Sunday, September 27, 2009

“On Whose Side Are You?” (Mark 9:39-40).

S-1140 9/27/09 17SAP/3B Hymns: (O) #400; (S) #451; L.S. #307; #528; #310 (C) #193

Texts: Numbers 11:4-6, 10-16, 24-29; James 5:13-20; Mark 9:38-50

Theme: “On Whose Side Are You?” (Mark 9:39-40).

Question: “How often do you take sides?”


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 Jesus said, ‘Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in My name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of Me. For the one who is not against us is for us…’” (Mark 9:39-40).


Saints in Christ, in the last few months, the fans of the Vikings Football team were waiting eagerly to know what decision Brett Favre will make. Will he make the decision to join the Vikings or will he stay in retirement. Speculations ran wild. One day you heard he is going to sign and the next he decided not too. The fans couldn’t wait. They wanted to know on what side Bret will be. Finally, he made the decision that many of the Viking fans are rejoicing and hoping against all odds that this new quarterback can make a difference and lead them to the Super Bowl.

Today’s text doesn’t speak about Super bowl, or a quarter back, but about life issues. More specifically spiritual issues dealing with on whose side are you? Are you a follower of the Rabbi from Nazareth Jesus the Christ or are you child of the world?

St. Mark today, shares with us the concern that John raises to His Master and Lord. John notices and hears someone who has not been sitting at the Master’s feet now using Jesus’ name to drive out a demon. By the power of Jesus, cleansing took place. John didn’t think that was right, so he tried to stop him. We see this strength of our God in Christ Jesus.  He uses the unnamed man to bring about deliverance, even though he was an outsider, not one of the 12 or even the 70!  Our God has not changed.  He is still that powerful that He can use outsiders like you and me to not just be blessed, but a blessing.  All the glory goes to Him.  Yes, at this point John reacts the way he does because he didn’t think that was the right thing to do, he wasn’t part of the group, he wasn’t part of the disciples; and thus had no right to do what he did.

I don’t know what possessed John to do what he did. Perhaps he wanted to protect Jesus. Perhaps he thought the man needed training. Perhaps he was scared of what was taking place. For whatever reasons, he determined to stop the unnamed person, who was doing good.

John shared what he did with His close companion and Savior, Jesus. “But Jesus said, ‘Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in My name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of Me. For the one who is not against us is for us…’”

DON’T STOP HIM. If the unnamed person is honoring me let him. If he is exalting my name let him. If he is glorifying my name let him. Don’t be concerned if the unnamed person is part of the group, or belongs to the same church or even the same denomination. Let God be God as He uses people in every area of life to bring forth the Kingdom of God.

We saw the same thing taking place in the O.T. lesson today. Joshua was upset that two men Eldad, and Medad prophesied even when they were not in the camp. But Joshua wanted them to stop because they were not part of the group. The question comes back: “on whose side are you?” – and the answer is clear:  The side chosen by Him who makes all things new!

So often it seems that we take sides. Rather than looking at it from God’s perspective. Rather than seeing the whole picture we determine who should and who shouldn’t be part of the household of faith.

But of more importance is knowing on whose side you are. Are you a follower of Jesus or the world? Are you one who stand up for Christ and speak out against the wrongs the world is carrying out or are you one who says nothing. The sermon hymn for today challenges us to do just that. “Stand up, stand up for Jesus, the trumpet call obey; forth to the mighty conflict, in this his glorious day. Ye that are brave now serve him against unnumbered foes; let courage rise with danger,   and strength to strength oppose” (LSB 660 v.2).


As followers of Jesus we are called to be bold, brave and daring in our walk of faith; realizing that sometimes we have to take a stand. In the Old Testament there is a book about Ester. She went into the King’s court without being invited with the possibility that she might die if she goes in. None-the-less she still did it. 

We have an Ester in our day and age, a young 17 year old girl from Ohio, by the name of Rifqa Bary. Four years ago, while living in a very devout and radical Muslim home, Rifqa met Jesus in a powerful way as her Savior. She hid her conversion, prayed and read her Bible in secret at night in the bathroom. But then her love for Jesus was discovered.

Rifqa’s father demanded that she renounce Jesus or he would kill her as is commanded by the Koran according to the Shariah law. As a radiant Believer in Jesus she refused to renounce her Lord and fled to Orlando, where she was taken in and cared for by a Christian Church and family. Now she and many who are praying for her are waiting the decision of the court. This young convert has taken a bold stand for Jesus. She is just like Ester. She is bringing honor to the name of the One whom she is bowing the knee to and giving praise to Him. PAUSE.

Beloved in the Lord, the Church must be and ought to be with Christ. Its teaching, its doctrine, and its message ought to reflect that they are Christ’s. Anytime the church takes another stance contrary to Scripture they have chosen to be disobedient to the One who died and rose for her. The Church has been called to be a light to the world, not the other way around. The church has been called to influence the world, not the world to influence the church.

The ELCA church has wondered from the truth. They have denied the inerrancy of Scripture and have chosen to follow the father of lies. We need to pray for our brothers and sisters to wake up and come home to the truth, because it matters on whose side you are—Christ’s or the world’s?

Bret Favre chose to play for the Vikings and the fans are happy. Rifqa Bary has forsaken her father’s religion of submission to Allah and by the Spirit’s power have chosen to bow the knee to the Author of life even at the cost of loosing her own. How about you and me? Are we taking a firm stand to follow the Savior? Are we willing to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world? Is our life a reflection of God’s love? Are we bringing honor and glory to the Savior, Jesus? Are we willing to stand on the Word and His promises? Do we reflect the Gospel of Jesus that we are the children of God? Only by the Spirit’s power can we humbly walk with Him and by Him.

But did you know that Jesus have chosen to be part of your life? Did you know that He chose to leave the comfort of heaven and live among us in this sin-polluted and sin-permeated world? Did you know that He was willing to give up all the glory of heaven for the simple joy of carrying the burden of our sins on the cross? Open your eyes faithful followers of Jesus and see that He is by your side strengthening you, supporting you, and sustaining you with His heavenly manna.

Know this, saints of God, Jesus loves you more than life. He determined to be on your side because He wanted you to be part of the team, a team that will stand up to the world and its vises. A team that will represent Him in this world—by forsaking all—including an eye, a hand, a foot for being a child of the King of kings and Lord of lords. That is you dear ones.

In God’s holy house today, you will hear again why God has chosen you to be with Him. As you gather in His house you will drink from the ever flowing spring of water (Baptism), and you will eat from the banquet of delicacies He has prepared for you (the Lord’s Supper). And you will receive the forgiveness of sin He offers you through His Word.


Saints in Christ, today you know that God has chosen you to be on His side. See His blood oozing from the cross; see Him hanging suspended between heaven and earth; see Him crucified in your place; and know as you look at Him, you are seeing Your Savior, whose seal of love surround you and assures you that you will always be with Him not only here on earth, but forever in heaven. Amen.

Now the peace…

Sunday, September 20, 2009

“The Heart of a Servant” (Mark 9:33-35).

S-1139 9/20/09 16SAP/3B Hymns: (O) #370; (S) #442; (C) #334

Texts: Jeremiah 11:18-20; James 3:13-4:10; Mark 9:30-37

Theme: “The Heart of a Servant” (Mark 9:33-35).

Question: “Do You Want To Be Great?”


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 they came to Capernaum. And when He was in the house He asked them, ‘What were you discussing on the way?’ But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. And He sat down and called the twelve. And He said to them, ‘If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” (Mark 9:33-35).


Saints in Christ, it is only a 3 letter word, but what a word—a word that has messed up God’s wonderful creation and our lives. This word has clouded our vision, sealed our hearts and made us enemies of our Holy God. This word has turned the world upside down. So much so that when we look at things, we look at them through that word. What is that word you may ask? SIN. Sin has altered the way we look at things. Sin has changed our outlook on life. Sin has confused our minds, chocked our hearts and complicated our lives.

Sin brought chaos, confusion and confounded our view of things and the world. Because of our sin-infected souls our eyes are blinded, our minds are warped and our hearts are crooked. Because of our sin-infected souls we consider what is right as wrong, and what is wrong as right.

How do you and I view people in our world today? How do we measure success and greatness? We measure them by the material possessions they have, the positions they hold, and the wealth they have accumulated.

Some would say that Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player of all time; Wayne Gretzky is the greatest in hockey; Tiger Wood in golf; Brett Favre in football; Abraham Lincoln among presidents; and Bill Gates among entrepreneurs. But who is the greatest among God’s holy people? The verdict is…. PAUSE.

When you and I consider the greatest among us, we provide statistics, and tell legends of our heroes’ achievements. The greatest are those who shine through and rise above all others. But this is not how our Lord Jesus considers greatness. For Jesus who looks at things from God’s perspective, greatness is not measured by fame, fortune or financial stability, but in acts of service to others.

This is precisely what is going on in the Gospel reading today. The discussion that ensued between the disciples is: “Who is the greatest among them?” Jesus used this incident as a teaching moment for His followers. Our Lord makes it very clear that if you want to be great, you need to have a heart for service. To be the greatest in the Kingdom of God is not to have the highest degrees, the most material toys, the most service time, the fullest envelope, or the most prestige in the world, but a heart that desires to serve others.

Jesus doesn’t mince words when He informs His disciples then, and His disciples now saying: “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all” (Mk. 9:35).

But that is not what you and I consider being great. Greatness in ours mind’s eye is to be up front, the most popular and the most known person. When you and I serve, we want to be noticed. We want others to honor us. We want others to give us credit. Last fall the President and the First Lady went to a soup kitchen to help. Camera’s followed the president and his wife as they were dishing out the soup. I am thankful they served the needy. But would they have served without cameras? How about us? Don’t we like to be noticed? You bet we do. When we take a hot dish to someone and don’t get a thank you note we are offended. When we help others and they don’t acknowledge us we get upset. When we donate to a cause and are not recognized, we are disappointed. We should serve out of the goodness of our hearts, not to receive credit for what we have done. But that is not easy.

Even here, in this congregation our service is lacking. When there is a job to be done we don’t see many people standing in line, rolling their sleeves to serve. We have a challenging time filling in the positions on our council, elders, stewardship, evangelism, Sunday School and the like. Why? Because we don’t have the heart of a servant.

Let me be candid with you. Do you have a servant’s heart or a selfish heart? Are you willing to serve even when no one is watching? Are you willing to die in the service of the Master Jesus Christ? Are you willing to give more than is asked of you? Are you willing to be the faithful servant of the Most High God? I hope so. But on our own it is impossible for us to do so, because of hearts that are dead to Christ, and therefore we don’t serve nor have the heart of a servant. PAUSE.

You may have missed it. But obscured by the financial crisis and the debate over healthcare reform, just recently our nation identified one of our own who had the heart of a servant. Thursday, in a ceremony at the White House, President Obama presented the Congressional Medal of Honor to Sergeant First Class Jared C. Monti. Now, Monti wasn’t noted for his prowess at hitting home runs or dunking basketballs. No, Sgt. Monti was decorated with our nation’s highest honor because of the greatness of his sacrifice. In an attempt to retrieve a severely wounded comrade under fierce enemy fire, Sgt. Monti was killed. He was honored as among our nation’s greatest heroes because of what he was willing to do to for others.

Thanks be God for faithful men and women who have a heart of service to serve others. But if you want to know who is a TRUE servant then look at the life of Jesus. Study it in details and you will see that His heart, His hands, and His ministry were all about servant-hood. As a matter of fact He Himself said, “For the Son of Man didn’t come to be served, but to SERVE and give His life as a ransom for many”.

Certainly, Jesus is our clearest and grandest example of greatness. He put up with so much at the hands of jealous religious leaders, insulting crowds of skeptics, and even disciples who should have understood it all, but didn’t. Jesus had the heart of a servant. He was willing to be born in a stable in Bethlehem, to grow up in the home of a poor carpenter, and to remain anonymous for 30 years until it was His Father’s time for Him to begin His ministry. His whole life was spent serving people in every walk of life. In His ultimate rise to greatness, He knelt to wash fishermen’s feet and was led in suffering silence to His own slaughter on the altar of the cross. As the servant reached the pinnacle of greatness, blood streamed into His eyes as He called out for the forgiveness of His executioners.

Indeed, this Rabbi from Galilee is the greatest servant of all time. He is greater than Michael Jordan, Tiger Wood, Wayne Gretzky, Brett Favre, Abraham Lincoln, and Bill Gates. How dare I say that? I will let the Apostle Paul give you the answer: “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the form of a SERVANT, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:6-8). Certainly the Savior is the Greatest servant of all.


Saints in Christ, it is only a 6 letter word, but what a word—a word that has reversed the outcome that took place in the Garden of Eden. This word has opened our eyes, lightened our hearts and made us friends of our Holy God. This word has turned the world rite side up. So much so that when we look at things, we look at them through that word. What is that word you may ask? SAVIOR. Our Savior has altered the way we look at things. Our Savior has changed our outlook on life. Our Savior has opened our minds, filled our hearts with joy and made our lives a most blessed one. And because of that Word we His followers of the 21st century follow His ways—serving others to the best of our ability; sacrificing our time and personal pursuits to wash the feet of our fellow believers at church and in our homes; and forgiving them, as the Savior has forgiven us.

Our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ had the heart of a Servant. He served us not because He had too or needed too, but because He chose to. In Mark’s Gospel chapter 10 we read these words: “For the Son of Man didn’t come to be served, but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many”. (10:46). and the Good News, He did. Therefore, we thank Him for serving us even today through His Word and Sacrament. Amen.

Now the peace…

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


This year, will be the 12th anniversary for Bike For Life.  This is done to save unborn babies.  The funds that are raised will be used to continue the upkeep of the Ultra Sound Machine at the Alpha Center in Sioux Fall and to help LFL in educating and informing people about life issues from before birth to end-of-life issues.  The date is September 26th.

My challenge for SD this year is that we would surpass the amount raised last year.  Last year we raised over $14, 500.00.  May the Lord bless our efforts once again.  For your information about this worthy cause; ever since LFL placed the Ultra Sound Machine at the Alpha Center in 1998, we know for a fact that over a 1500 babies have been saved. S. D. G. TO GOD ALONE BE ALL THE GLORY.

I invite everyone to join us in this worthy cause. If you would like to ride, the ride begins at Armour, and we leave at 7:00 a.m. All along we have different places where we stop for refreshments and rest. If you can’t ride the whole 100 miles, you may ride a portion of the journey. If you can’t either ride or donate money, please keep us in your prayers for safe travel and a good weather.

If you would like to pledge any amount of money. Please makes checks out to:

South Eastern, South Dakota Lutherans For Life or SESDLFL ear mark the check for Bike-A-Thon.

C/O Redeemer Lutheran Church

P. O. Box 158

Armour, SD 57313-0158

Sunday, September 6, 2009

“Ephphatha!” (Mark 7:33-34)

S-1137 9/06/09 14SAP/3B Hymns: (O) #5; (S) #39; (C)#45

Texts: Isaiah 35:4-7a; James 2:1-10, 14-18; Mark 7:31-37

Theme: “Ephphatha!” (Mark 7:33-34)

Question: “Have You been Amazed Lately?”


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 [Jesus] taking him aside from the crowd privately, He put His fingers into His ears, and after spitting touched His tongue. And looking up to heaven, He sighed and said to Him, ‘Ephphatha,’ that is, ‘Be opened’” (Mark 7:33-34).


Saints in Christ, in a book titled “1001 Arabian Nights” is a story about Ali Baba and the 40 thieves. The story revolves around a poor man who comes across the hideout of 40 thieves. While chopping wood in the forest Ali Baba heard their horses approaching and hid in a tree. Right below him was their hideout place where they have been storing loot. He heard them say, “Open Sesame!” With that the cave door opened and the thieves entered. All the while Ali Baba was watching and listening to all that was taking place. Finally, when the thieves left, Ali came down from the tree and spoke the secret words “Open Sesame!” and the cave opened up and he helped himself to some of the stolen treasure.

Of course this is nothing but a fable. But today, St. Mark tells us another story. This story is not from 1001 Arabian Nights but from the personal experience of the Heaven-sent Savior who walked the dusty roads of Palestine. This is not a fable but fact. This is not just a story, but a salvation story dealing with a real human being who has suffered due to a hearing and speech impediment.

Mark’s astonishing account tells us of some caring friends who bring one of their own to our ever-caring and compassionate Lord Jesus and who in turns heals the man who was deaf and slow of speech.

Listen to how Mark describes the events of this opening that took place in the Northern part of Palestine:“ And [Jesus] taking him aside from the crowd privately, He put His fingers into His ears, and after spitting touched His tongue. And looking up to heaven, He sighed and said to Him, ‘Ephphatha,’ that is, ‘Be opened’”.

Jesus did so away from the crowd, personally, privately, and completely. He touched the man, lifted His eyes heaven-ward and sighed and said, ‘Ephphatha!’ And immediately the man’s tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly.

“Ephphatha!” is the Word spoken by the Rabbi from Nazareth. That word opened a whole new life to the deaf and mute man. “Ephphatha!” was spoken that day and all who witnessed the event were amazed at what took place. They should have been amazed, for they were witnessing the Messianic age spoken by the prophet Isaiah which is our reading of the Old Testament today: Here is how Isaiah tells it: “Say to those who have an anxious heart, ‘Be strong; fear not! Behold, Your God will come with vengeance,
with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.’ T[HEN] the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy
(Isaiah 35:4-6).

Did you get it? That is what was promised by God to His chosen people. The promise was a day is coming when the Messiah will arrive on the scene, and when He does, He will usher a new age—eyes will be opened, ears and tongues loosed, lame people will walk and the dead will rise again. But they didn’t get it.

The crowd that day was absolutely blown over by Jesus. The poor man had never heard a sound since birth. He spoke with difficulty, but Jesus took him aside and healed him. Pretty impressive, all right. The man was healed through remarkable means. First, Jesus put His fingers in the man’s ears; then Jesus spit and touched the man’s tongue. Finally, Jesus spoke a word: “Ephphatha!” The crowd saw what Jesus did, but they didn’t see who Jesus was. They saw the gestures, but didn’t get the message: God had come down to planet earth in human flesh, and He has come to save.

They stood there with mouths wide open, eyes gawking, and tongue-tied because they didn’t know what was going on. Even though they were amazed and said, “He did everything well” they still didn’t get it. Even Jesus’ cousin John didn’t get it. When John was in prison he sent a delegation of his disciples to ask Jesus if He is the Messiah: Matthew tells it this way: “Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to Him, ‘Are You the One who is to come, or shall we look for another?’ And Jesus answered them, ‘Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them’” (Matthew 11:2-5).

Jesus was saying to the crowd, to John the Baptizer and to us, that He is the One. He is the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecy. He is the One sent from heaven to heal the sick, raise the dead and save them from eternal damnation. He is the One who is caring and compassionate towards His people. He is the One who shows mercy to one and all; those who are brought by friends and those who come to Him alone and seek His help.

“Ephphatha!” What a fitting watchword for Christians. God’s care and concern are so totally focused on us. Touched by the personal healing of Christ in our souls, freed from eternal death, blessed according to our most detailed, intimate, and specific needs, how can our response be anything other than praise, adoration, thanksgiving and telling forth what great things God has done for us? PAUSE.

But we, too, are just like the crowd, the disciples and John the Baptizer. We DON’T GET IT EITHER. We think that God shows mercy to those who deserve it or those who follow Him. We think if we are good enough then God will have compassion and mercy on us. But that is not the case.

Beloved in the Lord, so often we, too, live as though it’s all up to us to handle the hassles and burdens of life all on our own. But Jesus teaches us otherwise—“I Am with YOU always! But our ears are deaf to His promise. So often we live as though we have been abandoned, salving our pain and loneliness with self-pity. Take heart,” Jesus comforts us. Your sins are forgiven.” But so often we lug around the burden of guilt we’ve accumulated over the years, our private, ugly collection of it, which the devil uses to undermine our hope and drive us to despair.

Ephphatha!” “Be Opened!” Jesus says to us today as well. For we have ears that so often fail to hear the message He addresses to us. We have eyes that so often fail to see the power of Jesus revealed in His Word and Sacraments. Jesus still uses remarkable means for healing. The water of Holy Baptism to open our blind eyes, our deaf ears and our dead hearts; He uses the bread and wine of the Holy Supper as the very vehicle of Christ’s full and complete forgiveness. Together with the preaching of the Gospel, these sacraments extend the power of Jesus to apply all that He has earned for us in another place and time to us right here and now.

Today, dear saints in Christ Jesus speaks to us a very special Word Ephphatha!”Be Opened! He endured the cross and grave so that He could speak that Word. And He gives us ears to hear His Holy Word and hearts to believe His promise. He gives us tongue to speak in witness to His loving-kindness and He gives us hearts to care for those friends who are hurting not only from physical ailments, but from not knowing the Savior’s love that took Him to the cross for their sins.

What a caring and compassionate Savior we have. What a blessed opportunity Christ gives us on this blessed and beautiful day to be in His house of worship to hear Him anew say to each of us, Ephphatha!” “Be Opened!” and by the power of the Holy Spirit through the Gospel ears are suddenly open to hear again. He loosens our tongues and opens our lips to sing His praise and tell of the great and glorious events of our Savior who brought us out of darkness and silence into His marvelous light.

Ali Baba had a simple word open the door to treasures untold in a mere fable. But we have had a simple word, the Word of God in the Flesh Jesus Christ open the door to an incomprehensible treasure. When Jesus speaks to us, we have our own Ephphtha moment. The Gospel opens our ears and loosens our tongue. Our treasure is that of forgiveness of sin and life eternal. And, with loosened tongue, it is a treasure that we freely share. Ali Baba’s words are “Open Sesame!” and a cave opened. Jesus’ word, “Ephphatha”, is more than a cave opening, but a grave. But that is not all. It also opens hearts, eyes, ears and mouths and of course heaven itself. Amen.

Now the peace of God...