Sunday, July 25, 2010

“Pleading Abraham and A Merciful God” (Gen. 18:23-24)

S-1200 7/25/10 9SAP/3C Hymns: (O) #40; S#773 LSB; LS. #279; #330; #327; (C) #644

Texts: Genesis 18:20-33, Colossians 2:16-15; Luke 11:1-13

Theme: “Pleading Abraham and A Merciful God” (Gen. 18:23-24)

Question: Have you pleaded with God lately?


Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleuia. The text for our meditation is the Old Testament lesson: “Then Abraham drew near and said, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked” Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city. Will you then sweep away the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it?”

People of God, CHOSEN and BELOVED, the opening words of Psalm 88 are very descriptive. Listen please and see in your minds eye the plea that is sent heaven-ward by its author Asaph. “O Lord God, my savior, I cry out to you during the day and at night. Let my prayer come into your presence. Turn your ear to hear my cries” (Ps. 88:1-2). This servant of the most high God pleads with Him to turn His ear towards His supplication and hear what he is asking Him to do. This request is poignant that he doesn’t want God to be distracted at all, but to turn His full attention to him.

Today, we meet Abraham (father of many nations) pleading with God to spare the community where his nephew lot lived. The conversation is very revealing of the heart of Abraham. God comes and says, “I am about to destroy this city for their wickedness.” But Abraham pleads to the God of all mercy not do that, saying, “Would You destroy the righteous with the unrighteous?” They begin at 50 and go down all the way to ten, and God promised for the sake of 10 He wouldn’t destroy the people or the land.

This lesson teaches us much. As Abraham’s children by faith and God’s children by grace through baptism we are to ask boldly and courageously from the loving Father for all that we need.

We read in the Introit, “Call upon Me in the Day of Trouble and I will deliver you and you will honor Me!” (Psalm 50:15). This is what our God does—He hears the prayers of His people. In the Gospel account we meet Jesus who tells us to call upon the Lord. To pray to Him and He will answer our prayers. Ask the Father for what you need; He will deliver you from death and destruction.

What a privilege you and I have as the beloved children of God. We can follow the examples of Father Abraham, Asaph (author of Psalm 88, 50) and Jesus to bring our pleas, petitions and prayers before the Throne of Grace.

Ask! That’s precisely what Abraham did for Sodom and Gomorrah, for Lot his brother. These two cities perished, for here were not even ten who believed in the Lord! Lot loved his hometown. He left the fertile plain where these cities were, sojourned during their destruction in a town so small that he pled for it to be spared, and it was. Lot went from the prosperous and familiar to the poverty and faithlessness. He needed daily bread. In everything the Lord heard his cries for mercy, the Lord was with him. The Lord provided as a Father. Here is a precursor of Manna from heaven. The Lord provided for Lot!

As Abraham pled for his nephew Lot, he pleads for you, his brother, his sister. We are privileged to plead for one another today! PAUSE.

Beloved in the Lord, prayer is the privilege of family. Yes, the Privilege of Family! Jesus’ disciples know how John the Baptist taught his disciples, now, as His followers they come to Jesus and ask Him to teach them how to pray. It’s “daddy, show me how its done!” This is the privilege of family - both to be taught how to pray, and then, to pray – boldly!

It is the boldness of family, of a son, that marked Abraham’s prayer for Sodom and Gomorrah. It is the boldness of family that marks the prayers of Jesus and His beloved Bride—the Church. Look at His instructions: When you pray, say: “Father, hallowed be Your name. 2 Your kingdom come. 3 Give us each day our daily bread, 4 and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.”

What does Jesus, the Master Teacher and Rabbi from Nazareth teaches His disciples and us? The first to call God “Father.” He is not to be addressed here as mighty and majestic, all powerful, like super power Oz! When you pray say, “Father...” This indicates intimate connectedness to the One who created us and formed us and redeemed us by sending His only Son. We are not Muslims who dare NOT call God Father. But as His beloved children, we dare and delight in calling Him Father, because Jesus said, we should and could and so we do boldly pleading for His mercy and compassion to hear and heed our prayers.

Don’t forget my beloved people; prayer is the privilege of a child with His Father. The Father’s love enables boldness, the kind of boldness that will awaken the neighbor at midnight to ask for three loaves of bread. Addressing Him as our Father, we ask that His name be kept sacred among us - that we treat Him with respect, honor, and delight - to see Him as beloved Father and ourselves as beloved Children. This is the privilege of family. Each person is properly honored. Behold the Trinity: Father, and Son, and Holy Spirit, three distinct persons, all doing their part to bless and redeem, to reconcile and renew, to make the lost and the dead into the children of adoption and life, the children of God.

With boldness we approach the Throne of Grace because the door has been opened by the True Son of the Father. We are bold to pray and plead because God has promised to hear us for the sake of the gracious blood of Christ to sinners - through the love of the Father, in the Comfort of the Spirit! In this kingdom we boldly ask for this gift of forgiveness and peace for ourselves, and then for Him to flow through us to others.

By the Spirit’s power we learn to listen to father Abraham, Asaph and Jesus as they visit with the Father of mercy to hear them. Abraham pleaded for Sodom and Gomorrah, Asaph prayed to the Lord to deliver Him from trouble, and Jesus, from the cross pleaded with the ALL compassionate Father to forgive those who nailed Him to the cross.

What privileges await us His beloved and chosen people in that we can lift our voices to Him and He will hear us for the sake of Christ alone. That is what is so special about these text for the 9th Sunday After Pentecost—they teaches us to come to God, pour our hearts’ desires at His feet and wait patiently for His will to be carried out. PAUSE.

As I stated above, the Lord’s Prayer is the Privilege of Family. So ask and keep on asking, seek, and keep on seeking, knock and keep on knocking, for He hears and loves and answers and gives more abundantly than we even know how to ask. In fact, our Daddy God, our Abba Father, the object of this Prayer and its Subject as well, He has sent His Son, His only-begotten Son, to be tempted in our stead.

The Scriptures clearly teach and tell us how it was the Spirit who led Jesus away into the wilderness where the devil would attack Him. What we are unable to do, what Adam and Eve couldn’t do - resist the tempter’s powers of lies in persuasion, God the Son did, perfectly. Yes, our Catechism is correct: God tempts no one! That is because His heart is nothing but truth and not a lie. All temptations are lies. It is also because in Jesus He has answered every lie with the truth that death dies in Jesus.

Today, as we gather in the Lord’s house keep in mind what we come here for. We come to receive ALL of the blessings God offers us—forgiveness of sins, manna for the journey, peace in troubled times, joy in mourning times, love all the time.

Today, you heard Abraham plead for Sodom and Gomorrah, but more importantly you heard of the plea of the Savior for your soul and mine. Even now, Jesus pleads with the Father from the cross. Father, forgive them…. – Even today, He still intercedes for us and gives us mercy and grace that we don’t deserve.

What a privilege to be a family—a family that has been blessed by God through Jesus Christ. A family that can with confidence and conviction lift our prayers, petitions and pleas and know that God will hear and answer our prayers in accordance with His will for our lives for the sake of the Rabbi from Nazareth who taught us to pray: “Our Father…”

Thanks be to God that we can pray here and everywhere knowing that the Merciful Father hears and answers our prayers. Amen.

Now the peace…

Friday, July 23, 2010

“Walking With God” (Psalm 23:4)

S-1099 7/23/10 9SAP/3C Hymns: (O) #744; (S) #752; Solo “How Great…” (C) # SOD #18

Texts: Psalm 23; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; John 14:1-6

Theme: “Walking With God” (Psalm 23:4)

Celebration of New Life for Letha L. Kramer


Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! The text for the celebration of the new life promised to our departed sister in the faith Letha is from the Good Shepherd Psalm: Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You ARE with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4).

Introduction: In Nomine IESU

Family and friends, especially you Janet, Karen, Bruce and Barry we gather today in the house of the Lord to take comfort and consolation in His Word and His promise given to us who trust and believe in Him. His Words are hope and help in the hour of sorrow. His Words of promise are a sweet honey to the taste that otherwise would be bitter as you walk through the valley of the shadow of death.

Today, as you gather in the Lord’s house to say farewell to someone you love, there is a lump in your throat, a knot in your stomach, a tear in your eye and empty spot in your heart. No matter how you view death—death always interrupts, it always intrudes and it always interferes with our lives. Even when you know that death is drawing near as was the case with your loved one; you are never prepared when it arrives.

This happened to you this past Tuesday about 10:12 a.m. when the Lord in His mercy called our beloved sister in the faith home. She is gone to be with the One who claimed her in the waters of Baptism, but you are left to walk in the valley of the shadow of death. PAUSE.

Did you know that walking for exercise was not always in? Some of you walked because you had too. You walked to school, the barn, chicken coup, the grocery store, and the courthouse for that was the mode of transportation then. But in the last 20 years you began to notice people walking all over the country. Even here, in our little town of Armour, you see people walking and some even have their iPod tied to their arms and swinging back and forth to get exercise. Some people call a friend to walk with them.

And so today, you need to realize and know for certain that even though you are walking in the shadow of death, you are not walking alone. David, the author of the text stated, Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You ARE with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me” Indeed, the Word of the Lord is true. You are not walking alone, for the Lord of heaven and earth is with you wherever you go. As the hymn writer states, “He walks with me and He talks with me along life’s narrow way.” Jesus the Good Shepherd and the Friend of sinners walks with you through the valley of the Shadow of death. And this walk is not burdensome but a blessing. For it is only a shadow, not death itself. A Shadow can’t hurt you, frighten you or rob you of your peace.

Sometimes we are frightened because we see a shadow, but there is no need to fear a shadow, for it is not the real thing, but simply a shadow. And so we take comfort in the walk that Jesus leads and direct us on our journey of life. PAUSE.

Anyone who knew Letha knew she walked. As a young child she walked in the house of her parents Luther and Annis. Later on she walked down the isle of Trinity Lutheran Church at St. Peter, MN to confess her faith and receive the Sacrament. Later still she walked that same isle as she was joined to her husband Earl in holy matrimony. And she continued to walk. She and her husband faithfully and joyfully walked each of their children to the Lord’s house, baptized them and watched them grow in the faith. She walked ahead and behind her children. She walked to tidy the house, pick the toys up, buy groceries, prepare food, and do the laundry. After her husband past away she moved to Carter Wieses’ apartment. Often you saw her walking to the post office, grocery store and even to church to walk up these steps and kneel down to be fed and nurtured with the heavenly manna.

But as the sand through the hour glass began to empty, her legs were not as sturdy as they were once, but she continued to walk to church to receive God’s heavenly gifts. However, the time did come when she was no longer able to walk and had to be placed in the nursing home. There she had to use a wheel chair to get around. And when that happened and she couldn’t come to church, the church came to her and offered her the life-giving body and blood to sustain and strengthen her in the faith. I have visited her often and she was found faithful in confessing her sins and longed to get the sacrament. It never failed, with tears in her eyes she would say, “Thank you Pastor for coming to visit us and not forgetting us!” What a blessing it was for me to minister to this saint in Christ.

Walking can be a joy or a chore. If you are out walking for fun enjoying God’s wonderful creation it is not bad, if you are out walking to hunt it is not terrible, but if you are walking because your car broke down, it is pretty bad and you probably are angry and mad at God because the car broke down.

But walking is nothing new. Throughout all of Scripture we see people walking. We read of the Israelites walking to freedom from Egypt to the Promised Land. Jesus walked with His disciples to many villages preaching repentance and the Good News. He even walked to Calvary carrying His own cross as the ultimate payment for sins including Letha’s. On the night of Christ’s resurrection there were two disciples who walked with Him for 7 miles to the village of Emmaus without recognizing Him, but when they discovered who He was, they walked back and told everyone, that He has risen from the dead and that He is ALIVE!

Yet, the greatest example of walking with God is found in Genesis where we read: Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him” (Gen. 5:24). Can you envision the scene of Enoch walking with God? I sure can. Here is Enoch walking and talking to God. Moses tells us that He walked with God and God took Him. This is another way to say that Enoch didn’t die but was transported directly from earth to heaven.

I like to share with you a picture to help you understand how this walking took place. It probably went something like this: Enoch and God were walking together one day and they just kept having so much fun and Enoch didn’t realize how far they had gone. When Enoch looked back he said to God, “Lord, I should go back I am getting far away from my home and I will soon be missed.” And God said, “Oh, Enoch, don’t worry about it, we are having such a great time, let’s keep on walking.” They walk some more and again Enoch says, “Lord, I should go back I am getting far away from my home and I will soon be missed.” And God said, “Enoch, don’t worry about it, we are having such a great time, let’s keep on walking.” They walk some more and talked some more and again Enoch says, “Lord, I should go back I am getting further and further away from my home and I will really be missed.” And God with a big smile on his face said: “Enoch, your home is so far away, but Mine is close, why don’t you come and stay with Me forever.” And so God took him.

That is precisely what the gracious Lord, the Good Shepherd and Friend of sinners Jesus did this past Tuesday. He looked at Letha with a smile and said, “Letha, you have walked on the earth for 94 years and no need to walk any further. My home is closer come and stay with me. And she did.”

Beloved in the Lord, you may miss her. You may weep her passing. But know for certain she is forever walking with the Lord. What a joy to know that God walked with Letha and she is walking with Him even now. What a privilege for us to look forward to the day when we will walk with our Savior forever. Amen.

Now the peace…

Thursday, July 22, 2010

“A Miraculous Birth” (Genesis 18:10)

S-1198 7/18/10 8SAP/3A Hymns: (O) #8; S#15; (C)#50

Texts: O.T. Genesis 18:1-10, Colossians 1:21-29; Luke 10:38=42

Theme: “A Miraculous Birth” (Genesis 18:10)

Question: Have you experienced a miracle lately?


Introduction: In Nomine IESU

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleuia. The text for our meditation is the Old Testament lesson: “The LORD said, ‘I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife shall have a son.’ And Sarah was listening at the tent door behind him” (Genesis 18:10)

People of God, CHOSEN and BELOVED, Nancy and Jim were high school sweethearts. (Names have been changed to protect the parties).They loved each other deeply and couldn’t wait for the day to be united in marriage before the throne of Grace as husband and wife. Shortly after high school Jim asked Nancy to marry him and with great delight she said “Absolutely!” They wanted a family—a big family. They decided to wait till after college to have children. After college they both got good jobs and asked God to bless them with children.

Time passed but no children came. Years went by and still no baby. Nancy was often found crying because she wanted to hold a baby in her arms and nurse him on her breast but no baby. Time passed, prayers sent heaven-ward; tears shed and still no baby. Thousands of dollars were spent as they visited one doctor after another, but each doctor they visited said, “I am sorry, you can’t conceive and have a child!” They were heartbroken, they wanted a family—a big family, but they just couldn’t have a child. They decided to adopt a child.

They began the adoption process, and the people at the agency told them it will take a long time for the adoption to go through and will be costly. They understood that and were willing to wait. As they were waiting for the day to receive word about the future baby, Nancy had gotten terribly sick and was rushed to the hospital. The doctors came to see her one after the other announced the good news—“Nancy, you are with Child!” Nancy and Jim hugged each other and said, “This is a miraculous baby considering we were not supposed to conceive.” Everyone that came to visit Nancy at the hospital said, “This is a miraculous baby.” The day did come when Nancy held their baby in her arms and breast fed him.

Today, as you listen to the Word of God, you see another miraculous birth takes place to aged Abraham and not as old Sarah. The hour glass had been emptied of the sand of child bearing. Abraham is now 100 years old, Sarah is 90. Sarah wished that God would have kept His promise that she would have a son.

I suppose, though Scripture doesn’t say that, I would venture to say, Sarah shed many tears. I am sure she sent heaven-ward plenty of prayers asking God for a child. But NO baby. And one day as father Abraham was sitting beneath the Oak of Mamre, he notices 3 visitors coming. It is ironic that Abraham doesn’t stay still waiting for them to arrive, but he runs towards them. And invite them to come to his tent.

There is uniqueness in these 3 visitors. If you paid attention to the reading at one time Abraham addresses them as three and at other time as one. Who are these visitors? Why are they here? What do they want? They are Father, Son and Holy Ghost. The pre-Incarnate Christ is present to announce the good news. A year from now your wife Sarah will hold in her arms and on her lap a son.

Any woman who is 90 and some of you are very close; some of you are there already and you are going to do what? YOU ARE GOING TO LAUGH, aren’t you? 90 years old! This message is too good to be true! The barren elderly womb of Sarah is going to open? After all the grains of sand had fallen from the hourglass of reproductive time? It would take a miracle for this to happen. That is why Sarah laughed. That is precisely what the visitor’s informed father Abraham. Please listen again how the Pre-Incarnate Christ announced the good news: “The LORD said, ‘I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife shall have a son.’ And Sarah was listening at the tent door behind him” (Genesis 18:10)

You know the story well don’t you? We are told that Sarah laughed. Now if someone came to me and told my wife who is 90 years old is going to have a baby, what do you think I am going to do? Tell me, honestly! I am going to laugh. And if someone came to you and said, you are going to have a child and you are going to say “What are you sniffing?” Correct? It is a miraculous baby.

What is his name? Yitzhak (Hebrew) Laughter. She laughs because at the old age of 90 that womb, which was barren and dead, is now coming alive with the birth of a son. And Sarah will nurse that child and hold him on her arms and fill her heart and tent with much joy and laughter; happiness will be given to old Abraham too. PAUSE.

You see this miraculous birth is so important because it would bring about another miracle. You remember that this miraculous child would be the father of another child. In my home town of Nazareth another miracle took place. An angel came to a virgin. You talk about laughter. You folks envision this. You know biology and how the body works. Will not go through the details or draw you a map. But you know exactly that if you have not been with a man, you will not conceive. And here is a young virgin, the angel announces to her saying, “Don’t be afraid! Guess what! You are going to have a baby!”

What do you expect to do (at the worship service a guest by the name of Candy did just that) she laughed. We would too, wouldn’t we? You don’t hear of those things happening. That is a miracle indeed. This miracle occurs because of the first miracle that took place in the life of father Abraham and mother Sarah as the Pre-Incarnate Christ speaks of His own birth to the aged couple—Princes of mothers and the Prince of fathers.

A miraculous birth to fulfill the promises of God that He would come to take away the burden of all of mankind’s sins away from them. Now I ask you, the question I asked at the beginning of the Divine Worship Service: “Have you witnessed a miracle lately?” Some of you would say, “Not sure!” Let’s begin with these thoughts: The pastor stands before you, you confess your sins and what does he do? He absolves you of your sins-a miracle at work not by his authority, but the authority of the One who placed him in that office. A miraculous child was born. You may not think that you witness a miracle every day. But you do.

Every single day you see the sun rising. It is a miracles thing. Isn’t? It doesn’t just happen. But God works it out. You and I are the miraculous child. “Pastor, what do you mean?” It isn’t the fact that your mom and dad conceived a child, but rather that we become the children of God. Simple water, a word spoken—the pastor says, “I baptize you in the name of the Father and the Son and of the Holy Spirit” and a miracle takes place. Even though you don’t see anything on the outside, it is at work on the inside through the majestic waters of Baptism. You and I are the miraculous children of God to bring about the good news. And what good news we have? PAUSE.

How often… how often are we like father Abraham and mother Sarah who desire to help God carry out His plans? Isn’t true? Sometimes we think God doesn’t know what He is doing. Sometimes we place God on a shelf and make Him so big but no bigger; we make Him so tall, and no taller; we make Him so strong and no stronger and we limit what He can and can’t do. And when He doesn’t carry out what we ask, we elevate ourselves to be above Him and think that we can do it better.

You know the Scriptures well. Father Abraham received the promise that he was going to have a child. 25 years passed and no baby. Sarah wants a baby so bad that she can’t wait. And what does she do? She messes with God’s plan by telling her husband to go and sleep with Hagar and have a son with her. Now, men, if your wife came to you and gave you permission to sleep with another woman, what would you do? You ask, “Did you loose your marbles!” But father Abraham doesn’t do that. Abraham says, “I have a license to sleep with another woman. And from there on trouble is a constant companion in his tent.

You know the events that play out real well. The two sons of Abraham, Yitzhak and Ishmael and it has been a mess ever since. I claim my lineage to father Ishmael—the father of all the Arabs. And on the other hand Yitzhak is the father of all the Jews and ever since that day, they have been fighting and still are. Almost every day you hear on the news that the Palestinians are throwing rocks at the Jews and the Jews are shooting at the Arabs.

All of this because Father Abraham and mother Sarah messed up with God’s plans. When you do that, you mess up a lot more than if you trusted in His will for your life. PAUSE.

BUT here comes the Good News: God sent the One and only Son—the miraculous birth through the Virgin Marry to bring about reconciliation as the Apostle Paul stated in our Epistle lesson this morning (Colossians 1:21-29). Why is that important? Because on our own we can’t stand in the presence of our Holy God; on our own we can’t without the waters of Baptism be the children of God; on our own we would not seek the thing that is needful. As the Savior spoke about in the Gospel lesson (Luke 10:38-42). Mary sits at the feet of Jesus, she wants to observe, hear and learn more about Him and His love for humanity. Jesus praises her for her devotions and learning the value she spends with Him.

A miraculous birth? YOU BET!!! Every day we see these miracles. From Yitzhak, to Yeshua (Jesus in Hebrew), to you and me. But there is another miracle that you should know about. God for Christ’s sake loves you in spite of who you are. That God would come to earth, empty Himself from all of His glory, become human, live among us and goes to the cross to die for our sins. PAUSE.

When I was Houston I went to the most expensive Lutheran Church of the Missouri Synod (Zion Lutheran Church). Are you folks sitting down? Please put your seat belts on. The Church cost $15 Millions. It is the most beautifully decorated that I have ever seen. It is a replica of the Dresden church in Germany. As you enter it, there is a huge statue of Luther. But that is not as important as when you enter the Sanctuary. The ceiling is pretty high about 100 feet. Right above the pulpit suspended in mid air (half way up) is a cross with a statue of Jesus on it. What is ironic about that cross is the shape of the cross beam? Normally, we see (as in our church) the cross is straight like a T. But not this cross, this one hangs down on both sides. My friend and guide James Kreigel informed me the artist wanted to capture the weight of the sin of all humanity on the arms of Jesus that it bent the cross beam down (demonstrate).

What a miracle! Pause. What a miracle indeed! Two weeks ago I preached a sermon titled, “What a picture!” In my opening statement I said: “A picture is worth a thousand words.” That cross says more than a thousand words, it says: “I love you! I have picked you up! I have taken your sins away and I have given you a new birth—to be my son and daughter.” You talk about a miracle. You are that miracle. Not only is Yitzhak is the miraculous child, not only is Yeshua is the miraculous child born through Mary; but you and I are the miraculous child born through the waters of Baptism, fed at the table of the Lord, forgiven at the cross of Calvary, through the shed blood of the Lamb of God.

What a miraculous birth that took place in our hearts. This is after all, the Good News. We read of it in the Gradual which stated: “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news, who publish peace and bring goods news of salvation” (Isaiah 52:7). You are that miraculous child, born into the family of God.

By the Spirit’s power I exhort you to go out into the world and share the good news of what Jesus has done for you—making you part of His family of faith. That is all I have for you today, God’s good news. May it be a blessing as you rejoice and give thanks to what God has done in your life as well as mine. Amen and Amen.

Now the peace…


Sunday, July 4, 2010

“What A Picture” (Isaiah 66:12-13)

S-1197 6SAP/3C Hymns 7/04/10, (O) #36; S #61; SOB #43; (C) #577

Texts: Isaiah 66:10-14; Galatians 6:1-10, 14-18; Luke 10:1-20

Theme: “What A Picture” (Isaiah 66:12-13)

Question: Have you seen a picture that really grabbed you.


Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! The text for this sixth Sunday after Pentecost is from the O.T. lesson: “For thus says the LORD: ‘Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the nations like an overflowing stream; and you shall nurse, you shall be carried upon her hip, and bounced upon her knees. As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem’” (Isaiah 66:12-13).

Introduction: In Nomine IESU

People of God, chosen and beloved, they say that a picture is worth a 1000 words. How true that is. There are pictures that capture the moment. There are pictures that speak volumes. Some of the pictures really draw you in. Some capture the heart and head. Pictures tell a story. Some pictures can be a visual aid and learning tool for someone who doesn’t learn audibly. Today, we have one of those grand and glorious pictures of God described through Isaiah as a mother nursing her infant child.

This is not just a mere picture—but a picture that extends to you life and liberty, hope and happiness, provision and peace. Come closer and see this picture with me today—that gives freedom, faith and guaranteed future.

In our Old Testament lesson, we see Isaiah like a master craftsman take brush, canvas and colors and paints a very lovely and beautiful masterpiece portrait of God. With this picture Isaiah tells us a story of God’s unfathomable love. With this picture Isaiah transport us from being concerned and panicked to being comforted and pacified. With the stroke of a brush we see what God does. Isaiah puts this way: “I will extend peace to her like a river and the glory of the nations like an overflowing stream; and you shall nurse, you shall be carried upon her hip, and bounced upon her knees.”

Do you see it? Do you grasp it? A most comforting and consoling picture. God is portrayed like a mother holding her child on her hips and nursing him. Mothers, you can remember those days can’t you? Children, you too remember those days. I certainly do. Even approaching the age of double nickel, I can still see in my minds eye my mother picking me up, holding me near to her breast and nourishing me with her love. I can see her playing with my hair and kissing my forehead. What a picture indeed. This is God at work. And what does Isaiah want us to learn from this? That God cares for us and feeds us tenderly. What a lovely picture of our Awesome and Amazing God and of our relationship to Him as His beloved children! He tenderly, carefully, and gently feeds and fills us through His self-giving on the Cross! PAUSE.

John Wanamaker, near the close of a successful life, was not ashamed to admit his debt of undying gratitude to the influence of his moth­er’s love in the words: “My first love was my mother, and my first home was on her breast. My first bed was on her bosom. Leaning little arms on her knees, I learned my first prayers. A bright lamp she lit in my soul that never dies down or goes out though the winds and waves of fourscore years have swept over me. Sitting in my mother’s armchair, which she loved because her first-born son gave it to her 40 years ago, I am writing this with the evening twilight coming on. With the darkness falling, I seem to lose myself in the flood of memories and to feel that the arms of the chair have loosed them selves to become my very own mother’s arms around me again, drawing me to her bosom, the happiest place on earth, just as she used to do in the days and nights long gone by. I feel the touch of her little hand on my brow, and I hear her voice as she smoothes my hair and calls me her boy, her very own boy.”

Now that is a picture that tells a story of love and life and laughter. That is a picture that lives in John’s heart even after his mother has been gone for long. We, too, have a marvelous picture that tells our story—a story of God’s love that extends to us His peace like a river; like a mother holding her child near her breast and heart and caring for his every need.

My beloved and His beloved, do you have any concerns, worries, troubles, distress, hardships, afflictions, sorrow or sadness? Then lift your heads up! See the picture of love Isaiah paints today for you and know that you are not just anybody, but somebody special, loved, cared for and wanted. Yes, you are the ONES whom God seeks after. You are the ONES He wants to put on His lap. You are the Ones He wants to caress, nurture and nurse with the heavenly manna. Why? Because He is the God of LOVE, He desires to bless you and fill your hearts, heads and home with His love. PAUSE.

During this Fourth of July Celebration while many are out on the beach, or gathering with family and friends at picnic celebrating Independence Day, we, here at the Lord’s house celebrate our dependence on Him because all good gifts come from Him. The Gifts He gives, will not be stolen, snatched, seized or squandered; but gifts that will remain forever in our hearts and homes. With this picture from Isaiah we know the enormous love the Father has for us—a love that is beyond our understanding and imagination.

Know this child of God: If God had a refrigerator; your picture would be on it. If He had a wallet, your photo would be in it. If He had a house you would be His guest. He sends you flowers every spring. He sends you a sunrise every morning. Face friend—He is crazy about you!!! God didn’t promise days without pain, laughter without sorrow, sun without rain, but He did promise strength for the day, comfort for the tear, light for the way, peace for the troubled heart, and an extended hand to hold you, pick you up and set you on His lap only as a mother would and could.

Today, the compassionate and gracious God offers you comfort and peace; love and joy; happiness and heaven, rejoicing and resurrection, elation and eternity. Comfort is not an armchair. Comfort is God leading, feeding, reassuring, inspiring, and heartening us to hear Him as He cares for all of our needs. PAUSE.

Isn’t interesting, when we were children we loved being held by our mothers. However, as we grew older, we think that we no longer need the loving arms of our mothers or chest to lean against. We even go so far as not to be touched or hugged or seen in public with our mothers. HOW SAD in the way we treat our mothers and God too!

But God is not ashamed of us. God is not the One who moves away from us. Instead He seeks us out, calls us by name and extends to us His hand so that we can take hold of His and walk with Him as He leads and direct us on life’s journey.

From His loving hands we receive more than we ask or bargain for. Housing and food are given by the Gracious hand of the Lord, literally, we come as an infant, needing His cradling arms and His nursing, the extending of His grace and provision are given to us through the Incarnate One who came to meet our every need—the greatest of which the removal of our sins and the peace that we need.

Never forget dear loved ones and children of God. You and I have a God who knows us more intimately than a mother, a nursing mother knows her own child very well, but God knows us better. He knows what we need more than we do. Now that is a gift to comfort and keep us going in our walk of faith. Just as a nursing mother’s love covers her beloved, so also does the Love and tender care, the seeing eye of the Lord, the outstretched hand of God compass us about on all sides (Psalm 5:12; 32:7, 10). Indeed, He compasses you about on all sides.

Yes, He covers you with His love. He nurtures you with His Grace. He feeds you with His gifts of Word and Sacrament. All of this is done because His own child was once rejected for the sins of the world on a wooden beam outside of Jerusalem. The One who was rejected made it possible for you and me to be reunited with the Father of love and compassion.

This is nothing but pure Gospel offered to you and me. Today, as you look at this great and grand picture see it for what its worth—a picture of love. Love made manifest as the Son of God opens His arms on the cross and dies for you telling you. “I LOVE YOU MY CHILD. I DIED FOR YOU MY CHILD. BUT I ALSO ROSE FOR YOU MY CHILD!”

Today, by the working of the Holy Spirit you saw a most amazing picture—a picture that is painted by God Himself—and what a picture it is. Go forth then on this Independence Day, knowing He has made you independent from death, by making you dependent on Him whose hand extends in love, whose grace suckles and feeds you and who always cares for you from now until He ushers you into His chest forever. Amen and Amen.

Now the peace of God…