rid of sin’s foul. Only God can do what He said He would—He has brought me to faith through Baptism or the working of His Word and cleansed my heart from the stench of sin. Only God can do what He said He would—He has delivered me by taking me from the lowly places of the world and raised me up to be His son and daughter. Only God can do what He said He would—sin no longer has any hold on me, the devil no longer can accuse me, and death no longer can keep me in the grave. Only God can do what He said He would—save, deliver, forgive, cleanse, redeem and restore me to Him, so that I may live with Him in His kingdom and praise Him forevermore.

You and I at times play god. We should ask for forgiveness for the many times we have done so. But at the same time we can thank God that He doesn’t play the game, but rather that He is God who can do what He said He would do. And the good news He has. Amen.

Now the peace…

Wednesday, June 10, 2009



Isn’t it amazing to study the world we live in? Have you ever noticed how people play different games? Even little children need not be taught the game. They play it like professionals. Ever since the fall into sin, mankind has been quick to play the blame game. Looking for scapegoats is almost as old as time. Adam blamed Eve—“The woman [emphasis mine] You put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” Eve blamed the devil—“The serpent [emphasis mine] deceived me, and I ate.” And Cain blamed God—“So Cain was very angry [emphasis mine], and his face was downcast” (Gen. 3:12-13; 4:5). Due to sin, human nature has the perverse proclivity to pass the buck and duck responsibility. Substituting someone else to take the blame for your mistakes is the name of the game. In politics today, the blame game is so bad; congressmen rarely can find anything good to say about an opponent. The congress blames the president; the president blames the congress; people blame their pastor, pastor blames his people; husband blames wife, wife blames husband; father blames son, daughter blames mother. Disassociating one’s self from one’s mistakes carried to a constant behavior pattern invariably looks for a scapegoat for all the ills of this world.

Our in-born sin causes us to play the blame game. We don’t wish to admit to any mistakes or sinning. It is so easy to scapegoat. A major challenge in our society is to try to have an equal field for all without unwittingly making some folks new scapegoats to pay for our mistakes or someone else’s mistake.

We play the blame game so often that we think that it is the only way to live. But that is not the case. Study Scripture and you will find God doesn’t permit us to get away with blaming someone else for our mistakes. Eventually, we have to stand before the judgment seat of God and give an account to our actions life-style.

But for us who believe in Jesus Christ we take comfort in what He did. The ultimate Slave of mankind, the Omnipresent Lord, Jesus, who willingly became mankind’s scapegoat, assures of this aspect of the scales of Justice. (Matthew 11:24).

Life is not fair.

God is NOT FAIR either! He doesn’t treat us like we deserve. In fact we are saved

How so?

Jesus the Just dies for the unjust in order that He might bring us to God, create within us the will to love all, and bring about reconciliation. One can wonder about the seemingly endless injustices in this world, yet one need not lecture the God of all grace who tasted eternal death and injustice for ALL. (Hebrews 2:9) In theology, we call this the sweet swap, the happy exchange, the great exchange—the Lamb becoming the scapegoat so that humans might cease their scapegoat-ways. While this works for us, it sure isn’t fair to Jesus!

The death of the Lamb of God on the Altar of the cross is the ONE cosmic redemptive, restoring, event capable of ending the perverse proclivity of humans to scapegoat. The term scapegoat originated in the famous ritual of the Hebrews described in the Book of Leviticus. (16:20-22) On the Day of Atonement a live male goat was chosen by lot. The high priest, robed in special priestly garments for that day, laid both his hands on the goat’s head, and confessed over it the sins of the children of Israel. The sins of the people thus symbolically transferred to the goat, it was then taken out into the wilderness and let go. Again good for us, NOT so good for the goat! This foreshadowed how God was sending a coming Redeemer who would once and for ALL take away their sins. In time, believers would realize this scapegoat was a lamb, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. (John 1:29)

Study God’s inspired Word and you will see that it is no accident after John the Baptizer testified that Jesus was the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world; our Lord went into the wilderness. He was driven [Greek emphasis by force] into the desert by the Spirit. (Luke 4:1; Mark 1:12) The goat that bore the sins of Israel into the wilderness in ancient times was sent to Azazel, to the devil, the one who had seduced mankind into sin. (Leviticus 16:8)

Now upon the heels of His baptism, Jesus is cast into the wilderness as a scapegoat to bear the sins of mankind. As mankind’s great high priest, yet living among the beasts, Jesus fulfills both the role of the High Priest and the poor beast in taking our sin into the wilderness to suffer in our place. Ultimately, Jesus would have to be sacrificed like the other wild goat—since there were two Day of Atonement goats. (Leviticus 16:7-10) That ultimate bloody sacrifice occurred on Good Friday when Jesus was killed dying upon the Tree of the Cross at the exact moment the Passover Lamb was being offered up in Jerusalem. Before eternity, this moment was planned to the very second.

Upon the wooden beam of the Cross, Jesus hung between time and eternity even though He was the eternal God come into the flesh. He who created our first parents became the scapegoat for all of mankind’s sin so that He would be the atonement Lamb for all mankind. In so doing, Jesus not only paid to God in full the bill for our sins, but at the same time, He put an end for any pretext on the part of humans scapegoating fellow humans. It is God’s unfair-ness that works our salvation. This is not something to be lamented but rejoiced in!

The blame game continues to be played in our lives and words. But No More Scapegoats are needed, since Christ became our scapegoat so that we might escape the fires of hell. God grant us the power to live for Him, acknowledging our sins and receive His unmerited and unearned grace. The next time you think of playing the blame game think of the Lamb of God—the Scapegoat—who died for you on the Tree of the CROSS.

In Christ’s love and in His service,

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

“A Limitless God With a Limitless Love” (John 3:16-17)

S-1124 6/07/09 Trinity Sunday/3B Hymns: (O) #23; (S)#245; (C) #239

Texts Isaiah 6:1-8; Acts 2:14, 22-36; John 3:1-17

Theme: “A Limitless God With a Limitless Love” (John 3:16-17)

Question: “Do you know your limits?”


Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen! Indeed! Alleluia! The text for our Trinity Sunday is from the Gospel lesson: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him” (John 3:16-17).

Saints in Christ, today we observe and celebrate the Festival of the Trinity. But how do we as Christians describe the Trinity? With what words do we paint the Trinity? How do we communicate the Biblical truth of the Trinity? Many of us (even pastors) often try to explain God. We use analogies, symbols, metaphors and the like to explain what the Trinity is. But there is no way to explain the Trinity. God only reveals Himself in the Bible as being Triune. He doesn’t explain Himself. He doesn’t try to impress us with the understanding of what that means.

We, intellectual people want to know. The bright minds of today, want to know how to put in words the Trinity when asked. This is something that has plagued us in the area of understanding. However, there is even a more puzzling and a greater difficulty in understanding WHY does the Lord love us so unconditionally as to use all of His being, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, to work salvation and faith in us! Why does a limitless God has limitless love for us?

In today’s reading we get a little glimpse of that answer with the discourse between the Jewish leader Nicodemus and Jesus. Nicodemus is troubled by many questions. He has been raised as Jewish man attempting to follow the Law to the letter. And even though, He has done everything humanly speaking to earn God’s favor, be assured of God’s love, be certain of his salvation; he was never sure.

So he came at night. He came because he wanted to know the answers to his aching heart and Christ’s response amazes him. First, Jesus takes every human power away from him by saying you must be born from above. Second, Jesus gives him a lesson on the mighty power of God that is evident yet invisible and finally, Jesus gives him the comforting words of the text—the Gospel in a nutshell to assure Him of the Limitless God with a limitless love saying: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.” PAUSE.

“Lost Dog!” The sign said.

“$500 reward.

Description: Black and tan mixed breed.


Left hind leg missing.

Blind in right eye.

Answers to the name, ‘Lucky’”

Now Lucky doesn’t seem like much of a dog. Not to me anyway. But there is someone who wants him back and he is willing to pay the price to do it. The funny thing is that Lucky doesn’t sound like a dog that’s even able to do a lot. He certainly isn’t worth the reward that’s offered. He has no pedigree, can’t see, can’t run, plagued by fleas… and yet someone wants him back. Someone loves him that much.

Have you ever felt like Lucky? Lost? Unable to do what needs to be done? We all feel that way at one time or another. Actually, God makes it quite clear that we were all like Lucky. The entire human race is “lucky”: lost in our sins, hell-bound, spiritually blind and unable to see God, unable to do what God wants us to do. And yet, God paid the price to have us back. The price He paid was more than a $500 reward. He paid the price not with gold or silver but with sending His only begotten Son who shed His own precious blood. Jesus suffered and died on the cross to have us found. Someone loves Lucky a lot. God loves us even more. You and I have already been found, and returned home to have a relationship with God again. PAUSE.

If we are honest, at times we don’t really equate ourselves with Lucky.  Rather we might be tempted to think “If God loves Lucky He’ll surely love me, because I’m so much better than that.”  At times we feel we deserve more from God than Lucky did because we think we are really good. But alas Isaiah says: “All our righteous deeds are filthy rags.”  “No one does good not even one.” “Surely I was sinful from my birth.”  etc.  As far as how God should look at us in comparison to Lucky... the mangy dog is so much more worthy of God’s love.  In our sin, we deserve only death and eternal punishment.

But that is not what we get. You and I are Lucky indeed. Why, you might ask? Because in the salvation act, there was no luck involved. This was planned before the foundations of the earth. God in love sent His Son, Jesus Christ into the world to redeem and restore them to a right relationship to the Father. Jesus in love goes to the cross to endure the punishment of hell and the wrath of God in our behalf. Jesus became the unlucky One to make us His very own BECAUSE He loves us. And the Holy Spirit proceeded from the Father and the Son to remind us that we have a limitless God with limitless love.

How much are you loved? Study the text today. Don’t just go over the words quickly. Don’t be like someone who holds a sign of John 3:16 at a Basketball or a football game. Don’t just rattle the words without thinking about them. Study those precious words. Know those precious Words. Memorize those precious Words and learn the meaning of those precious Words. And when you do, you might grasp a hint of God’s boundless love for you.

In the text today, we see the enormity of the Limitless God with a limitless love to sinners like us. Continue to study the Hebrew and New Testament Scriptures and your eyes will be opened more just like Nicodemus were. As you read and study you will see clearly that Scripture paints this love on the canvas of human history showing God’s own Son in love saying yes to the Father’s rescue plan for a lost world. Scriptures takes me to the Garden of Eden to know that the plan of salvation is placed in motion; takes me to Bethlehem to remind me how God’s Son was wrapped in my flesh, takes me to Gethsemane to show me the pain and anguish He will suffer for my deliverance, takes me to Calvary to show me the Son weighed down with my sins, and takes me to the tomb to show me again that He died for me and sent down into hell’s depth to carry out this plan of loving me—the sinner.

A Limitless God with a limitless love is our God whom we worship and adore. A limitless God with a limitless love is the One who comes to us whether it is day or night. A limitless God with a limitless love is our Lord and God—Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

I may not know how to explain the Trinity in a way that can be understood but I believe it in faith. I may not know why anyone would want to pay $500.00 reward for a dog that is worthless even if his name is “Lucky”. Yet someone did because he loved his dog. I may not know why God loves me so much. But it doesn’t matter what I think. What matters is that God thinks of me. For He is a LIMITLESS GOD WITH A LIMITLESS LOVE FOR US. His love for us can be known by faith, believed by faith and received by faith.

God’s boundless love is wrapped in the man-God Jesus Christ, who stretched His hands as far as He could on the wooden beams of the cross and died to comfort Nicodemus, you and me that His love is real, and His grace and forgiveness are ours today and always.

Won’t you join me in thanking our Triune God—who is—a Limitless God with a limitless love. Amen.

Now the peace of God…

“Two Little Words: I Will!” (Genesis 2:24)

S-1123 6/06/09 Pentecost 3B

Texts Genesis 2:18-24; Ecclesiastes 4:9-12; 1 Corinthians 13

Theme: “Two Little Words: I Will!” (Genesis 2:24)


Wedding for Eric DeWaard and Kim Morehouse Parkston, SD

Saints in Christ Eric and Kim, family and friends, in the name of Him who is LOVE Jesus Christ. Amen. Today, we stand in God’s house and in His Presence asking Him to be the honored guest and to bless you as you begin this new chapter in your lives. The text I have chosen for this wonderful celebration is from a man of God—Moses who saw first hand God’s love in action and left us a record to help us in life. Listen to Moses today. “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (Genesis 2:24 KJV).

Eric and Kim, I know you have worked hard along with your parents for this special day. Many hours of planning has gone in making this a reality. And we are here today to help you celebrate this special moment. I know from first hand experience that many weddings get done too quickly. But this one will not. It will be done with class and style. It might be a little longer than you thought, but why not spend more time in the Lord’s house, receiving His blessings, made stronger in His Word, rather than on the dance floor. So to those of you, who are gathered here today, relax and give thanks to the Lord for the blessings He gives us in His Word.

Eric and Kim there is an old proverb that says: “Sticks and Stones may break my bone, but words may never hurt me.” That statement is absolutely false. Words hurt. Words harm. Words encourage and discourage. Words build up. Words do matters. Today, by the grace of God you will speak words that matters a lot. Sure they are only two little words, but very important words to guide and guard your hearts, heads and home as you begin on the road we call marriage. And what are these two little words? “I WILL!”

In a few moments, I will ask each of you to answer the second most important question of your lives. Will you Eric take Kim to be your wife…? And you Kim will be asked, “Will you take Eric to be your husband…? And I hope (smile a bit) you will say, “I WILL!”

Two Little Words, but oh what important words. With these Two Little Words, you are telling each other and the world that from this day forward you will be committed to each other. To love, cherish and hold each other dear. From this day forward these Two Little Words, will have a different meaning to you. Kim with these two little words you say to Eric, “I will be your wife to hold you, care for you and love you, and in time bear your children!” These Two Little Word will help you Eric say to, Kim, “Kim, you are the most important woman in the world to me. I will be your husband, cherish you, honor you, protect you, provide for you and in time for our children and make you the happiest woman in the world!” PAUSE.

But know for certain that the devil, the world and your sinful flesh will get in the way of these Two Little Words. You actually are going to be challenged in thinking, did I really say, “I WILL?” Why? What did I see in Him? What did I see in her to say I will? But I WILL is what you say and by God’s grace you will be able to keep saying I WILL for the rest of your lives.

“I WILL” needs the grace of the last Will and testimony gift Jesus gave His bride from His side born of water and blood and love. Jesus gives you grace for your WILL with His WILL—the Love Supper. His gift of His body and blood taken by husband and wife brings you many gifts—forgiveness of sins to move ahead, grace to love, and mercy to be sympathetic to one another’s needs.

An old missionary former Seminary professor, Dr. E.C. Zimmerman had this prayer: “Jesus bend my will in the direction of Your will so that I might learn to truly love.” If you remember Eric and Kim throughout the Pre-marriage counseling sessions we often talked about changing our thinking pattern from “Me” to “We.” When you two say, “I WILL”, you are no longer thinking only of yourselves and what is good for you, you will begin to think of the “We” and what is good for the other.

Now if you paid attention, I read the verse of the sermon from the KJV of Scripture. I had a reason for that. Remember how the text goes: “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh”,

Now the word cleave can be translated as “united”, “bound”, “joined”, “Marries”, “embraces”. Of course all of these translations will do. However, the Hebrew word is stronger. It literally means to be glued. And it in the Present tense, not in the future but from now on till the day God calls one of you home.

For many leaving and cleaving is only about the physical act of marriage.  While that is important and God-pleasing for the mutual expression of love and the procreation of children, ‘leaving and cleaving’ involves much more than just a physical act.  To begin with, your relationship will be one in which you cleave/be glued to each other if you continue to cleave/be glued to the Lord Jesus Christ for your salvation.  That’s what the world does not understand. 

That’s why Paul wrote, “Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for it.” “Wives be submissive to your husbands as to the Lord.”  You see, the “glue” that holds a godly marriage together is the Lord, Jesus Christ.  He is the One who “glues and cements” the relationship.  Because 2 sinners are marrying each other.  Without Him and His salvation through the forgiveness of sins, a marriage is built on shifting sand rather than on the Rock who is Jesus Christ.

Jesus is the GLUE of the universe. St. Paul says in Colossians 1:17 that by Jesus all things hold together. By Jesus the universe is held together. He is truly the cosmic glue to hold together me and you. Science now reveals that every one of the millions of cells we have in our body are held together by a little invisible protein pieces of matter called laminens. Laminens are those little protein pieces that hold our cells together and they come in the shape of a CROSS—we are held together marriage-wise or otherwise by the Cross. So Jesus holds us together and all things in the universe by these trillions upon trillions of little crosses called laminens. So the glue Jesus holds us together is in the form of an invisible CROSS. That reality is to point us to even a greater reality that the “I will” needs to be held, empowered, enlightened by the message I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.

In Jesus’ will is our peace. In Jesus’ will we find the boundaries of God’s love and the boundless love of God.

Saints in Christ Eric and Kim, you will very soon say, those Two Little Words “I WILL”. You have said that because God by His grace WILL GLUE the two of you together with permanent glue, and the two shall become one flesh. In Matthew 19 Jesus says “what God has joined, let man not separate,” so God is the One who has glued you together through your promises of “I WILL” and through their one-flesh union. PAUSE.

There is another proverb that is spoken of in relation to marriage. You actually have it in your bulletin: (ask the congregation to look to the back of the bulletin and read it together) “Something old, something new, something borrowed something blue.” But today, I want to change that phrase to: Something old, something new, something borrowed something Glue!

Well Eric and Kim, you have some of these items already. I, too, have something for you (walk over to the altar and get the doll that is made out of glue bottle)—something new for you—take this bottle of glue and place it in your bedroom where you can see it often and realize that you have been super glued on the hip and on the lip by the loving God Jesus Christ who said, “I WILL MAKE YOU HUSBAND AND WIFE”. Amen.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

“Nothing but Fire kindles Fire” (Acts 2:1-4).

S-1122 5/31/09 Pentecost 3B Hymns: (O) #224; (S)#236; L.S. #225; #226; #229; (C) #234

Texts Ezekiel 37:1-14; Acts 2:1-21; John 15:26-27; 16:4-15

Theme: “Nothing but Fire kindles Fire” (Acts 2:1-4).

Question: “How would you describe your life?”


Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen! Indeed! Alleluia! The text for our Pentecost Day is from the book of Acts: “When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:1-4).

Saints in Christ, sometimes ago I read three quotations that describe the heart of Pentecost. The first quotation is this: “Nothing but fire kindles fire.” The second: “If you want to set someone on fire, you have to burn a little bit yourself.” The third: “A burning heart will soon find for itself a flaming tongue.”

I will need your help to complete this message today. You need to be my chorus. I will teach you a key part of each of those quotations. During the sermon, I will point to you to speak your part of the line. So would you be willing to help me? I will say to you, “Nothing but fire...” and you say kindles fire.” (Repeat as needed so they can learn it.) The second quotation is this: “If you want to set someone on fire, you have to…” You say the second part: burn a little bit yourself.” (Repeat it.) The third quotation is this: “A burning heart will soon find for itself a ... flaming tongue.” Ready? (Repeat it). So now let’s do all three quotations: “Nothing but fire ...” If you want to set someone on fire, you have to ... A burning heart will soon find a ... You have to get into the mood of this sermon: Let’s do it again. “Nothing but fire... If you want to set someone on fire, you have to ... A burning heart will soon find a ... Good. Be prepared during the sermon.

While growing up in Israel, my family would often head to Mount Carmel for a retreat from the city. While there, mother would send us little kids to gather small twigs to start a fire for our grill. Mother would take these small twigs, and put few pine needles on them and light them up. And before long the grill was ready for our shish kabob.

Today, our sermon is about fire. Not a fire that mother started to cook shish kabob, but a movement that spread across the Jerusalem Mountains, the Judean hills, and the Samaritan valleys and across the globe.

This is the fire of the Holy Spirit that inflamed the hearts of the disciples that first Pentecost Sunday. It is the fire that burned with zeal that moved across the wilderness with the fire of the Gospel.

Luke, the author of the text describes the events of the first Pentecost: The disciples were in the temple sharing God’s Good News. These first Christians were waiting for the promise of the Savior to be fulfilled, but they weren’t quite sure what they were waiting for. They were waiting for the Holy Spirit to come on them and in them, but they didn’t know what that would mean. With vivid colors Luke said, “It was like a rush of wind” into the room. The Holy Spirit came into their lives. Like tongues of fire above them. Like tongues of fire inside of them. They knew the power of God inside of them, and they couldn’t help but rush out of that building into the streets to preach. They went from street to street, home to home, neighbor to neighbor, family to family and nation to nation. It was a movement like none other. A movement that swept across the prairies, the villages and towns and countries. That’s the way it was in that first century of Christian expansion. The Flames of the Gospel of Jesus Christ was spreading across the whole world.

Why did that happen? I know why it happened. “Nothing but fire ... If YOU want to set someone on fire, YOU have to ... A burning heart will soon find for itself a ...”

What happened is that those Apostles first went to a village or town. Those first Apostles planted a church, and then went to a second village or town, and planted a church. They went to a third village or town and planted another church. But before they left the villages and towns they left committed people to Jesus Christ. They set up leaders to carry on the cause of Jesus, declaring His death and resurrection to all who would listen.

These people in Greek are called “laos.” This Greek word means, “the laity,” “the people,” “the people of God.” The Apostles always left common and ordinary towns’ people and villagers whose hearts were on fire, whose tongues were on fire, who hadn’t gone to the seminary, who hadn’t seen Jesus face to face, who hadn’t talked with Him in the flesh. These were not the Apostles. These were not the twelve disciples. These were the people of God in each village who spread the Gospel from house to house, neighbor to neighbor, friend to friend and family to family. That’s the way it is: God’s people—preachers and people who believe in the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus become inspired by the Power of the Holy Spirit. It’s God’s people who are on fire that fire up other people about ministry, mission and the message of the crucified and risen Jesus. And it is the Holy Spirit that feeds this fire through the means of Grace so that God’s people will become mature Christians and actively involved in the ministry of the Gospel.

How do the people of God do this? Do they do this by their own power? By their own intelligence? By their own seminary training? Do you want to know why? I’ll tell you why. “Nothing but fire ... If YOU want to set someone on fire, YOU have to ... A burning heart will soon find for itself ...”

Well, that’s what happened in that first century. The first century was a great century of Christian expansion. The Church went to Ephesus, Rome, and even to Spain within thirty years. From farm to farm, village to village, town to town. It was absolutely incredible, spreading across the whole known world. It was like a spreading flame.

Today, we stand in the year of our Lord 2009, and the flame of Jesus Christ is still spreading. It is still spreading like wildfire. The spreading flame of Pentecost is a movement that can’t be drenched or quenched by water, or the devil or man’s will. It is a movement that has changed hearts, and people and countries. From few followers in Jerusalem to over 1.2 Billion believers in Jesus Christ throughout the whole world. You will find Christians in every country persecuted or not. You will find Christians in every continent. You will find Christians everywhere. Why? YOU know why: “Nothing but fire ... If YOU want to set someone on fire, YOU have to ... A burning heart will soon find for itself a ...” Because God’s people are on fire for the Lord carrying out His mission and message and ministry.

Well, that’s the good news. Sadly there is also bad news. Many churches have grown cold—the fire has gone out of their hearts and messages. Many countries that were once Christians are now luke-warm; standing on the verge of being heathen nations. We don’t have to go far to see how people, godly people who no longer live for God but for themselves. Consider our own congregation. On any given Sunday we have about 40 people who live in town, that don’t darken the doors of God’s house. Even in our own small community almost 40% are un-churched.

Why is this? Because many have grown cold. Many churches only look to themselves and not to Christ for power or strength. Many look only to the inside rather than the mission fields. Tragically many have forsaken the faith and live selfish lives.

Brothers and sisters in Christ remember the statements I told you in the beginning of the sermon: “Nothing but fire ... If YOU want to set somebody on fire, YOU have ... A burning heart will soon find for itself a ...”

“If you want to set someone on fire, you have to burn a little bit yourself.” Remember that Jesus is our whole burnt offering! “A burning heart will soon find for itself a flaming tongue.” On my heart imprint your image, blessed Jesus, king of grace, that life’s riches, cares, and pleasures never may your work erase; let the clear inscription be: Jesus, crucified for me, is my life, my hope’s foundation, and my glory and salvation! (# TLH179).

By the grace of God we have come to God’s house to be kindled again with the fire of the Gospel. Today, you and I remember the gift of Baptism by which we were made part of the flames of the Savior. Today, we gather around the table to be fed by His body and blood so that we might glow with the fire of the Gospel. Today, the fire of the Savior, who once was dead but is alive and ascended to heaven, is put on our tongues and in our hearts so that we continue to be on fire for the Lord.

Today, the Holy Spirit continues to come upon us by the hearing of the Word, by the eating of the Word and by the blessed assurance that our sins are forgiven. Having been in the Upper Room with Jesus; having received again the gift of the Holy Spirit; having been fed at His table, we leave here as God’s redeemed people on fire. Why? You know the answer to that question. “Nothing but fire ... If YOU want to set someone on fire, YOU have ... A burning heart will soon find for yourself a ... It is always God’s people empowered by the Holy Spirit that make the difference. Amen.

Now the peace…

“Book II: The Story Continues” (Acts 1:1-3)

S-1121 5/21/09 Asc. 3B Hymns: (O) #341; LSB 633; (S)#212 vv 1-4; L.S.#219; #221; (C) #212 vv 5-8

Texts Acts 1:1-11; Ephesians 1:15-23; Luke 24:44-53

Theme: “Book II: The Story Continues” (Acts 1:1-3)

Question: “I have you ever read a sequel?”


Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen! Indeed! Alleluia! The text for our meditation is from the book of Acts: “In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day He was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles He had chosen. After His suffering, He showed Himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that He was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:1-3).

Saints in Christ, the British author C.S. Lewis wrote a children’s fairy tale called the Chronicles of Narnia. These seven fantasy books deal with the lives of 4 children living in England who are transported to the land of Narnia—an imaginary place. His series begins with the story of “The Lion, The Witch and the Word Robe.” And with each consecutive book, he follows their adventures. Like any good author, C. S. Lewis leaves his plot open for a sequel.

In the 1950s when C.S. Lewis wrote these books it was a rare occasion to have a sequel. But since that time, the movie industry has jumped on the wagon of sequels. We have some of the great movies with sequels. In the 1970s the Rocky Balboa series and Jaws movies hit the big screen. So far we had five Rocky movies. Then came Jaws I and two; and then in the 1980s the Trilogy of “Back to the future.”

A sequel connects people to what took place before and what will take place after. But C.S. Lewis was not the first one to write a sequel. In the Bible, we have the first sequel authored by Luke. In his first book that made it to the Best-seller list – The Gospel of Luke He told us all that Jesus had done. In this book (Acts) he continues to tell of the sequel to the first book.

This is how Luke continues book II: “In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when He was taken up” (v 1). You liked my first book, O Theophilus? Here is the sequel. The readers of Luke are longing to follow up with the sequel of what he has written before about the Nazarene who was dead and now raised to life.

This evening we look at the words of the text in Acts 1:1-11. They are the second book written by Luke the physician to someone named Theophilus (which means lover of God). You need to remember that Luke’s first book is the Gospel of Luke. In this book, Luke describes in details the life of the Nazarene Jesus Christ. This book of Luke (Book I) ended with our Gospel reading, shortly after Jesus’ resurrection from the grave. And yet, as Luke himself writes, his first book records only what Jesus BEGAN to do and teach. Like a master craftsman and a wonderful best-selling authors Luke was leaving his plot open for a sequel.

Luke’s Book II is the Book of Acts, but in a sense, his story continues far beyond his writing. If Book I is the story of what Jesus BEGAN, Book II is the story of how He continued to act through us. If Book I is the story of the Gospel, Book II is the story of how God continues to work through the people to spread the Gospel to every corner of the globe. We can’t read Book II, without first reading Book I. Luke wants us to see them as one unit. Even the original bishops, who met to put the orders of the books of the Bible, got it right. First the Gospel of Luke, then the “Book of Acts” the sequel followed.

Without the Gospel of Luke, Book II would have no meaning for us. Without the Gospel of Luke we wouldn’t know what Jesus did in His earthly life. Without the Gospel of Luke we wouldn’t know the players in the first century—Jesus, Peter, John and the rest. To be sincerely truthful, without the Gospel, the Book of Acts couldn’t have been written.

In the Gospel Luke tells us of the life, suffering, death and resurrection of Christ our Savior. In the Gospel we see Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. In the Gospel Book I, we learn the great love Jesus has for us and the salvation He has won for us through His death and resurrection. With this message of the Gospel we have the sure and certain guarantee that Jesus has assured us of eternal life and deliverance from the grave and the devil.

But in this sequel Book II: the story continues Luke assumes we know and believe the truth about Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. “He showed Himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that He was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God (v. 3).

This Gospel of Jesus, reported in Luke’s Gospel, is required reading in order to move on to Book II—the sequel. Without Jesus’ teachings, there would be no Word to proclaim. Without Jesus’ suffering and death, there would be no reason to speak and share what took place so long ago outside the city walls of Jerusalem. Without Jesus’ resurrection, there would be no hope, no heaven; and the story would come to an end.

And yet, without Book II, the meaning of Book I would have been forgotten centuries ago. The Gospel is not a volume of ancient history that can just sit on a shelf. It’s not simply a good book with which we can curl up in the living room. We can’t just sit back and let someone read it to us. We haven’t finished when we have read and believed Book I. In Book II, the story of Jesus’ works and teachings continues—and it continues through us! The ascension ends Jesus’ earthly ministry, but the ministry is far from over.

The story of the resurrection of the Savior continues in Book II: “He showed Himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that He was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God (v. 3). For forty days, the Savior appeared and confirmed to the disciples that His resurrection is real. His resurrection was not only an event in the past, a chapter in the life of the Man from Nazareth, but a living reality.

Soon He would leave them, but the ministry wouldn’t come a halt. He would equip them with power from on high to be His witnesses beginning in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the end of the earth. By the power of the Holy Spirit which the Savior sent after His Ascension, God used the disciples to change the world. Think of it 12 men went in every direction to proclaim that salvation is found in no one else except in Jesus Christ alone (Acts 4:12).

The same story continues with us. We’ve been baptized with the Holy Spirit too—in the same act of Baptism with water and the Word, many of us as infants and some as adults continue to live in this grace and the story continues to be written in our baptismal lives; and spoken by our tongues in multitudes of ways and in many different countries.

This evening as we gather in God’s holy house, we have considered Book II, in relation to Book I, the continuing sequel to the events that took place in the life of Jesus. And tonight we were privileged that the Ascension marks the crowning glory of Christ seated at the right hand of God the Father interceding for us. And this intercession will continue long past Book II of Luke.

But that is not the end of the story. As Paul Harvey would communicate to us saying, “This is the Ressssssst of the Story” (in Harvey’s voice). If you look closely at the text you see that it appears that Luke has a third Book in Mind. Even though there is not a third Book, we can glean easily that there might be one yet to be written. As the disciples gazed heaven-ward and Jesus was lifted up, two men dressed in white robes said to them, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw Him go into heaven.”

Here is the third Book, but that is for another story and for another time. And that story will never end. Amen.

Now the peace…

Nour Tour Comments

I did a bible study and women's presentation at church a few weeks ago and highlighted a few moments of our trip to Israel.  (The one theme of the study was glory...I used pastor's meditation when we were at the Shepherds Field and what that very night felt like with the angels singing Glory in the Highest and how they saw God Smile that night) ...The study was on "Living in Jesus."  It was truly filled with the Holy Spirit and God truly put the words in my mouth...I had 90 year olds with tears...The church said they never heard anything like it; don't know if that was good or bad but I have been asked to speak at other churches.  I truly felt the 12 around me because I thought of you all the time.  The trip truly made spiritual changes in all of us!  Thanks be to God!

Marcia Hanscom

Vocational Coordinator

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