Wednesday, December 29, 2010

“Count Your Blessings!” (Isaiah 63:7).

S-1226 1SAC/3A 12/26/10 Hymns (O) #97; (S) #87; LS #91; #92; #95; (C) #102

Text: Isaiah 63:7-14; Galatians 4:4-7; Matthew 2:13-23

Theme: “Count Your Blessings!” (Isaiah 63:7).

Question: “Did you get the gift you wanted?’


Faithful followers of the Savior, Merry CHRISTmas to you! Alleluia! The text for our first Sunday After Christmas is from the Old Testament lesson:  “I will recount the steadfast love of the LORD, the praises of the LORD, according to all that the LORD has granted us, and the great goodness to the house of Israel that He has granted them according to His compassion, according to the abundance of His steadfast love” (Isaiah 63:7).

Introduction: In Nomine IESU

You who are blessed by the Father of love—His most Holy Bride: Oh, how blessed you are to have a gracious, compassionate and merciful God like ours. He is no ordinary God, but He is the True and Everlasting Father, Son and Holy Spirit, whose love never ceases and whose mercy is new every morning.

If you were to pause for a few moments today and consider what you have gotten this Christmas –you would have to agree that the blessings of God overflow. To begin with, consider the gifts that you unwrapped. These were gifts given from the heart from those whose hearts overflow in love for you. The blessing of this is almost incalculable.

But don’t stop there. Consider the blessings of God to you in your family, grandchildren (Brody/Myles) friends, colleagues, neighbors, country, your church family and military personal. Consider how each person you know has been used by God to bless you and be a blessing to others. Oh, if only you take inventory you will truly bow the knee before the manger and with true humility give thanks to Him for all of the blessings He showers upon you and me daily, weekly, monthly and throughout our lives.

Certainly the steadfast love of the Lord has been poured upon you abundantly to overflowing. Today, the Prophet Isaiah tells us of counting the steadfast love of the Lord. Yes, count your blessings and see what you have gotten from Him—no not just the gifts under the tree (which are from His loving hands) but the GIFT of His Son, born in Bethlehem, laid on a manger of straw and became the Savior of the world.

Why should you count your blessings? To start with, because “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (Jam. 1:17). Yes, every good and perfect gift comes from Him who made heaven and earth and everything in it. His steadfast love is yours daily. This is a unique Hebrew word (Chesed) meaning it is given to you not because you deserve it, but because God is generous, gracious, loving and giving.

You should know that the love of God to you His beloved children has no limit. It doesn’t change with every circumstance or condition. No His love is pure and it is reserved for you whom He made in His image. This love will not run out, or run dry, or fade with the days or seasons. It is YOURS now and always.

You who are blessed by the Father, who is love, be assured of this—The Steadfast Love of the Lord is intimate; it walks with you, supports you, and remains in you. God does not view or know of your pain and need from afar. If the last two days’ “Good News” is to be good at all it is that God is with us as one of us as the prophet Isaiah told wicked king Ahaz, “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel” (Is. 7:14) –of course we have good reason to say: “Merry CHRISTmas!” Yes, I will say it again, “Merry CHRISTmas!” PAUSE.

When the families lost their infant children in Bethlehem at the hand of wicked Herod’s jealousy we may ask: Where is the God of love, where is the God of Chesed and where is the God of Christmas? This question stands behind the story of the Slaughter of the Innocents. Jesus is spared while other families must bear the brunt of an evil man. It just isn’t fair. What happens to the steadfast love of the Lord? Well, Christmas is the answer to these questions and this deep pain, this horrible loss.

Read my lips and hear my words saints in Christ—LOVE. This Love which is Steadfast abides forever. His love is revealed in the flesh and blood of the Child of Bethlehem. God does not know your pain from afar. He has no remote control device to handle us. You are held firmly but gently in the nail-pierced hands of your Redeemer. In your tough times He is there so that this trouble does not consume you. PAUSE.

Many call Christmas only a “holiday.” They see it as an escape from the dreary reality of life. To them it is nothing more than a happy day of bows and boxes, wrapping and ribbons. But here is the question I have for you: If you are only looking for an escape from reality why not go to a movie? Why not go hunting, or bowling, or just spend a couple of hours doing other things to drown your sorrow, troubles and heartaches. But after all the fuss and fret over this hoiday, we have to come back to reality of who we are and what we are—sinful beings with troubles and difficulties, struggles and sufferings. The light of day shows that all our troubles are just as bad as they were few hours ago? It would be better story than the one about a child in a cow’s feeding trough! – If He is just a God for a day or a season!

But Christmas is Eternal—Christmas is love made visible in a tender child lying in a manger. Yes, Jesus in our flesh, He alone is the Answer to every evil, pain, and loss. You see, at just the right time God sent His Son, His only-begotten Son, born under the law to redeem those under its curse. Christmas is the reality that you and I are truly “redeemed” - that is, handled in those nail-pierced hands as a brother or sister, as a son or daughter of the true God. Christmas is the reality that God is a “hands- on” with you and for you.

Do you see why you and I should count our blessings? Because the steadfast love of the Lord is ours in the Babe of Bethlehem. He came for the purpose of fulfilling what we couldn’t do—redeem us for the tyranny, troubles of life and terrible death that awaits us because of sin.

That word “to redeem” as (I told you yesterday) means to buy back. Paul uses it here is a word of the slave-trade block. When a slave is put on the auction block, he is up for sale. He is just a commodity and not a person. When someone would “buy” a slave to set him free, he would “redeem” him. The newly freed slave is now fully vested with freedom, without shackles. Their whole life is now before them as full men or women, they are no longer property but people! This is not a gift that will break, burst, blown away, or something whose batteries will fail, some movie that will distract for the moment but leaves us with the harsh realities of pain and loss. This is the gift of life.... no, it is the gift of Eternal Life! Slavery is shackled and life that is free and full is given to each and every one of you.

Beloved, you and I have been pastor and people long enough to know that I hate (yes, that harsh word - hate) when the eternal gifts of God are cheapened to be today’s fad. Jesus never comes as a visitor. He never loves from afar, nor does He love for a time or a season. His love is Steadfast! He came in Steadfast Love by wearing diapers and being laid in a manger. He came in time, and for eternity, and not to show us the way, but to become our way. He came to be our Savior and redeem us from the shackles that our sins have fixed on hands and feet, on our heart and life.

Yes, as Isaiah could speak of the Holy Spirit here in Isaiah 63 giving them His everlasting Name, so we are given the everlasting Gospel, the everlasting joy, the Steadfast Love of the Lord. No wonder we want to count our blessings. I am thankful to my son Tony and daughter Brenda who have taught my grandson Brody a prayer. This pray of Brody is a reminder to daily count our blessings: “Thank you Jesus! Thank you Jesus! For our food! For our food! Many, many blessings. Many, many blessings. Amen and Amen.”

Go forth today my beloved counting your blessings and knowing that all the hymns we sing are for YOU, that all the promises have no expiration date, and that as YOU face the trials of life, Him who could even care enough to come in our flesh, and keep the little prophecy that Jesus is called a “Nazarene” will care for all YOUR “Small” needs too. Merry CHRISTmas Beloved, Christ is with Us, Steadfastly! Amen.

Now the peace of God…

Soli Deo Gloria

Monday, December 20, 2010



“Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests’” (Luke 2:13, 14).

A long time ago, on a cold night over the Judean hills, a most amazing event occurred. The night’s skies were lit up by heavenly beings announcing the birth of God’s only Son, to a virgin from Nazareth in the town of Bethlehem. This is indeed a great story—the Greatest Story ever told of the Savior of mankind being born to fulfill God’s promise to Adam and Eve of a Son who will destroy Satan, sin and death; and undo all the wrong that was done.

And who were the privileged recipients who heard this great and marvelous news? Not princes, priests, presidents or politicians. Not kings or queens. Not Sadducees or soldiers. Not tax agents or ambassadors; not even the Roman emperor heard the angels’ announcement. Just shepherds, common shepherds, were in atten­dance for this premier performance. To the commonest of the common, to the crustiest of the undercrust—God sent His angelic chorus to deliver the greatest message ever heard.

“Why?” we ask. The answer lies in the fact that humble shepherds fit right in with God’s choice of a humble village named Bethlehem and a humble mother named-Mary. In emphasizing such details, the heavenly author of the Christmas story is making a most important point: When it comes to Bethlehem and when it comes to Calvary—where salvation and heaven are involved—this story is for anyone and everyone who walks the dusty roads of earth. In fact, this story is for all people, no matter what color, race, tribe, nation or language they are. Certainly, no one is excluded. The Savior was born, died, and rose again for one and for all—including you and me.

For over 2000 years, people have called the birth, death and resurrection of God’s Son only Son, and Mary’s Son, the Greatest Story ever told for a reason. No writer could have thought it or wrote this story, except the Author of the Universe. Christmas’ Author, with His finger penned the most amazing story of love and compassion. The Greatest Story ever told reveals the depth of the heart of God—a heart that oozes with His unending and unconditional love; a heart that tells us we are special, valuable and cared for.

What would bring a God who dwells in the magnificent splendor of heaven into a scratchy straw-filled manger? What would bring Him to a Hill to be hung on rough timber with nails, spear, and crown of thorns? And what would bring Jesus to a tomb as a bloodstained corpse? HIS LOVE FOR YOU!

Let everyone know that this is indeed the Greatest Story ever told or ever will be told. It is for us that the Babe of Bethlehem needed to come to restore us and renew us as ONLY He can. He came to empty us from our arrogance and pride. He came to remove our false hope—man’s power that we cling to. He came to do the impossible—to restore the ruined world. And He did that as He took our place on the cross. Because of Him the lion and the lamb will dwell together in harmony. Because of Him streams will flow again in the desert and flowers will blossom. Because of Him joy fills the fearful hearts. Because of Him hope fills the troubled hearts. Because of Him peace will reign again in the world, but more importantly in our hearts.

Why is it the Greatest Story ever told? Because it is the story of our Redemption, the story of our liberation; and the story of our Salvation.

I encourage you to take advantage of this time of year and hear this story again. If you have a church home, make the hearing of this story an appointment you won’t miss. If you don’t have a church home, come join us at Redeemer so that we can share in the wonder of this Greatest Story ever told together!

Our Christmas Eve worship service is @ 6:00 p.m. and Christmas Day @ 9:30 a.m.

Merry CHRISTmas to one and all.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

“Something is about to happen!!!” (Mark 13:33-37)

S-1223 3MIA/3A 12/15/10 Hymns (O) #68; (S) #370; (C) #376

Text: Jeremiah 29:10-14; 1 Peter 5:5-11; Mark 13:33-37

Theme: Something is about to happen!!!” (Mark 13:33-37)

Question: “Have you been afraid lately?”


Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! The text for our Third Midweek in Advent is from the Gospel lesson: “Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come” (Mark 13:33-37).

Introduction: In Nomine IESU

People of God, chosen and beloved His most holy Bride: tonight we conclude our final midweek in Advent dealing with the Theme: “Did You Know…” On November 13th of this year something happened when I was in Jerusalem with my tour. Normally, I have my guide in the front leading the way, the tourists in the middle and I am the last person making sure my people are safe as we travel from place to place. We had just got done visiting the Holy Sepulcher Church. Just as we were making the corner to go to our next destination, I overheard 5-6 young men between the ages of 18-22 discussing how soon they should start. I wasn’t sure what it was they were discussing, but I knew something was about to happen. It was imminent and I felt uneasy about their discussion. My people were spread out over 100 yards or so. As I began to motion them to move away from the area, all of sudden, I heard one of the young men holler, “Now!” As soon as the words were spoken, I saw a shadow go by me with a baseball bat and ran to a souvenir shop and began destroying the store. Seeing the danger, I hollered, “Nour Tour keep moving forward!” I wanted to get my people out of the dangerous area. Thankfully, none of our people were hurt or injured.

As I thought about it afterwards, I knew something was about to happen but didn’t know what it was, until it was upon me. Did you know that this is a common theme for the Advent Season as well—something is about to Happen? What is about to happen? Its Christ’s coming again.

Something is about to happen is an Advent theme. The parable of St. Mark in our reading tonight about the master of the house coming soon; testifies about this. It is the theme of the early Christian church. You may say that the early Church lived on tiptoes waiting with great expectations for the day of the One who came as the Babe of Bethlehem and went to the cross, died and rose and will return to take His beloved people home forever.

Mark tells us, “Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come.” Yes, this is the Advent theme for the followers of Jesus, the Son of Mary. Stand and be ready. Stand and be on watch. Something is going to happen. We are to be standing on tiptoes, eyes focusing upward, and hearts for Him who has promised to come again—even Jesus Christ our Savior.

As the Church of old took their marching orders from Jesus, so do we. We live with the great celebration and great anticipation of His coming to be among us and with us. We take to heart the words: “The kingdom of God is at hand, the night is far gone, this present age is passing away, come, Lord Jesus, come.” Every word, deed, and prayer seemed to be shaped by Jesus’ second coming, Judgment Day, and the end of the world.

We, at times, live on tiptoes anticipating the future. We all know the energy an anticipated future can give to life in the present. Consider all the presents, cards, decorations, programs (and sermons!) that must be prepared before Christmas arrives. Consider an engaged couple and their wedding preparations or expectant parents who assem­ble a crib and paint the nursery. We also know the sense of disappointment when the hoped-for future doesn’t come or it comes and goes without significance. Consider when Christmas comes and goes and things didn’t work out as planned, when wedding plans don’t work out, when the baby doesn’t arrive.

When things do not work out as we anticipate, we ask, “Is something about to happen?” At times we wonder, Is Jesus ever coming again? Are my efforts in this life mak­ing any lasting difference for the future? Is something about to happen? Is my future secure? Is the world around me right when it pronounces, “There is nothing certain but death and taxes”?

This is the way of the world. The world lives for today. They constantly reminds us saying, “Only 10 more days to shop and wrap your presents.” But for us, you and I, Christ’s followers, our Advent preparations are more than just shopping, more than wrapping, more than baking, more than hoping for the good deals to come our way. It is knowing that something is about to happen very soon.

Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come.... Stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the eve­ning, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning” (w 33, 35). I was on guard. In Jerusalem as I was listening with one ear to the conversation of the men standing near me and my eyes on my people, I was apprehensive to what was coming down the line. I was on my tiptoes. However, we can’t remain on tiptoes forever. There are times when fatigue and distraction, weakness and weariness make constantly being on our toes just impossible.

Study, the life of the saints before us and you would have to agree, they could join us today in confessing that we do not have the strength within ourselves to stand on tiptoes, to be sure of our future, to fix our hope firmly in God. We are sinners whose faith falters. Our future seems too slippery. Our hands are not strong enough to hold on to God’s promises. But in our text from the Gospel of Mark, Jesus has good news for us. This good news is cross-shaped good news. The source of our hope and strength is not our faith. It is not our ability to stand on tiptoes. It is not even in our being alert at all times. The source of our hope is an act of God in history. It is an accomplished act and an accomplished fact. What we are speaking of is a humble birth in a manger, Jesus’ death on the cross for our sins and His glorious resurrec­tion from the grave.

You and I, as the Redeemed of the Lord have wonderful news to believe and share with all people. Yes, you and I do have something glorious to share with those who walk around as if God is not in control; if He is not coming back, if He is not concerned about each and every one of us. We can by the Spirit’s power share His love that took Him to the manger and the cross for you. PASUE.

Something has happened. In the parable of our text, Jesus said, “You do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morn­ing” (v 35). Mark uses these words’ of Jesus to structure the rest of his Gospel account. He does this to give his first hearers and to give us a cross-shaped hope. See how Mark does it:

Jesus says that the Lord may come at evening — and in the very next chapter, chapter 14, we read, “And when it was evening, He came with the twelve” to the upper room (14:17). Jesus is at table with His disciples. Taking bread and wine in His hands, He tells them that this is the same body and blood that will soon be broken and shed on a cross for the sins of the world.

In the parable, we are told that the Lord may come at late night — and Mark soon records how late that night Jesus goes to the Garden of Gethsemane to prepare for His appointment with a cross the next day; His disciples have had too much day already (14:40-42).

In the parable, we are told that the Lord may come at cockcrow — and in the next chapter Mark describes the event of Peter denying Jesus the third time as the cock crows and Jesus’ date with the cross draws ever nearer (14:66-72).

In the parable, we are told the Lord may come in the morning — and Mark records that “as soon as it was morn­ing” (15:1), Jesus is bound by Roman soldiers and led to trial and the cross.

What has Mark heard in Jesus’ parable of the soon-returning master of the house? He has heard and proclaims to us that everything uncertain in our future is anchored in the certainty of the cross. The cross tells us what is our true and lasting hope: the Lord Jesus crucified and risen for me! This is the message of Advent. That Christ came into the world to save me the sinner. That Christ lived the humble life to make mine rich. That Christ died so that I may never die.

By His grace alone we know of something that is going to happen. Every time we enter the most holy house of the Lord, the Word is spoken, and when the bread is broken and the cup is given we receive blessing after blessing. When we gather in this place, we know something is going to happen—Here Christ forgives us our sins and blesses with His presence. Every time we gather in this place we know something is about to happen, we see a child baptized in His name and the heavenly hosts dance at another child of Abraham being delivered from the clutches of hell and death.

Remember, what I told you about knowing something was going to happen while in Jerusalem? Indeed I was afraid that my people would be hurt and harmed in the market place. We all stand in the market place and the voices of doom are everywhere, following by the REACTIONS of the desperate. Yet, tonight, as we gather in God’s house, we know that something wonderful is going to happen. Here Christ takes our fears away. Here Christ comes among us. Here Christ blesses with His peace and sends us on our way rejoicing. Here, we know the act and the fact that along with all Christendom, we stand on tiptoes waiting for His arrival.

Yes—something has and is indeed happening as we live now, under the cross. And—something is about to happen. Come, Lord Jesus, come. Amen.

Now the peace of God…


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

“He Will Return!!!” (Luke 21:25-28)

S-1221 2MIA/3A 12/08/10 Hymns (O) #73 vv 1-3; (S) #74; (C) #73:4-5

Text: Isaiah 13:9-13; Revelation 6:12-17; Luke 21:25-36

Theme: “He Will Return!!!” (Luke 21:25-28)

Question: “Are you anticipating anyone to come to your home for Christmas?”


Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! The text for our Second Midweek in Advent is from the Gospel lesson: “And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:25-28).

Introduction: In Nomine IESU

People of God, chosen and beloved His most holy Bride: tonight we continue with our Midweek Advent Sermon series “Did You Know…?” Did you know that the great magician and escapologist Harry Houdini right before his death told his wife and doctor, “that he will return from the other side of the dead, or at least communicate with them?” However, he neither communicated nor returned. Many of our brave men and women who have gone to war, have said, “I will return!” Some however never did; they paid the ultimate price—of giving their lives for this great nation. Did you know that when Jesus said, “He will return”, that He meant it?

Tonight, the Holy Spirit challenges us as we contemplate these words of the Babe of Bethlehem in our Gospel reading. In this portion of the Word of the Lord we are reminded and challenged to be alert for Christ’s return—to be on guard and to watch.

As I mentioned to you before that Advent means coming. And we live in the tension between His first and second coming. In Advent, we already know the nativity story and our Savior’s first and humble incarnational coming, we already know of His coming into our lives in Baptism and through His life-giving Word, but we know that His triumphal coming is not yet here.  And, we anticipate it with great joy!  Liturgically, it works very well to follow the anticipatory mood reflected by those who, ages ago, longed for His first Advent just as we long for His final Advent.  And so Advent is this season of irony in which we both celebrate and anticipate Jesus’ Advent(s).

Luther Reed (Worship, Fortress, 1959, p. 39) gives this nice Advent statement:  “The Lutheran Church regards [Advent] as a time of sober penitence mixed with holy joy.  It serves not only as a preparation for Christmas, but as an introduction to the entire church year.  Early Lutheran writers said that the church in Advent celebrates the lowly coming of Christ in the flesh, His spiritual and daily coming in the hearts of the faithful, and His glorious return to judge.  The Lessons, Collects, and other Propers stress the importance of spiritual preparation, sober living, and faithful witnessing.”

Yes, Advent is a time that we, His most beloved, chosen and Holy Bride, prepare our hearts for the coming of the Savior lest we be caught off guard. During these days of Advent our eyes stay focused on the Messiah who promised to return.

While we wait, we don’t lose heart at what we see. Certainly there are many signs of terror and trouble, pain and punishment, sorrow and sadness. Those who don’t know the Lord are fearful of the end days and Christ’s return. They will be caught unaware as the people of New York woke up on 9-11, and the people of Haiti with the earthquake and soon the debris and mayhem filled the air. Dead bodies were everywhere and people ran for their lives hiding from the horror that they were witnessing.

This is the picture that Luke describes for us. When the Lord returns, He is not coming down as the humble child of the manger, but as the Everlasting King of the Universe and the Judge of all people. No one will escape this terrible and frightful day.

Indeed Jesus will return as promised. You can take His Word to heart. He told His disciples that the Son of Man, must go to Jerusalem, suffer, be crucified, die and be buried and on the third day He will rise again. And He has risen from the grave and proved once and for all that His Word is true and faithful.

Even now, He comes to us through His mighty and powerful Word to bring us the joy of heaven while living on earth. The hymn writer captured this when he wrote: “He came down to earth from heaven, Who is God and Lord of All.  Christ, by highest heav’n adored, Christ the everlasting Lord, Late in time behold Him come, Offspring of a virgin’s womb.  Veiled in flesh the God-head see, Hail the incarnate Deity!  Pleased as Man with man to dwell, Jesus, our Immanuel. (Hark the Herald Angels Sing vs. 2)

Yes, the Immanuel, God with us has come and He will return. He will return on the final day by the mighty power of His cross. For us—you and me—His chosen, beloved and Holy Bride, have nothing to fear—for He returns in glory to bring us healing and forgiveness, joy and peace. He will return as He promised.

For us His most Holy Bride, we need not wait for His return to bask in His glory. We have it now and we celebrate it even as we anticipate His return because He comes to forgive, to bless, to deliver and to enrich our lives beyond our wildest imagination. He comes not only for a brief time, but to dwell with us and take us to be with Him where He abides—in the glory of heaven. PAUSE.

And who is this who will return? Who is this that causes us to plan great feasts to be shared with our families? For His sake we put aside our differences for a short time and try to get along, if only for a few hours. In His honor we give gifts to one another, are nice to one another, try to recapture the warm, loving feelings we remember from childhood. Who is this guy? Who is this miracle worker? Who is this person who comes once a year and makes us all try to be better people, at least for a while? Who is this guy that we worship and try to please and curry favor with?

We tell stories about Him. We have television programs about Him - some that have been on since I was little. We have parties to celebrate His coming. The very thought of Him brings peace and goodwill among our friends and neighbors and co-workers.

Who is He? He is none other than the heaven-sent Savior—the Son of Man and the Son of God, Jesus the Babe of Bethlehem. He is Your groom and lover. He is the One who cares for you to give you the best and most—Himself in the crib and on the cross. He is more than just a guy; He is Your Lord and God returning to take you where you can’t go on your own. PAUSE.

A pastor tells a story about a car he saw one day while driving home. He’s sure it was the ugliest car he had ever seen. He said this car was not just ugly—it was ugly on top of ugly. If you looked up the word ugly in the dictionary, you’d find a picture of this car. It had a large gash on its side. One of the doors was held together with wires. Several body parts were quite rusted. He couldn’t tell the original color. Between the rust and multiple paint jobs, any one of several color options could have been the first coat. The most interesting thing about the car, though, was the bumper sticker. As if to be sure there would be no misunderstanding. It said: “This is not an abandoned car.”

A long time ago, a baby was born in a manger. He was and is the Savior of the entire world. He was a sign to us, a sign that tells us that this is not an abandoned world. You and I are not abandoned. Yes, we, Christians are not abandoned people. You know why? Because the Incarnate Son of God was nailed to the cross and shed His blood so that forgiveness, joy & peace was made possible through that sin-atoning sacrifice. We have the promise of forgiveness from our Lord and the promise that He will return. Jesus will be back. You can count on it. Amen.

Now the peace…


Sunday, December 5, 2010

“Can It Be…?” Isaiah 11:1, 10)

S-1220 2SIA/3A 12/05/10 Hymns (O) #63; (S) #370 LSB; #70

Text: Isaiah 11:1-10; Romans 15:4-13; Matthew 3:1-12

Theme: “Can It Be…?” Isaiah 11:1, 10)

Question: “Is your home peaceful?”


Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! The text for our Second Sunday in Advent is from the Old Testament lesson: “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit… In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples—of Him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious” (Isaiah 11:1,10).

Introduction: In Nomine IESU

People of God, chosen and beloved: Is life that simple? Is it plain black and white? Can it be that what we hear on TV, radio and read in magazines and newspapers really make us happier? I just recently heard a commercial of a woman who is over 50. They asked her how she felt about herself. Her response, “I am invisible!” However, they gave her anti-wrinkle cream and that took away the wrinkles and now everybody notices her. Can it be that a cream takes away years of your face and makes you young again and everyone notices you so that you are visible? Can a diet pill make you skinner and more beautiful? Can the right medicine, the right diet, the right car, house, popularity, prestige, make your life more complete?

Can extending the unemployment benefits bring about a change and get the economy going? Can Secretary of State Hillary Clinton bring about peace in the Middle East? Can the latest toys, gadget, cell phone, ipad, and any other item, make your life happier and healthier? PAUSE.

During the month of December, as we go from store to store, there is soft music playing and the one theme for Christmas is PEACE. But do we have it? Is it available? Look at our world. It is far from perfect, far from having peace and far from being joyful. In Haifa Israel, a negligent act burned many acres and causes massive evacuation. In Juarez, Mexico murder is rampant and out of control. Many homes are in turmoil and pain. Many families are at odds with one another. Certainly, people want peace, but there is none. Some don’t even have joy or hope in their homes.

But listen carefully to what the Prophet Isaiah says today about the Messianic age. “The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den.” (Is. 11:6-8) Can it really be? Will we ever see anything like this with our own eyes?

It seems absurd to even think that this will take place and peace will fill the animal kingdom and the world we live in. You don’t need me to tell you that as you watch TV, you know that it is not just the animal world where peace on earth seems missing in action. Terrorism won’t go away, car bombs go off, and innocent people are killed. Street crime takes lives of teenagers or even younger children. Drug deals and gang violence scare us out of the cities. No peace in those places.

And inside, in our hearts and minds, peace eludes us as we listen to the news and see an economy in free fall. Retirement funds shrink. Jobs disappear. No one seems safe and secure anymore.

In Isaiah’s picture, a little child plays with a snake with­out fear, but in the world we live in, peace on earth seems as far away as angels singing a couple thousand years ago to shepherds on a lonely hillside, “Glory to God in the high­est, and on earth peace” (Lk 2:14). And yet, that angelic song, sung at the birth of Jesus, has it right. True peace on earth has to start somewhere, and in Bethlehem, long ago, true peace arrived as child, born so humble and vulnerable.

Isaiah’s prophecy, written hundreds of years before Jesus was born, described His arrival as a shoot out of a stump. The nation of Judah was almost destroyed. Its rebellion against God had led to foreign nations taking it over and sending the people into exile. It looked dead, like a stump. But God had promised that a Messiah would come one day, and He would be called the Prince of Peace.

However, in this prophecy, the glory of King David is not mentioned. The time when Israel is at the pinnacle of power and prestige is not the heart of the message. No, Isaiah goes back to David’s early family, when he is a part of a little-known family of shepherds. King David’s father, Jesse, is named to show that the promised Savior of the nations would be born in humble surroundings. And he was. Mary and Joseph are not famous: a carpenter and his wife—simple working-class folk. Jesus is born in a manger, not a palace. He is raised in a small town among fishermen and other hard-working people, not in a capi­tal city.

Yet He is the shoot out of that stump who will bring peace on earth. He has the wisdom and counsel, the knowledge and might, to bring true peace. Isaiah says His delight is the fear of the Lord. Not frightened fear like a lamb before a wolf, but reverence and total submission to His Father’s will. Every breath he takes is to do just what the heavenly Father has sent Him to do.

What was He sent to do? He was sent to bring peace. He was sent to bring justice. He came in all faithfulness to do what was right for us, for all creation.

What was right was to make peace between God and us. God’s wisdom and counsel was a cross. His death would take care of whatever anger and hostility God had against us because of our sin and rebellion. We call it for­giveness, but we can also call it peace. Listen to how Paul describes it: All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ” (2 Cor. 5:18). Again, “For in Him [Jesus] all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of His cross” (Col 1:19-20). Did you catch what all is included? All things—animals and people alike are included in God’s wise plan to bring peace to this scary world, where violence and hate destroy the peace we so desire.

And then came that day where peace flowed from Jesus to His first followers. He rose from the dead. The violence done to Him was undone. On that first Easter, the disciples were huddled in a locked room, afraid for their lives. Then the frightened disciples saw Him alive and standing in their midst. He greets them by saying a powerful word, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I Am sending you” (Jn 20:21). With that, the true peace that Jesus brought into the world began to spread into the world. The disciples took it wherever they went in fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy (v 10). And we His chosen and beloved people take it wherever we go.

During the 2008 presidential race, John McCain was asked by Time magazine to share his “personal journey of faith.” In response he told a story from his experiences in a North Vietnamese prison camp during the Vietnam War. He tells how he would often be tied with ropes that pulled his head down between his knees. Sheer torture. Often He was left that way the entire night.

Then one particular night a guard came to him, and without saying a word loosened the ropes. In the morning, before anyone knew, he returned and tightened the ropes again. No one else was aware of what had happened, but McCain was deeply grateful for his night of relief

The two men never exchanged a word, but some weeks later, on Christmas Day, the same guard came to him in the courtyard of the camp. Again, he said nothing, nor did he look McCain in the eye, but with his foot he drew a cross in the dirt. The two men looked down at that cross, a wordless conversation that said everything.

Our eyes do not yet see the wolf dwell with the Lamb (Is. 11:6), but the little Child who came at Christmas has brought with Him a whole new age. For now, the peace of this messianic age is often hidden. Amen.

Beloved in the Lord when Christ rules the heart, peace rules the day. How is this all possible? How can peace abound in our hearts and heads and even in our homes? It is all because of a child promised of old and fulfilled in Bethlehem. How can a child do ALL of this? This is no ordinary child, but the heaven-sent Child. He is the Savior of the world; the One who came to fulfill what was promised in Eden’s Garden after the fall. He is the message of God’s love and peace flowing from His heart.

Can it really be? Yes, it can. The cream may/may not make you visible or take your wrinkles away. Hillary Clinton may/may not succeed to bring peace in the Middle East. The extension of the unemployment benefits may/may not improve the economy. The diet pill may/may not cause you to lose weight.

However, the Root of Jesse will accomplish all that He promised. In fact He already has! You find this in the manger, the cross and the empty tomb. We may not see it because our eyes still focus on the world rather than on the child.

Now the peace of God…


Thursday, December 2, 2010

“Wait Till Your Father Comes Home!” Isaiah 64:1

S-1219 1MIA/3A 12/01/10 Hymns (O) #58 vv 1-4; (S)#240; (C) #66

Text: Isaiah 64:1-9; Revelation 22:12-21; John 1:1-14

Theme: “Wait Till Your Father Comes Home!” Isaiah 64:1

Question: “Are you afraid of your father?


Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! The text for our Midweek in Advent is from the Old Testament lesson: “Oh that You would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at Your presence (Isaiah 64:1).

Introduction: In Nomine IESU

People of God, chosen and beloved I hate to admit it while growing up in Israel, I was a trouble maker and often gave my mother lots of heart ache. Whenever I gave my mother a hard time, she would often say “Wait till your father comes home!” Perhaps, you too, had heard these words. Maybe even some of our young folks are still hearing these words today: Wait till your father comes home! When you hear these words, what comes to your mind? Are they words of comfort and joy or pain and sorrow? Do they stir emotions within you? Do they bring tears to your eyes?

I remember one particular time when mother with all of her strong voice said, “Wait till your father comes home!” I knew I was in trouble. I had done exactly the opposite of what she asked me to do, and I knew when dad got home it was not going to be pretty. I knew there will be judgment and not much compassion. I knew the dues of my bad behavior will be collected when dad got home. He did… and I DID!!! PAUSE

As we begin our Midweek in Advent, we remember first and foremost that Advent means coming. The season of Advent has two focuses. First the coming of the baby Jesus to Bethlehem at Christmas and the second, Christ’s second coming as the King of kings and Lord of lords on Judgment Day. Whenever we think of Advent, more than likely we focus on Christ’s coming as the Babe of Bethlehem and the joys He brings at Christmas. As children can’t wait for Christmas, so, too, we as God’s people, His chosen and beloved children in faith, can’t wait for Christmas and all it has in store for us. Isaiah even speaks of this joy when he states in our text: “Oh that You would rend the heavens and come down,”

This is Isaiah’s prayer. At first we might think this is good. But wait, there is more here than meet the eye and ear. Study the Word of the living God and you will find that both the Old and New Testament connect Advent to Judgment Day. The Apostle Paul put it this way in his letter to the Church at Thessalonica “For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night” (1 Thess. 5:2). Again, “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command with the voice of the Archangel and with the sound of the trumpet of God” (4:16). And we can’t forget the Words of Jesus Himself: “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour when the Son of Man Comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious Throne” (Mt. 25:13, 31).

Yes, Advent means God is coming. Our heavenly Father, the Holy and just God is coming and we are sinners to the core. At first, it appears as if Isaiah is eager for the Father to come down, “Oh that You would rend the heavens and come down,” But then he seems to change his mind and contemplates what was he praying for. Isaiah goes on to say, “Behold You were angry, and we sinned; in our sins we have been a long time, and shall we be saved?” (v. 5). Oh, no, now that I think about it, Father, maybe, just maybe, I am not that excited about You coming down to earth to see me in all of my filth. This prophet realizes that God has reasons to come to us in terrible judgment.

God’s judgment is real and true. Isaiah knows this very well. For he states: “We have all become like one who is unclean and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.” (v. 6). To put it another way, Isaiah declares all my good deeds in the sight of God are nothing but filth and rubbish. These deeds of ours don’t win any favor with God. Even our attempts to do the right thing or the good deeds are sin. Our sin brings us destruction. The prophet goes on to say, “We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away” (v.6)

How is your Advent going so far? Are you looking forward to Christ’s Second coming? Are you prepared for the Father to come? “Wait till Your Father comes home!” You should. After all, Advent does mean God is coming. This holy and just God must deal with sin. The Scripture teaches clearly also, that God is our loving Father. As His redeemed, chosen and beloved people, we can wait for His coming and with great joy and expectation. Oh, I can’t wait till my Father comes home! Listen again please to the Words of the prophet, “But now, O LORD, You are our Father; we are the clay, and You are our potter; we are all the work of Your hand Be not so terribly angry, O LORD, and remember not iniquity forever.  Behold, please look, we are all Your people.” (vv 8-9). PAUSE.

People of God chosen and beloved, during this Advent Season know this truth and hold on to it dearly, God is indeed our loving Father. He is the Potter; we are the clay. We belong to Him. We are precious in His sight. He has created us in His loving and caring hands. He has personally created each and every one of us. He loves us more than anything in the world.

Being sorry for our sins, we humbly go to our loving and compassionate Father for forgiveness. And we know for a fact that He does forgive us all of our sins. How do we know that? Advent announces the coming of our loving Savior in the flesh.

In our Gospel reading for tonight we read these words: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). The “Word” is a title for Jesus. This single verse is John’s commentary on the miracle of Christmas. The Eternal Word of God became flesh, became a human being, and was born among us. He took upon Him flesh, blood, veins and muscles so that He might be our Savior a gift from the Heavenly Father.

This loving God-in-the-flesh comes to us at Bethlehem’s manger. Look inside that manger. Look inside that feed trough. What do you see? You see not just a cute baby boy. You see God in the flesh come for YOU!

Look at Calvary’s cross. What do you see? You see not a just a victim of an unjust punishment. You see God in the flesh paying for your sins, the world’s sins and my sins!

Look inside that empty tomb on Easter Sunday morning. What do you see? He is not there! He has risen from the dead. He is God in the flesh, victorious over sin, vic­torious over death, victorious over the devil. And He did this for YOU!

When the end of the world and Judgment Day arrives, look! Who is coming again? Look! Who is coming in glory to take to heaven you and all who trust in Him? Who is it? It is God in the flesh, the King of kings and Lord of lords. PAUSE.

“Oh, wait till your Father comes home!” Were often used by my mother and am sure by many mothers here tonight. I remember again from childhood the day when Father did come. Growing up, we were very, very poor. Dad did all he could to supply us all we need. At times he wouldn’t eat so that we children could. On this particular day, mother had saved the crumbs of the bread, soaked them in water, put parsley, mint and spices and presented it to us to eat. But I didn’t want to eat this food. And so mother said, “Wait till your Father comes home!”

I wasn’t looking forward to that hour when dad comes home. But he did arrive. I went to him with head bowed low and said, “Dad I am sorry, and I just can’t eat this food. I know you work hard. So does mom, but dad please, please forgive me?” I waited for the worst. What happened next completely surprised me. Dad did not get angry. His eyes were wet with tears. He knew I was sorry. He knew I deserved punish­ment.

Instead, he showed me compassion. Picked me up and said, “Son, I wished I could give you more! I wished you didn’t have to eat this food, but that is all we can afford now son. Oh, the love of my Father that day made me appreciate him and his sacrifice to the family. I was so glad that dad came home. For on that night he picked me up and carried me in his arms and kissed me and assured me I am SPECAIL to him and always will be.

Advent tells us our Lord is coming. He is coming as the babe in the manger and as the King at Judgment Day. He is holy and just and takes seriously our sin. But He is espe­cially merciful and forgiving and loving. So it’s only fitting that at the beginning of Advent we pray that last prayer recorded in Holy Scripture and pray it eagerly: “Come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev 22:20). Yes, Father, come and hold us in these pierced and wounded hands for ever. Amen.

Now the peace of God…

Solie Deo Gloria

Sunday, November 28, 2010

“This is NOT A Game!” (Romans 13:11)

S-1218 1SIA/3A 11/28/10 Hymns (O) #55 vv 1-3; (S)#239; LS #60; #62; #457(C) #55 vv 4

Text: Isaiah 2:1-5; Romans 13:11-14; Matthew 21:1-11

Theme: “This is NOT A Game!” (Romans 13:11)

Question: “Do you enjoy playing game?”


Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! The text for our 1st Sunday in Advent is from the Epistle lesson: “Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed” (Romans 13:11).

Introduction: In Nomine IESU

People of God, chosen and beloved perhaps you are like me and many others. Whenever we get together, we play games to pass the time. Many of us enjoy playing games such as cards, monopoly, patience, cranium, cribbage and the like. These games challenge us to be sharp and do the best that we can, so we can be declared the winner.

However, there are certain places and times when it is not wise to play a game. You would be very foolish if you were in the middle of an airport and hollered I have a bomb. You would be even more stupid, if you screamed as loud as you can on an airplane, I have a gun. If you did, you would be ushered to jail.

As we begin our Advent time, the Apostle Paul tells us that Christ’s second coming is not a game. Indeed, He is coming again. We know that He is coming, we just don’t know when. Therefore, we ought to be prepared for His Second coming. We shouldn’t take it lightly and dismiss it as many do, saying: “It will not happen soon! He has been raised from the grave for over 2 millennia, and He still hasn’t come. We have plenty of time. We can do what we want, live the way we want and not worry about it”.

But Christ’s Second coming is not a game. We know this as we continue in our march towards the closing of one season and opening of another season of the Church year. The Advent Season begins the new Church Year by calling our attention to the arrival of Jesus in past, present and future. He came once as the incarnate Son of Mary, who would grow up to be the promised Messiah through the cross and resurrection. He comes now to His Church in Word and Sacrament. He will come on the Last Day in glory, majesty and power. The tension in this season is between now and not yet. PAUSE.

Living between now and not yet is the challenge for the believer. Pastor Paul states: “you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed” Indeed, the time has come to wake up from sleep because we are drawing closer to the Second coming. The signs are all around us—wars and rumors of wars, famine, earthquakes and hatred galore. Hatred fills many homes. Families are divided, children against parents and parents against children. Siblings fight and bicker over estates and trusts. Pastor and people don’t see eye to eye as far as ministry is concerned.

It seems as the years pass, people are less attentive to the Word of God, His Mission and ministry. People live in their own worlds oblivious to the danger that is approaching. Many are asleep not knowing how imminent that danger is (even though there are many signs) like the iceberg that hit the Titanic and caused it to sink to the bottom with catastrophic results.

Paul in his letter to the church at Rome wants to shake the saints then and us today in realizing that the day of our salvation is nearer now that when we first believed. The time for us to awaken is now, not later. Now is the day of salvation. Now is the time for us to be awake and preparing for His Second coming.

I’m always amazed how people prepare for so many things in their lives, but not for their final day when they meet the Lord or when He returns. This past Friday was the biggest shopping day of the year. Many people prepared ahead of schedule to awaken early and head to the stores to get the item they want. Others spent the day preparing their home or business for the upcoming Christmas season by placing decorations. Still others began to write their Christmas cards and prepare to send them out.

Yet, many fail to prepare for the most important day of their lives—the day when they will stand in the Presence of the Incarnate Son of God and the Son of Mary Jesus. Many ignore all of the signs and don’t prepare for their departures from this earth. All know that death will come, but they don’t prepare for it. PAUSE.

Many times I have sat with family at a crucial time in their lives when one of their loved ones has gone to be with the Lord. Even though the family member had been ill for sometimes, not a word was mentioned as to the request of that day or what they wanted done for their funeral. How sad that is. How ill prepared they are to face the events that will alter their lives forever. It is foolish to ignore the fact that the end is coming and Christ will return soon.

Living on this earth is not a game. We are here for a short time. By God’s grace 70-80 years, but the time will come when the bell will toll, the music will stop. Then what? Will we be prepared to spend our eternity with Jesus? Are we busy carrying out the ministry of the Gospel? Are we making investment in things that will not be stolen, rotted out or rusted?

Beloved in the Lord, our lives as Christians are not a game. We are still on this earth for one reason to live all of our lives to bring glory and honor to the Lord of the Universe. We live to look back at His first coming in the manger as the Savior of the World, and His Second coming as the Judge Eternal; so that we might be with Him forever.

Indeed, it was not a game for Jesus to come to earth to be the Savior of the world. It was not a game for Him to humble Himself and lay on the straw of a manger. It was not a game for Him to grow up in the village of Nazareth being obedient to His parents. It was not a game when He spent three years of His life equipping the 12 and others to carry on His ministry of forgiveness of sin and peace. It was not a game for Him to suffer and be beaten. It was not a game for Him to go to the Hill and give up His crown for a cross. It was not a game for Him to die and be buried. It was not a game for Him to endure all of this for your sake and mine.

Our salvation is not a game. It cost Jesus His crown, His heart, His blood, and His all—His life, so that you may have a crown, a heart like His and to dine with Him at His table eating His body and drinking His blood so that you may have life and have it abundantly.

Saints in Christ, the life of the Christian is not a game. The time is getting closer and closer for us to depart. Time is getting critical! The Two minute warning has begun!. When was the last time you thought about His return? When was the last time you paid attention that the day is approaching? Know this faithful friends our salvation is closer now than when we first believed and by God’s grace alone we will be prepared because the Holy Spirit will make us aware that our salvation wasn’t a game and neither is the salvation of others.

God grant us the joy and privilege to continue to live for Him as we prepare our hearts and heads for His Second coming. And when He returns may He find us sweeping the sky with the radar of faith watching and waiting. Amen.

Now the peace of God…

Saturday, November 27, 2010

“Remember, Rejoice and Give THANKS!!!” (Deuteronomy 8:2)

S-1217 Thanksgiving Day/3C 11/25/10 Hymns (O) #568; #644; (S)#36; LS #569; #566; (C) #574

Text: Deuteronomy 8:1-10; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18; Matthew 6:24-34

Theme: “Remember, Rejoice and Give THANKS!!!” (Deuteronomy 8:2)

Question: “Do you Remember the blessings of God daily?”


Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! The text for our Thanksgiving Day celebration is from the O. T. lesson: “And you shall remember the whole way that the LORD Your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that He might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.” (Deuteronomy 8:2).

Introduction: In Nomine IESU

People of God, chosen and beloved as you know I just recently returned from traveling in the footsteps of Martin Luther and the Savior of mankind—Jesus Christ, in Germany and the Holy Land. What a wonderful trip the Lord gave the 25 of us as we traveled many miles together. Certainly these places are etched in my memory bank forever.

I remember vividly the day we stopped in Wittenberg, and walked through the Castle Church (the place where Luther nailed the 95 thesis) to the door. In that big and awesome church, are the tombs of Martin Luther and Philip Melanchthon. Right above Luther’s tomb is an impressive and breathtaking pulpit. That day, unaware of the great opportunity, I was able to climb the many steps of the pulpit and preached the liberating message of hope and heaven. As I preached, the hair on my neck stood, as I remembered and reflected upon the many Lutheran Reformers who preached the message to burdened souls and guilty consciences—the message of freedom and grace and love. A couple of hundred yards from the Castle Church, I led the Divine Service in St. Mariean’s church were Luther was often the preacher, and there we sang the mighty Reformation Hymn, “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.”

What joy filled my heart as we traveled through the German cities of Wittenberg, (the birth place of the Reformation), Iseleben (his birth/death place), Cortburg and Wartbug (where Luther translated the New Testament) Weimar (St. Peter’s and Paul’s Church), Eisenach, Erfurt (Luther studied at the university), Warms (where Luther made his greatest confession “Here I Stand!”). These places were merely studied during my seminary training and read about them in books; but here I was walking in these cities, reliving the Reformation all over again and having the greatest opportunity and privilege of sharing the words of the Eternal Gospel.

From there we traveled on to the Holy Land to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. Again, what a privilege and honor to this young pastor from Nazareth, to preach at the same location, where Jesus preached His Sermon on the Mount; and dine at His Table with fellow travelers. Along the road, we visited Mt. Carmel, Cana of Galilee, Capernaum, Nazareth and other locations. In each of these places Scriptures were read and hymns sung. Then, the climax of the trip, we went on to the Mount of Olives and the Garden of Gethsemane and there with tears running down our cheeks we sang, “Were you there when they crucified my Lord”. Oh, the joy that overflowed within me, as I reflected on the wonderful gifts the Savior Jesus gave us—Forgiveness of sin, Peace, Salvation, and Eternal Life assured on account of His death on the cross of Calvary. What feelings! What emotions! What memories! What joys! All because of the goodness of the Lord to a sinner like me. PAUSE.

To be able to remember and ponder things is such a gift. God in His divine mercy and goodness has given us the ability to remember His constant grace and presence in our lives. His holy book is a visual reminder of His constant love and deeds of our redemption through the cross of His Son, Jesus.

Today, as we observe and celebrate Thanksgiving Day, there is another man who speaks of remembering and rejoicing on account of the Awesome and Amazing God he knew. Moses, the great prophet of God, stood before the throng in the wilderness and told them to remember all of the things God has done for them. God with a mighty hand and outstretched arms delivered them from the bondage of slavery in Egypt and led them to the Promised Land.

For forty years, God was their protector and provider of all good things. For forty years He fed them, provided water in the desert and sheltered them from the enemy and kept them safe in His presence. For forty years they lacked nothing. For their God walked with them by day and night. For forty years they knew Him personally as they heard Him speak with Moses and as they saw His mighty miracles. And now, Moses wants them to remember this God, rejoice in His presence and give thanks for all He did and continues to do for them. PAUSE.

You need not travel to Germany, Israel or to the Sinai Desert to remember the goodness of the Lord. You do not need to take a journey with others to be reminded of the Awesome God YOU have. All you need to do is open the greatest book ever written—God’s book of love for mankind—His living Word. There you will know of the all compassionate and merciful God. In the pages of the Bible you will see the mighty miracles of healing and provision for all His people. In the study of His Word, you will be drawn closer to know of the greatest gift to mankind—Christ’s suffering, death on the cross and rising from the dead.

When you do take time to study His precious Word, you will rejoice in all of His promises and you will give thanks for the abundant blessings He has for you. Open this book and you will know without a doubt of His love, mercy and grace for you. Learn from those who left us the records and deeds of our Savior that He is big enough to care for all of us. Know for certain that our God is not a small god, but a God who can and will take care of us in all situations and in all circumstances.

My faithful followers of the Savior, don’t limit your God, don’t make Him powerless, and don’t make Him small. But instead remember God is bigger than any of your problems. Remember that He can and does take care of you and meets all of your needs. Remember that He is mighty enough no matter what the conditions of the world, the job market or the home situation.

Yes, I know we live in an unstable world. I know that the economy has gone sour. I know that many are talking about the latest x-ray scanners and pat-downs at airports. I know that many don’t have jobs or are under-employed. I know we live at the edge of our seats because we fight terrorism. I know that our great and brave men and women continue to fight for our freedom and the world is not peaceful any more.

That is ok. We don’t have to solve the problems of the world. We don’t even have to solve our problems. Because God in His mercy has remedied our biggest problem—sin, death and hell. Therefore, we can by the Spirit’s power remember that God is really good to us. Remember with thankful hearts what He has done for each and every one of you here today. Remember the gift of Salvation. Remember the gift of peace in an unsettled world. Remember the forgiveness earned for you through His death and resurrection. Remember that your names are written in the Lamb’s book of Life and Remember that YOUR eternity is secured and guaranteed. PAUSE.

Dearly beloved! May I be bold to ask you “How old are you?” No matter how old you are, whether you are 6, 16, 26, 56, or 86 take a moment and reflect on your life. Do you remember a day when God wasn’t involved in your life? Do you remember a day when God forsook you? Do you remember a day when God abandoned you? Do you remember a day when He stopped loving you? I am certain that He has never forgotten you or His promises to you. Look to the cross and see His love. Look to the Table and see His gifts of provision and peace. Look to the font and see His forgiveness offered. Listen today, remember, rejoice and truly give thanks to the God of all grace.

Today, many will gather with family in God’s house, but are in a hurry to get home and start eating. Others want to get done eating so they can watch football. But for those who remember the goodness of the Lord, do rejoice and take time to give thanks for His gifts of mercy and grace provided in Jesus Christ our Savior.

I, as your pastor from small town of Armour, SD., have fond memories of traveling around the world, preaching in places I never dreamed about. So do you. You have many things in your memory bank. I urge you therefore to take time to remember them, rejoice in them and give thanks to the Awesome, Amazing and Almighty God, Jesus Christ who provides you with His endless bounty, blessings and benefits; not only in this world, but forever in eternity. HAPPY THANKSGIVING. Amen.

Now the peace of God…

Monday, November 1, 2010

“The Eternal Gospel” (Revelation 14:6-7)

S-1216 Reformation/3C 10/31/10 Hymns (O) #593 LSB; (S)#262; LS #473; #376; (C) #261

Text: Revelation 14:6-7; Romans 3:19-28; John 8:31-36

Theme: “The Eternal Gospel” (Revelation 14:6-7)

Question: “Do you consider yourself to be totally free?”


Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! The text for our meditation this morning is from the book of Revlation: “Then I saw another angel directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people. And he said with a loud voice, ‘Fear God and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come, and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water’” (Revelation 14:6-7).

Introduction: In Nomine IESU

People of God, chosen and beloved, this day is very special to all Lutherans, because today, we observe and celebrate the Reformation movement—A movement that began like a little spark in Germany and spread like wildfire throughout the whole world. Reformation celebration is nothing but realizing that we have been freed and have freedom.

But what is “freedom?” Is it being merely loosed from some chain or shackle? Is it living in the United States that offers you freedom of speech and religion? When a prisoner is let loose from his cell, is that enough? No! Being “free” and being “free, indeed!” are as different from each other as light is from darkness and as oil is from water.

The first is simply an escape; the second is liberation to life! The first can be undone; the second cannot be taken away nor diminished. Pastor Paul, in prison during his many imprisonments wore steel on his ankles but his heart and soul were preaching the Eternal Gospel - the same Eternal Gospel proclaimed in Revelation 14, our first reading. These shackles couldn’t bind him, restrict him or hinder him from enjoying what the Savior has giving him in the Gospel—FREEDOM that lasts beyond prison cells, sickness, or casket in a grave. PAUSE.

493 years ago today, as the nail pierced the parchment to hang 95 points of dispute on the church door at Wittenberg the Reformation was born. Luther was more than just a monk. He was a true servant of the most High God. He was a professor of Old Testament, a true and brilliant scholar, a master debater, an engaging preacher, a fiery foe of false faith. He was a faithful shepherd, a loving husband and doting father. We can make him out, like the statue of him on the Seminary grounds in St. Louis, to be “larger than life.” Let me tell you what he was and what he is: He is a SINNER, enslaved to the devil, who was more than unshackled from a chain - this man became a new creature in Christ - one liberated to life. As Pastor Paul reminds us: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). You see, the Eternal Gospel worked its renewal in the formerly tortured soul of a man who yearned to be free. Luther didn’t escape from the devil’s grip - oh no! So much more, the Lord of Life Liberated him to a life that was and remains full and abundant.

And the good news this morning is this: There is nothing “special” about Martin Luther. His liberation from the condemnation of sin is yours and it is mine, and now we get to speak even as the angel in Revelation 14:6. That word Angel has a fuller meaning than just one of those pretty little ladies in the white flowing gowns with golden trumpets, flittering from cloud to cloud on the Sistine Chapel or hanging in the Louvre. An Angel is a messenger with a specific message from the God of the Universe. We might read Revelation 14:6 this way, Then I saw another messenger flying directly overhead, with an Eternal Gospel to proclaim... to all people! The messenger doesn’t matter, but the message does, right?

Well, almost. Yes the message matters. But the message is that the messenger him- or her- self matters to almighty God. This particular messenger is above the earth where the great dragon, the evil One, cannot harm him. Though he may breathe fire, he cannot win, the deed is done, one little word has felled him. The message is that God is victorious, that He who made all that is, the heaven and the earth, the sea and the springs of water (i.e., all life) is the judge. He has spoken and He has acted, and in judging His Son guilty of your sin and mine, He has loosed the chains of sin and liberated us once and for all. Now the message is for the messenger. Now the message is in the messenger.

If this day means anything it is that God has put His Eternal Gospel into formerly condemned hearts and lives. By placing that Eternal Gospel into you, He has set you free, indeed. The result is amazing: Not only is Luther a holy messenger, but so are you. Think about where you are planted. 38 years ago, I was a young lad growing up on the slopes of Mt. Carmel, but far away from God, His Church and His Word. But then, by His grace I migrated to the USA and lived in Huron, SD. I attended Huron College and lived in Churchill Hall. Right across from my living quarter was a large building—the library. At the entrance of the library were etched these words: “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free!” (John 8:32). I didn’t even know that was part of the Bible. I really didn’t know what that meant at all. Each day I walked by the library I saw the words and read them. Then, one day, while I was attending Mt. Calvary Lutheran Church Pastor Paul Schwan (who is sainted) spoke of the freedom that this truth gives to us—sins are forgiven on account of Christ Jesus.

Know these words most beloved of His: “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free!” YES, YOU ARE FREED. Today, you witnessed this freedom given to Tayla Ann Hinckley in the Waters of Baptism. As the Word of promise was spoken over her and the water touched her, she was unshackled and delivered to be a recipient of the Eternal Gospel—a Gospel that sets you free forever and ever. What a blessing given to Tayla Ann Hinkley - her name written in the Lamb’s book of Life - assurance for a troubled soul - how grand is that. PAUSE.

Most Holy and beloved people of God, today, you stand above the condemnation of the dragon. For Pastor Paul penned these words: “There is therefore now no condemnation for them that are in Christ Jesus!” (Romans 8:1) As a messenger, you stand, even as did Luther some 493 years ago, as one who can tell those in your world that each of them and all of us who reside here, do so at His pleasure, and that He has given the ultimate payment for all that put us into prison! The Hour of His judgment is this: The Cross! Ah, Jesus Christ crucified and risen did happen once in time and as such is a matter for the history books. But just as freedom is more than just having the shackles fall off, just as liberation is so much more, so also is the Cross of Jesus more than a footnote in Palestinian history books or on the soil of the Holy Land.

Today we celebrate history but more importantly HIS Story. The milestone or mile-marker that is the yearly observance of Reformation reminds us of the Eternal Gospel that keeps us, yesterday, today, and forever in the pierced-hands of the One who died and rose for us—Jesus Christ. What would be horrible would be to know peace, true peace, forgiveness, being loosed from the chains and shackles and to have the prison door swing open... only to have the peace, the forgiveness, the life, withdrawn after a time or a season. It would be cruel to save us, if that salvation was only temporary. Worse yet, what happens when we give this freedom away?

What do we call a “temporary promise?” – You know the answer to that, don’t you? IT IS A LIE! If the Gospel was anything but eternal it wouldn’t be “the Gospel.” Luther wanted you to know that yesterday matters to God, that today is blessed, and that “forever and ever, amen” is redeemed. Luther wanted every cloud of condemnation, every deluge of doubt; every clank of the chain of the prisoner has been answered in Jesus. Luther didn’t want the Church to preach anything less, anything other than this Jesus. One of the 95 Theses #16 says, There is the same difference between hell, purgatory, and heaven as between despair, almost despair, and certainty {assurance}! The Eternal Gospel is the eternal promise, the certainty, the assurance that Christ Jesus and His blood on the Cross is more than sufficient to bring not just release from the jail-house, but true “forever and ever, amen” style liberation.

We sang A Mighty Fortress today and that is good, but if its refrain is just a piece of music, we lose its true meaning - truly, the kingdom ours remaineth is the joy to guide you and me as we fly overhead, where the eternal consequences of sin are paid in full, to say to those who are still struggling, this is the day of judgment: this is the Judgment of Almighty God - He loves you. Your debt is paid - in full - for all time. You are loved enough to be brought into the family. “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” John 1:29. Amen!”

This is the Eternal Gospel, and this is He who owns you, who cherishes you, who preaches the Gospel through you, in your vocation, even today. With that grand honor bestowed upon you, forever, rejoice! Amen!

Now the peace…


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

“The Question is: Justice or Mercy?” (Genesis 4:8-9)

S-1215 22SAP/3C 10/24/10 Hymns (O) #2; S#403 LS #341; #371; #315; (C) # #456

Text: Genesis 4:1-15; 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18; Luke 18:9-17

Theme: “The Question is: Justice or Mercy?” (Genesis 4:8-9)

Question: “Why do you come to worship?”


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: “Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him. Then the LORD said to Cain, ‘Where is Abel your brother?’ He said, ‘I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?’” (Genesis 4:8-9).

Introduction: In Nomine IESU

People of God, chosen and beloved, as a Pastor I have been privileged to travel often to preach, teach and lecture around the country. I often encourage the saints to raise up any questions they may have. In all the years I lectured and taught, or attended workshops, I have never heard a stupid question. However, I have heard a stupid answer.

Today, we hear a stupid answer to the question asked by God. The Lord God came to Cain and asked him, “Where is your brother?” And Cain’s response was. “Why, am I supposed to be my brother’s keeper?” Indeed that is a stupid response since Cain knew exactly where his brother Abel was—buried somewhere in the dirt.

And this brings us to the very important question that the text asks: Is it justice or mercy that we need? Do we want God to be a JUST God or a MERCIFUL God? Today, let us call upon the Holy Spirit to help us with the answer. The truth of the matter is: if we are to be saved, we need the mercy which comes from Holy Spirit-given faith in the risen Lord. By His power, may all of us be moved to say, “Lord, have mercy upon me a sinner!?” God grant this to us all.

We don’t want God’s justice. Because if we did get justice this is what will happen to us! The Just God can’t help but cut us in pieces, put us in the frying pan and after cooking us all up throw us to the sharks to devour us. If you want justice in the sight of God, you are doomed, damned and dead. If you want justice for what you have done, look out, because you have failed miserably. If you stand before God showing Him why you are so wonderfully good, then be very careful of what you get. No, we don’t want justice. we WANT MERCY FROM GOD HIMSELF.

Mercy is what this sermon is about. And how do we describe, depict and define mercy in human terms so that we can understand it and appreciate it. Simply put, MERCY is receiving relief from what you do deserve; but the GRACE of God, is giving you what you don’t deserve. PAUSE.

Study the Scriptures, and you will see God’s trade mark on humanity showing mercy to them when they didn’t deserve it. How often in Scripture God pours out His mercy on the children of Israel? Again and again they wonder from Him, they do their own thing, they run after other so-called god’s. Instead of banishing them, He blesses them. Instead of murdering them, He showers them with Mercy.

Mercy oozes from God’s Holy book. We see it here in our reading when God in mercy comes to Cain and offers him repentance before it is too late. But instead of receiving the Mercy of God, Cain wanted to offer God his worthiness. He wanted to prove to God his hands can fulfill God’s demands. That he is worthy to stand before God on his own good works. But God offered him the opportunity to turn away from his fallen nature and turn from his jealousy towards his younger brother. Indeed, with this simple task, the Lord was providing Cain pardon and peace. This is nothing but true and Divine Mercy.

Mercy is the stock in trade of heaven. Our Lord wills it for all His children. Cain was given by God to Adam and Eve - their firstborn. Eve thought him to be the fulfillment of the promise of Genesis 3:15, the first pronouncement of Jesus - that Jesus would be bruised on his heel by the serpent (the Cross) but that from His place on the Cross Jesus would crush the head of the serpent, He would reverse the curse, give life for death - show mercy to fallen mankind.

However, Cain didn’t want mercy. I suspect he wanted justice - fairness - the feeling that his offering was “just as good as” his brother’s gift. We dare not ask God for justice; else He will pronounce the sentence on our self-imposed mortal wound. We must not think we have earned nor deserved His favor by what we have done (I fast twice a week, tithe of all I get, yes I’m so glad I’m not like other men, extortionists, murderers, slanderers...). “Lord, You know me. I come to church every Sunday. Lord, You know I serve on the Board. Lord, You see how much of my money I give to the work of the Kingdom. Lord, You know that I don’t skip church to go hunting. Lord You know…” All of the things we do for the Lord has its proper place as a way of thanking Him for all He has done for us. But to call it my justification for God to bless and honor me, that will exclude God from being Merciful to me, a sinner! That means I will deny God the right to be my Father, my provider, the One who loves, cares, and provides for me, just because He is love. He is merciful and He is Mercy. His love is lavished undeservedly upon us, unrestrictedly! Behold the man on the Cross: undeserved love, given without limit, without restriction. PAUSE.

When the tax collector comes to the Temple he knows he has earned no right to be there. Even his blood line is not the “golden ticket.” He deserves wrath! What he pleads is Mercy, on me, a sinner. This man with the bowed head and heart wants what he knows he cannot and does not deserve as well as not having to pay for what he does deserve: Grace, given in Mercy. Or is it Mercy, given in Grace. In receiving both he receives Peace! He receives the Peace of God in Christ Jesus!

As we stand here today, in this holy temple, we stand with the tax collector and cry out to God not for Justice, but for MERCY. The Divine Worship Service is a cry for mercy. Our liturgy speaks of this mercy. Our corporate confession begins this way: “O almighty God, merciful Father, I, a poor, miserable sinner, confess to unto Thee all my sins and iniquities…” We continue by crying out, “Lord, God have mercy upon us.” And before the Lord’s Supper, we cry out: “O Christ, Thou Lamb of God, that takest away the sin of the world, have mercy upon us.” (Divine Worship pp. TLH 15ff).

Oh, yes, what a blessing to receive the mercy of God instead of His Justice. God’s Son gets justice, and we get His mercy. We want love and mercy when we don’t deserve it. And we get it because God Himself intervenes in our life by giving us the Ultimate Sacrifice.

In our reading, we read that Abel offered to God a Lamb—the first-fruit and the Lord was pleased with it. But today know and learn this absolute truth God took the Lamb—His ONLY Son, Jesus and offered Him to redeem humanity from death and destruction. And with certainty we say to Him, “Lord, I don’t deserve anything good from You, but accept this Lamb’s death instead of mine. Be merciful to me a SINNER! And our cries of mercy are heard by the One hanging on the cross—Jesus the True and Eternal Sacrifice—God’s pure and holy Lamb. PAUSE

Right here and right now you and I don’t get justice but receive mercy. Here in this place you receive forgiveness through the Lamb of God—Jesus Christ. He gives it to you through His Word. He showers you with it in the waters of Baptism, and He supplies it in the beautiful bread and cup of blessing on His Altar.

Oh, my beloved and His beloved thank God with me that you have a loving Father who doesn’t give us what we deserve, JUSTICE, but He gives us something to take away our punishment—MERCY. Know this truth, the heart of Scripture is a God who loves you, cares for you and seeks you out. See in them that He is a God who takes the initiative in reaching out for sinner. He is the lovesick Father who runs to meet His runaway son. He is the Landlord who cancels a debt too large for His servant to repay. He is the Employer who pays the 11th-hour worker the same as the 1st-hour workers. He is the banquet GIVER who goes out to the highways to find bums, beggars and bag ladies to be His guest. He is the Priest who washes us, cleanses us, and sends us home justified as if we have never sinned.

Humanly speaking, there is no way you can explain this unbelievable mercy of God. God does not condone the sin of those He loves nor does He compromise His standards. He doesn’t ignore the rebellion of His chosen ones nor does He relax His demands. Rather than dismiss our sins our Brother’s keeper—Jesus Christ assumes them—He takes them on His shoulders; He carries them on the cross and buries them in the tomb forever.

No wonder, Jeremiah writes: “Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall! My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me. But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ‘The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in Him’” (Lamentation 3:19-24).

Yes, this is our hope going home justified because we know what our Savior our Brother’s keeper has done. Today, reap the fruit of the Cross, where God offered His first-fruits, His Son for sinners. Here is mercy for sinners. Here is the gift that enables sinners like you and me to join with that poor tax collector and cry out with certainty, “Be merciful to me, a sinner!” Here is the grand invitation to come as a child, as His child! Amen.

Now the peace of God…

Soli Deo Gloria

Sunday, October 17, 2010

“The Big Showdown” (Genesis 32:24-25)

S-1214 21SAP/3C 10/17/10 Hymns (O) #451; S#210 (C) #658

Text: Genesis 32:22-30; 2 Timothy 3:14-4:5; Luke 18:1-8

Them: “The Big Showdown” (Genesis 32:24-25)


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 Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with Him.” (Genesis 32:24-25).

Introduction: In Nomine IESU

People of God, chosen and beloved, on October 26, 1861 in Tombstone, AZ, is the legendary story of one of the biggest showdown of the west, between Wyatt, Virgil, and Morgan Earp along with Doc Holliday fought the Clantons and McLaurys at the Ok. Corral. The showdown lasted only 30 seconds, with many killed and wounded. However, this showdown is remembered as the most famous face to face gun fight in the history of the Old West.

Showdowns didn’t only occur on the dusty trails of the western Cowboys, but in every area of life. On March 8, 1971 at Madison Square Garden in New York there was another big showdown called “The Fight of the Century” between the world’s boxing champion Joe Frazier and the challenger Muhammad Ali. When it was all said and done the Champion was still holding the crown.

Today, Moses the prophet of God speaks of another Showdown, not at the Ok. Corral, not at Madison Square Garden in New York, but at the Ford of Jabbok in Palestine between Jacob and the Angel of the Lord. PAUSE

But wait I am getting ahead of myself. Jacob had more than one showdown. His first was when he cheated his brother Esau out of his birth right and had to run away. Another showdown took place when he ran away from his father-in-law Laban and now is preparing for another showdown with his brother. Playing it all safe, he divides his family, servants and flocks and sends them on ahead of him. He cheats, and then he runs away, what a pattern of success!!! What a way for a Patriarch to live!

But the Supplanter the one who cheats and runs is about to have His showdown - a showdown of Grace - a showdown that will change the course of his life and speak of God’s power to transform hearts. This showdown begins like this: Jacob stays behind and prayed to the God of Abraham and Isaac to spare his life from his brother Esau (Another attempt to run away, but...). In the night all alone in the camp, he had his biggest showdown of his life. In the shadows of the night, there was a man. Jacob couldn’t see him clearly and didn’t know who he was. Was it Easu? Was it one his brother’s hit men? Whoever it is, Jacob was afraid. The hair on his neck was standing, his knees were shaking, and his heart was beating faster and faster and he was preparing for the showdown. There was no running away, no escape from this showdown...

It was so dark, Jacob couldn’t see him, but the man kept getting closer and closer and finally he was on top of him. And so the Big Showdown began. They wrestled all night but neither the man prevailed nor Jacob succumbed to the wrestling match. After this every muscle in Jacob’s body ached and burned from the showdown.

But all of a sudden Jacob’s adversary reached gently and touched the hip of Jacob with His hand. It popped. The hip flipped from its socket. Pain shot through every muscle in his body and Jacob fell to his knee. He knew this was no ordinary Man. He could have squashed Jacob any moment He chose but didn’t. As the dawn early light began to break, the Man spoke His first words saying, “Let me go, for the day has broken!”

Who was this Man? Why did He come? What would be the outcome? This would all be revealed in time… after the Big Showdown. Jacob knew he wasn’t wrestling with a mere mortal man, but none-other than the Everlasting Angel—the Pre-Incarnate Christ. This Everlasting Angel had humbled Himself to come to the Ford of Jabbok to correct a major blind spot in Jacob’s life.

Throughout his young short life, Jacob had thought of God as His friend and companion to care for his every need. He was there to wait on him hand and foot. However, this Big Showdown revealed God as his enemy to teach him a major lesson and by this deed Jacob would become His friend forever.

This Big Showdown took place so that Jacob would let God be God, and, he was to stop trying to play God. Through this Big Showdown Jacob learned to depend on His God - 100 percent. He learned not to rely on his strength and merits; not to rely on his own powers of deceit, nor of flight in the sight of danger; not to try to earn God’s favor by his own reason or strength, but completely and solely to rest on and rely on His seeming adversary’s grace and goodness. One other thing Jacob learned from this Big Showdown—to ask for God’s blessings. PAUSE.

In actuality if you view the life of the Patriarch Jacob, you must admit his whole life was one showdown after another. It is a cycle of struggle and seeming success. And so were the lives of the children of Israel—struggling to make ends meet in Canaan. Struggling under the rod of the Egyptian oppressor. Struggling against the Philistines and Canaanites, Assyrians, Babylonians, and the Romans. Wrestling with God and faith in the midst of a pagan world, with temptations to be like the other nations, worship their idols, and practice their immorality. It was a struggle in which they often failed. Yet it was also a struggle in which God blessed them. Here, God, not Jacob, won, and in the Lord’s victory was Jacob’s first and best victory - to see His Savior and receive His grace - as GIFT!

This Gracious God, this Man engaged in struggle with His creation, He blessed them in so many ways: By rescuing them from slavery; by feeding and caring for them for 40 years in the wilderness; by revealing His personal name to them; by demonstrating in Word and deed His dedication and devotion to them. He did it as He brought them safely to the Promised Land. He poured upon them blessing after blessing with His presence at the tabernacle, forgave them their sins by the shedding of blood and eventually He led them to Bethlehem and to Calvary to see Him as the Man who is not mere mortal; but the Everlasting Angel.

But these showdowns were not limited to the Patriarch Jacob or the children of Israel but these are our showdowns as well. Yes, we too, have our showdown. We too, struggle. We too, strive to climb the Ford of Jabbok on our own terms. We wrestle with God. And as with Jacob, thank God, He prevailed... God prevailed... on the Cross... from the grave... in your Baptism... in your life... even as He did for Jacob.

You know your struggles and striving. I need not remind you of that. Your problems are not hidden from you—you know them well. How many times you and I try to play God rather than letting God be God? How many times we want God on our own terms? Oh, yes, you know what I am saying full well. You struggle with family, co-workers, friends, health, finances and others that climb out of the depth of our sinful hearts. How many times have you been Jacob???

We have other showdowns—struggles against the Spirit of God. As Christians, we strive to live and do God’s holy will, but fail miserably. Oh, we try, and sometimes we try harder than others, but fall flat on our face. Sometimes it seems the more you try not to sin, the more you end up sinning. If we could just go one day, one hour, one minute without sin! But, no! Sin’s got hold of us, like the 8-leged tentacles of an octopus pulling us and sucking the life out of us. We mean to do well, but we end up doing wrong. Like Pastor Paul and all humanity we fight the fight of our life. We have our own showdown against the old Adam. But we don’t win. Oh, I would like to say that I have mastered sin and its destructive power, but that is not true. Like Paul I cry out. “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24-25)

When we struggle with sin, in reality we are struggling with God. Will we rely on ourselves and our own devices, or will we acknowledge God as the giver of every good and perfect gift? Jacob came to the realization, after his long struggle, that he needed God’s blessing. And so do you and so do I.

On our own, by our own efforts, we cannot win the struggle against God. But in His mercy and His grace, He continues to come to us—to bless us even when we don’t deserve it. At times He shows us who’s really in control, as He did by touching Jacob’s hip and throwing it out of joint. At times we are hit hard with the hand of God to stop wrestling against Him, and accept His blessings for us as His most beloved Bride.

Jacob had his showdown. He received his blessing, the new name, the new identity, the new reality, that he is one who has fought with God... and by God’s grace, has prevailed. The Children of Israel had their showdown. Every prophet and every evangelist had his showdown. And so do you. But the greatest showdown that ever took place wasn’t in 1881 at the Ok. Corral or in 1971 in New York City, but on a hill outside of Jerusalem. There was the BIGGEST showdown ever. It took place on a Friday between the true Son of Israel and the evil forces. For six long hours the wrestling match went on, until the Son of God laid down His life. In the other corner Satan and his demons were jumping, hollering and screaming for winning the match. In the end, the Son of Man prevailed... and in His victory we find our peace. We, like the man now named “Israel” know we needn’t run away, but we can rest... in Him!

Yes, how quickly things changed! For God ended the BIG Showdown once and for all at the cross, through His Son, Jesus. There the night of our rebellion becomes the dawn of a new life with God. There He gives us His blessing, and changes our name – giving us the name of Christ to bear. And now He reaches His hand not to harm us but to place His Triune name on us in the waters of Baptism and blesses us to be a blessing to others. Amen.

Now the peace of God.