Thursday, September 23, 2010

“What A Wonderful Gift.” (2 Corinthians 5:18-19)

S-1211 17SAP/3C 9/19/10 Hymns (O) #461; S# “In the Garden”; (C) #770

Texts: Isaiah 43:1-3a; Revelation 21:1-5; John 20:11-18

Theme: “What A Wonderful Gift.” (2 Corinthians 5:18-19)

Celebration of the New Life of Sandra (Sandy, Sam) Vogt


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, is from St. Paul’s 2nd letter to the church at Corinth chapter 5:18-19 “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18-19).

Introduction: In Nomine IESU

People of God, chosen and beloved, especially you Todd, Sondra, Cory, Kasie family and friends, we love getting and giving gifts. Some gifts are more special than others. Some cost little and others cost a lot. Some gifts we cherish and appreciate, at other times we don’t appreciate the gift we have received until it is too late. As the years go by we forget the gifts we received or who gave them to us. None-the-less gift giving is special between family and friends.

Sometimes, when we get a gift we say to the giver, “You shouldn’t have!” At other times we act surprised, but we knew all along that the gift was coming our way. Today, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we will talk about the gift that we all need—the Wonderful gift the Father of all mercy and compassion gives to us sinner not because we deserve it, not because we are such good people; but ONLY because He is so gracious, loving, merciful and compassionate.

Listen now to the giver of the greatest gift the world has ever received as we meet the Savior’s encounter early on Resurrection morning visiting with a woman weeping at the sight of His tomb.

Beloved Captives of the Resurrection Certainty, did you notice how in our Gospel reading Mary cried? The first were tears of the deepest of sadness and sorrow. Her friend, mentor, and much more, the One in whom she had put her hope and trust was seemingly gone, dead, buried, and never to be held nor to be beheld, again. How deep was her grief and sorrow! You and I know the pain of loss. For you Todd, Sondra, Cory, Kasie and beloved family, these tears of Mary are mirrored in your own hearts today. Your wife of 27 years is no longer here, your mother, your sister, your aunt, your friend, she will no longer drop in for a cup of coffee, no longer watching over and holding the grandchildren, no longer share a lingering phone conversation, or a bite to eat with you. Ah yes, death it seems so final. And indeed it WAS.

Mary cried again, her cry became the cry of surprised joy: “Rabboni!” or “dear, precious Teacher!” He rose, as He said, as He promised. He told her that she could not continue to cling to Him, but to go and tell the disciples that He is to ascend not just to God, but to My Father, who is become Your Father, and to My God, who is become most intimately Your God. Now we celebrate that same joy, we are given that same gift today—the WONDERFUL gift of forgiveness that brings about peace and joy. Jesus’ rising from the tomb, and His ascension to the Father means that Jesus’ Father is Sandy’s Father, and Jesus’ God is Sandy’s God… and He is Your Father and Your God as well. Mary cried the cry of joy, of faith, and of life, for Jesus kept His promise. He rose. Now your wife, mother, sister, cousin, friend, she is alive. Her cancer, like all her sin, is cast into the depth of the sea, it is remembered…. No more (Micah 7:19; Jeremiah 31:31-34)! PAUSE.

One of her children wrote this message on “Tonight was a very peaceful night for our wonderful mother.  She has left us tonight and has gone to a place where cancer will never be able to touch her or hurt her again.  She will not have to worry about any more bad bubbles.  She is at home with her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (Sondra her eldest daughter). How true that is—peace at last—through the Lord, Jesus Christ—the Great Physician who gave her such a wonderful gift through His death and glorious resurrection.

Forgiveness and life go hand in hand. Forgiveness brings about peace of mind and heart. Forgiveness allows you to sleep at night without tossing about. Forgiveness builds up instead of tearing down. Most of you here know that Sandy and I had a wedge between us for most of the past four years. What the issue was is now of no consequence, for it has been forgiven, cast into the depths of the sea and remembered…. NO MORE. This now forgiven matter caused deep pain, but just recently we were reunited. I confessed my sin to her, and she, her sin to me, and we celebrated the broken body and shed blood of our Savior as the guarantee that all is now at peace, that the sin is now no more. Forgiveness, reconciliation and healing are mighty and wonderful gifts from God Himself to sinners like us.

King David once sang as one of the shortest, yet more powerful of the Psalms, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is For brethren to dwell together in unity, It is like the precious oil upon the head, Running down on the beard, The beard of Aaron, Running down on the edge of his garments. It is like the dew of Hermon, Descending upon the mountains of Zion; For there the LORD commanded the blessing—Life forevermore. (Psalm 133:1-3).

This song we share now. Your beloved wife received the full adoption as beloved daughter of the Most High God and King (Luke 6:35). Her name WAS and IS and WILL remain written in the Lamb’s book of Life (Revelation 21:27). She has received Life from the One who is the Lord of Life, Jesus…. Forevermore!

Sandy knew that her journey here in this life was coming to an end. But she wept not with the first tears of her sister, Mary, but with the later tears as she saw her risen Savior and Teacher Jesus Christ through the eyes of faith. Sandy dearly loved you Todd, Sondra, Cory, Kasie and family. She knew what her Baptismal Grace meant: that a bruised reed, smoldering flax, a simple sinner’s life meant more to Jesus than all the riches and strength of the world. Sandy knew, by faith then what she now sees with the sight of certainty, the sight of the resurrection glory: That her God and Savior, Jesus makes all things new—through the cross and the empty tomb.

Oh, for this brief time we call life on this earth, you will not behold her as you have before, for that we are all saddened and full of sorrow. You, her dear family, you miss her so much. But the grave is never, ever, do you hear me, the end of the story for those who trust in Jesus. On account of Jesus, sin is no more; there is no past, but the present reality of the Resurrection and the hope of Glory. You may cry now and in the days and years to come. You miss her and rightly so. But do not let those tears be tears of despair. Let them be salted with the sure and certain hope of the Resurrection, that indeed, Jesus has already made all things new, and that neither death nor life, angels nor principalities, height nor depth, yes, absolutely nothing including cancer is able to separate you from the Love of God… nothing will keep you from seeing Your Savior, and nothing, absolutely nothing, will be able to keep you from the love you shared here below, and the eternal love you will share in heaven when you see your beloved one…. This time in the joyous, nail-pierced hands of Him who was dead and is alive. PAUSE

Saints in Christ travel to the Delmont cemetery (not far from here) and you will find a unique head stone with these words etched on it.








This past Saturday He who is the Resurrection and the Life Jesus Christ gave her the GIFT of eternal life. He took the cross away from her and gave her the everlasting peace and joy that He alone gives to all people who believe in Him. That is the Wonderful GIFT He gives to all people. Remember, what I said earlier? Some of the gifts we get or give cost a little and sometimes a lot. This wonderful Gift was given at a very high price—the life’s blood of the Lamb of God shed on the altar of the cross.

Sandy made her peace with those she loved before her Savior took her home. That is what was behind our reconciliation, and the joyous meal of forgiveness we shared just 14 days ago. And that peace she made with us came because God the Father made peace with Sandy through the blood of His Only-Begotten Son. What a wonderful gift! What a precious gift! What a joy! What an eternal certainty… Life…. Forever more. Amen.

Christ is Risen! He is Risen, Indeed! Hallelujah!

“A Godly Desire.” (1Timothy 2:3-4)

S-1210 17SAP/3C 9/19/10 Hymns (O) #383; S#347; (C) #441

Texts: Amos 8:4-7; 1Timothy 2:1-15; Luke 16:1-15

Theme: “A Godly Desire.” (1Timothy 2:3-4)

Question: “What’s your desire?”


Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! The text for The 17th Sunday After Pentecost is from the Epistle lesson: “This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1Timothy 2:3-4).

Introduction: In Nomine IESU

People of God, chosen and beloved, a young woman from Yonkers, New York was madly in love with her fiancĂ© and desired more than anything else to be married to him and have a BIG fancy wedding. However, they didn’t have a lot of money to have a big fancy wedding. But she still desired to have an elaborate wedding with all of the glitter and glamour that comes with it. AND SHE DID!

Her wedding was one of those rare weddings that brides-to-be dream about. She got a $1,200 wedding dress, a big diamond ring and flowers galore. She had the best of everything she desired. The problem she got it all through deception and lies. 23-year-old Jessica Vega, of Yonkers, N.Y., faked cancer to get a discounted wedding.

After claiming she had leukemia and less than a year to live, Vega was the recipient of sympathy and good will from members of her community. Vega said she wanted to marry her fiancĂ©e and be with the couple’s baby daughter before she passed away. Generous strangers donated the wedding ring and wedding flowers in addition to the dress.

After about 6 months, Michael O’Connell noticed that his wife was not getting ill or getting worse. He became suspicious and contacted the doctor she was supposed to be seeing. Dr. Dan Costin’s told her husband that Vega was “NEVER A PATIENT HERE.”

Upon his discovery, Michael filed for divorce and is seeking full custody of the couple now 1-year old daughter. Once the world found out about it many felt hurt and betrayed. The owner (Gina Verdes) of the shop who gave her the wedding dress stated: “You can’t help but to feel betrayed and you know scammed by someone who would say that they are dying from a terminal illness.” PAUSE.

Deception, scheming, planning, lying, betrayal and Scamming produces hurt and harm for too many people. But that is the nature of man—sinful to the core. Jesus said, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander” (Mt. 15:19). When we look to man, to ourselves, all we see is death, corruption, fear, isolation, in short... sin! Sin is the norm and rule of what we do, because we are selfish and self-seeking, for it is part of who we are. You see that clearly in the Gospel lesson we read today (Luke 16).

But there is another picture, another angle, another story that we need to see and hear. Today, the Holy Spirit teaches us a very important lesson—what God does for His saints and cherished ones. In Paul’s letter to his son Timothy, Paul reveals what God desires. “This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” God’s desire for you His beloved and beautiful bride is to be saved. Saved from pain, deception, hurt and harm. He desires to have YOU in His protective and pierced hands. He desires for YOU to know Him intimately, and grow gracefully in the truth that sets YOU free. God desires for YOU to see Him as the ALL merciful and compassionate God who gives His all so that He may right the wrong the world is in.

There are many Jessica Vegas in our world and in this building. We deceive, we lie, and we scheme and plan our personal desires at the expense of others. We promote ourselves to get the most of life. We may face Leukemia, but we live a double life. In Church we are the most holy people, but in the privacy of our homes or alone from people we are men and women who succumb to the will and desire of the devil.

How many of us have habits that we don’t want people to find out? How many of us have secrets that we don’t want people to know? How many of us pretend to be something we are not? There are many who are addicted to alcohol, dirty magazines, or dirty movies that enter our homes through the TV and still others spend plenty of money down at the Casino—to fulfill one’s desire. PAUSE.

This is who we are if the truth be told. But we don’t want to tell the truth all the time. We don’t want to correct the wrong. We want God’s grace and still live in sin. But the Apostle Paul challenges us with these words: “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we...?” (Rom. 6:1-2a). Yes, how can we? How can we do what we do, just like Jessica did? Simple, within us is the sinful nature. And as long as we live in this flesh we will sin, even when we try our best not to.

BUT, I am so glad our Good, Gracious and Righteous Lord is not like us. He is holy, just, pure, and loving and desires to do what we can’t do. In His grace He covers your sin, and in His righteousness, He pays for and absorbs that sin. We all stand guilty in His presence. Listen again to the apostle Paul. Yes listen to the condemnation! “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by HIS grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus whom God put forward as a propitiation by HIS blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in HIS divine forbearance He had passed over former sins” (Rom. 6:23-25). Yes, we are all guilty, and... and He is our Gracious and Righteous Savior. This Gracious and Righteous Redeemer and Mediator gives us the truth—that in Christ, and only in Christ Jesus, that is, in Him alone, Him plus nothing, are we all saved.

This is the absolute truth that you take with you today and every day as you leave this holy ground. Yes, you enter here a sinner, but leave a saint. You enter here dead, but leave alive. You enter here blind, but you leave seeing. You enter here deaf, but leave with ears open. You enter here lame, but leave whole—all because God desires for YOU His beloved and beautiful bride to be with Him eternally.

Study Scripture from its beginning to its last Word and you will know that God’s desire that His grace be poured abundantly upon all people. From the Paradise of Eden to the Garden of Gethsemane He lovingly and passionately gives us His mercy to forgive our sins.

On three occasions, God proclaimed His decree of GRACE to all people without exception, calling them into His Kingdom of grace. The first time was in Paradise, through Adam as the root and head of the entire human race. The second proclamation was through Noah, the second ancestor of humanity, and the third was made by the apostles, who were commissioned to go into all the world, teaching all nations and preaching the Gospel to every creature.

And now that grace—the Divine Grace has come to us through the Lamb’s shed blood on the altar of the cross right here in this garden we call, Redeemer Lutheran Church; we realize how blessed and loved we are. Sunday after Sunday, the Lord God Almighty reveals His desire to us—forgiving us our sins, feeding us His sacred meal and showering us with His Sea of unending love. But He doesn’t stop there, He sends us out with changed hearts, armed by His Spirit and His Word to share the Gospel with those who don’t know Him as the eternal and merciful Lord.

What a privilege this Mediator and Redeemer Jesus Christ blesses us with every minute, hour, day, week and month to the end of our lives. Yes, you get to have the grandest wedding with the grandest ring and all of the glitter and glamour that goes with it.

Here the Lord dresses YOU with the fanciest wedding DRESS stitched with golden thread and purchased by His blood. Here, He places on YOUR finger the signet RING of His love. And here He provides YOU with His healing touch from the leukemia of sin.

Oh, to know the desire of our groom Jesus who wants nothing better than to spend an eternity with His holy bride—YOU. Amen and Amen.

Now the peace…


“With His Finger.” (John 3:16)

S-1209 Snookies Funeral 9/14/10 Hymns (O) #199; S #457; #342; (C) #205

Texts: Job 19:21-27; Rev. 21:1-7; John 14:1-6

Theme: “With His Finger.” (John 3:16)

Celebration of New Life for Orville “Snookie” Olson


Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! The text for the celebration of the New Life of our departed brother Snookie is: “For God so loved the world that He gave His One and ONLY Begotten Son, so that whoever believes in Him may not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

Introduction: In Nomine IESU

People of God, chosen and beloved especially you Wilma, family and friends. Today is a sad day and a happy day. Sad, because you Wilma lost your son, but so did the community lose a son. But it is also a happy day. Happy, because Snookie is now in the presence of the Almighty, Amazing and Awesome God who called Him by the Gospel, and made him His child in the waters of Baptism. A happy day because Snookie has been transported from this earth to heaven above, where there is no more pain or sorrow, or cancer or death.

As long as we live on earth we will have sad days and happy days. Sin is the reason for the sad days. Grace is the reason for the happy days. Sin brings about sorrow and suffering. Grace brings about sweetness and salvation. Sin causes pain and punishment. Grace brings about peace and pardon. Sin brings about tears and terror, Grace brings about treasures and triumph.

This is why today is a sad and happy day. Because today we mourn the passing of someone we love. Someone who no longer will greet us, or see at any of the school sports activities. No longer will you see him at the corner of the street by the Bank, or post office saddling his bike, with his rolled up sweats and radio in his ears. But it is also a very, very happy day, because the fight with cancer is over. The hardships this world offered will no longer touch him. But above all, He is in the presence of the One who loved Him and sent His Son to redeem him and claim him as His very own.

Indeed Snookie was one of those unique individuals that God made and created in His own image. With child-like simplicity he lived his life without a worry in the world. Give him the radio, and the bike he rode around and he was content. Take him to watch the Packers play football or Basketball, and he was in 7th heaven. He loved cheering on his team. Even when they were practicing you could hear his voice saying, “Go Packers!” That voice will be missed in the gym. PAUSE.

But you know what really made him special to me? It was the joy of seeing him come to church, always happy. When he came up to the table, he couldn’t wait to receive the precious body and blood of His Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in the precious gift that is the Lord’s Supper. Always using his fingers to encourage others to come to the table sooner, because he wanted to receive this life-giving Sacrament that he longed to take into his mouth and give thanks to the Lord.

As a Pastor I have indeed been privileged beyond my wildest imagination to be Snookie’s “Bud” as he often referred to me. I have spent much time one on one with him. And I must admit to you that in the 16 years of ministry, 5 years of preparation to the ministry, I have never been touched by someone who confessed the faith as Snookie did.

In late 1999 and early 2000 I began to teach Snookie the faith. Now Snookie couldn’t read or write. So I used a special booklet to help me educate him. Those times when I would sit with him around the kitchen table were such a joy, because you never knew what was going to come out of his mouth as I shared with him the story of salvation with pictures.

On more than one occasion he said things that I still remember. In one lesson, we were talking about the gift of forgiveness that Jesus earned for us. As I was explaining the concept of forgiveness to him, I said, “Because of Jesus’ blood all your sins are gone away.” And in his own special way he said, “Bye bye sin!” Out of the mouth of children the truth is declared and with child-like faith he trusted and believed.

In my final session with him I asked him, “Snookie, “Why should God let you into heaven?” He thought for a moment and looked at me and smiled. Then he took the book in his hands (show the book.) and kept flipping through the pages until he arrived (show the page, I have also enlarged this picture and placed on an easel for those in attendance to see); to the page where Christ is hanging on the cross. He took his finger (demonstrate) and kept pointing to the picture by pounding on it.

Tears rolled down my cheeks as I sat in amazement in his kitchen at how the Holy Spirit was at work in this man’s life as he confessed his faith. With his finger he confessed the faith of our Fathers. With His finger, he confessed that he is a sinner in a need of a Savior. With his finger he pointed to the cross upon which Christ was crucified. With His finger he taught me that no matter how old you are, no matter if you can’t read or write, you can believe and know the gift of God’s eternal love in sending His Son to claim this simple child and take Him to heaven to spend an eternity of joy and peace.

Yes, I remember vividly the day in 2000 in the Olson’s kitchen when Snookie confessed his faith. And as long as I live I will never forget how he touched me and taught me, you don’t have to be a college graduate or one that has many degrees to believe, but with the simple child-like faith, you can by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Those fingers of Snookie never stopped working. Often you found him in the Lord’s house and kneeling at the table of the Lord. As I gave him the body of Jesus, he would take it with his fingers and place it in his mouth, and he did the same with the cup of salvation and always left with joy in his heart. Even last week when I was at the hospital he did the same, with his fingers he touched the Body and drank the blood for the forgiveness of his sins and strengthening of his faith. PAUSE.

This is why today is a happy day, a celebration day, a victory day! The text of Snookie’s confirmation attests to this truth. Hear again the text please: “For God so loved the world that He gave His One and ONLY Begotten Son, so that whoever believes in Him may not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). His love for sinners brought Him to that cross and kept Him on it. There His love poured the life blood from His sacred veins for sinners like Snookie, and you and me.

Yes, God loved him, sent His Son to die for him and rose for him so that he may have life and have it abundantly. This past Saturday His loving and gracious Lord, the One who sent His Son to die on the cross of Calvary, reached from heaven with His outstretched and pierced hands and said, “Snookie, come home! You have lived as a child all of your life, come be my BELOVED child. Come rest from your labor. Come and rejoice in the Living hope that I gave you through my death and resurrection. Come and live and laugh and know that I love you!”

Saints in Christ, Snookie always called me his “Bud.” That is a very endearing term that I will cherish and miss hearing. But I want you to know that Snookie budded on earth to blossom in heaven. Certainly our town will never be the same. We will all have an empty place in our hearts. But oh, the joy that awaits us when we are joined with Snookie and the throng in heaven and celebrate the New Life Christ earned for us without end.

Wilma, family and friends I pray that the peace that filled Snookie’s heart and moved him to use his finger to confess His Lord, move you to worship the same and fill your hearts with that same peace; now and forever. Amen.

Now the peace…


Monday, September 13, 2010

“He Came To Save ME.” (1Timothy 1:15)

S-1208 165SAP/3C 9/1205/10 Hymns (O) #32; S#342; L.S. # 377; #311; (C) #400

Texts: Ezekiel 34:11-24; 1Timothy, 1:12-17; Luke 15:12-17

Theme: “He Came To Save ME.” (1Timothy 1:15)

Question: “If you are in danger, would you want to be saved?”


Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! The text for The 16th Sunday After Pentecost is from the Epistle lesson: “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. (1Timothy 1:15)

Introduction: In Nomine IESU

People of God, chosen and beloved, 9 years ago yesterday was a Black Day in the history of the USA. Early on Tuesday morning of 9-11, 19 Al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked Flights number 11, 175, 77 and 93. Flights 11 and 175 crashed into the Twin Towers, flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon in Arlington, VI, and the fourth flight—93, crashed into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Within a couple of hours, there was mayhem and misery, death and debris, fire and fumes and dust that filled the skies over New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania. When all was said and done the total death toll of the attacks was 2,996, including the 19 hijackers. The overwhelming majority of casualties were civilians, including nationals of over 70 countries.

On that tragic and terrible day many gave their lives to save others. On Flight 93 few people did a heroic thing—Todd Beamer and Mark Bingham began a revolt saying, “LET’S ROLL!” By their brave efforts they stopped the plane from reaching its destination—The White House, and crashed into a wooded area thus saving more lives. Others gave their lives that day to save the wounded and trapped. 23 NYPD, 341 NYC Fire fighters, 2 paramedics and 37 Port Authority officers died in the line of duty.

Todd Beamer, Mark Bingham and the many faithful Police Officers (PO), Fire Fighters (FF), Paramedics, Port Authority, woke up that Tuesday morning, not thinking about this being their last and final day. The PO, FF and other agents new there might be a possibility to die in the line of duty, but they didn’t count on it. Certainly our hearts ache over the events of 9-11 PAUSE.

Unlike these brave men and women who gave their lives to save others, Pastor Paul tells of another who came for the specific mission of saving the world. Listen to Pastor Paul’s own words: “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.

Paul is saying here, that Jesus’ main mission didn’t just happen as a last resort, but was planned before the foundation of the world. In the Garden of Eden we see the plans of God unfolding. It was a Black Day unlike any other in all of Creation. The hijacker was not Al-Qaeda terrorist, but a fallen angel who attacked the beauty of God’s creation and crashed the lives of Adam and Eve and their descendants; and were destined to death and destruction, mayhem and misery, and fire and fumes that burn without end.

But God’s plan was put in motion. He promised saying: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel" (Genesis 3:15) and in John 3:16 we hear God’s great promise: “For God so loved the world that He gave His One and ONLY Begotten Son, so that whoever believes in Him may not perish but have eternal life”.

It is as clear as a crystal why Jesus came. Jesus left heaven, entered a virgin’s womb, laid on a bed of straw and came into our world of sin and sorrow foe one reason. Only one reason why He lived in this world, died in it, and rose again. That was to save sinners. He came not to judge, but to seek and save the lost. And He came not just for the world—not for Paul, but for ME—the sinner.

But why did He need to save us? There was no other choice to save humanity. Saint Paul tells us here that the Son of God came into the world and became a man in order to save sinners. It seems implausible, but a few moments’ reflection on this great mira­cle should convince us how highly believable it is.

God’s nature is made up of two glorious qualities. On the one hand, He is absolutely holy, just, and true. On the other hand, He is full of unending love, grace, and mercy. What was God to do when man transgressed His holy Law? Should He, perhaps, have forgiven man his sin and received him into heaven without anything further? No, never! For if God had done this, He would have had to ignore the part of His nature that is holy and just. God wrote His Law into the heart of man at His creation, and He threatened man with the punishment of temporal and eternal death if he should transgress that Law. If God had pardoned fallen man without anything further, He would have declared before all creatures that He is not faith­ful. He would be just like a poor earthly father who com­mands and threatens his children, but who follows through on neither his orders nor his punishments.

But God is also full of unending love, grace, and mercy. He is an eternally overflowing sea of love with which He embraces all of His creation. By virtue of this love, He could want nothing less than to rescue the human race from its sin. How could God do this without compromising His holiness, righteousness, and faithfulness? He determined to become a man and to suffer Himself the consequences of man’s sinfulness. Already, as a newborn child, we see Him in deepest humility, covered in miserable swaddling clothes, lying in a stall. This is the Lamb of God, who bears the world’s sins, and in Him, holiness and love, righteousness and grace, and faith­fulness and mercy are reconciled.

But Pastor Paul in today’s text goes further. What he says is not only “trustworthy,” or exceedingly believable. It is also “deserving of full acceptance.” If the great Christmas miracle were only true, if we could not or would not be able to receive it, it would only have called forth a passing amaze­ment. It would, then, have brought us no salvation and have worked in us no joy. But God be praised! This miracle is wor­thy of acceptance precisely because it happened for the salva­tion of all people, all sinners. Paul writes “of whom I am the foremost” to show that he applied the Christmas miracle to himself.

How blessed we are to be in the same boat with Pastor Paul, poor miserable beggars who need the unending sea of love from God that showers us with mercy and forgiveness. We the foremost sinners have been touched by the pierced hands of the One who came to SAVE us—Jesus the Christ.

The Hymn writer penned it well when he wrote: “Chief of sinners, though I be, Jesus shed His blood for me; Died that I might live on high, Lived that I might never die; As the branch is to the vine, I am His and He is Mine” PAUSE.

On Tuesday morning of 9-11 many PO, FF, Paramedics and others ran towards the fiery inferno to save the hurting and dying. Some carried 100 pounds of weight on their shoulders as they climbed the tower to reach their destination. Yet in all of this they didn’t know they were going to die.

When the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, woke up early on that Friday of 34A.D; He knew full well what was going to happen to Him. None-the-less He continued on His climb—not up the Twin Towers, Not to the Pentagon, Not to Washington, D.C. or Pennsylvania, but to a small hill outside of Jerusalem—Calvary. And as He did so He was carrying more than 100 pounds of weight on His shoulders—He carried the world’s sins including yours and mine. With Joy He ran forward to save the world—and ME—the Sinner. The author to the Hebrews declares: “Looking to Jesus, the Founder and Perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2). Here it is: “For the JOY that was set before Him”. What joy? Certainly not the pain and punishment of hell, not being forsaken by God, not mocked by the people; but saving YOU and ME—the SINNER.

Join me in thanking the Lord who loved us with the overflowing sea of love to save you and me the foremost sinner in the world. AMEN.

Now the peace…


“A Tale To Tell” (Philemon 9)

S-1207 15SAP/3C 9/05/10 Hymns (O) #462; S#23 SOD; (C) #416

Texts: Deuteronomy 30:15-20; Philemon 1-21; Luke 14:25-35

Theme: “A Tale To Tell” (Philemon 9)

Question: “Do you like to tell stories?”


Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! The text for The 15th Sunday After Pentecost is from the Epistle lesson: “For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you.” (Philemon 9)

Introduction: In Nomine IESU

People of God, chosen and beloved, telling stories is an art that draws many people. We love to hear stories. Sad stories grip our hearts and cause us to weep. Good stories make our hearts glad. Love stories warm our hearts, and remind us of our love. Great stories capture our attention. We love telling and hearing stories, because stories engage us on many fronts.

Please listen to this amazing story. Last March in Sydney Australia David and Kate Ogg were in the hospital unexpectedly. Kate gave birth to premature twins at 27 weeks, which is dangerous for babies. Emily was fine when she was born, and after 20 minutes of working on Jamie, doctors pronounced him DEAD.

After declaring him dead, nurses laid little Jamie on Ogg’s bare chest so that they may say their final farewell. What happened next is nothing short of a miracle. After five minutes, Jamie began moving, but the doctor said it was a reflex. She continued to hold him and caress him, at one time she even took a little breast milk on her finger and placed it on his lips and she felt his lips move. She called the doctor to come see what was happening, but he wouldn’t come saying the bay is dead and she is imagining things. However, for the next two hours, she continued to do what her instincts told her—she kept cuddling the beautiful baby. Eventually Jamie opened his eyes and they stayed open. What an amazing and wonderful sight it must have been to see.

Kate held her baby for two hours skin to skin while talking to him and telling him about the world. The official name of what the Ogg’s practiced is called “Kangaroo care,” which is skin to skin contact between the parents and the premature baby to help them. The doctor could not believe it when he arrived back at the bedside to see the living baby.

Now, that is a story that engages the heart and mind to see not only the love of a mother to her child—cuddling, caressing and talking to him, but the love of God to that child as well and to revive him and save him. PAUSE.

Today, the apostle Paul from a Roman prison engages us in this short letter of an amazing story as well; a personal story that he experienced through a runaway slave—Onesimus--whose name means usefull. Onesimus belonged to Paul’s companion Philemon who was a convert to Christianity because he heard the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection through Paul’s lips.

And in this story, Paul shares these loving words with his brother in the faith saying: “For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you.” On account of Philemon Paul was comforted and refreshed because of all the work he was doing for the Lord.

Paul’s heart was touched that even while he is away rotting in prison, he could find joy and happiness as the story of Christ continues to go forth through the labors of others. Now Paul wants to send Onesimus back to his master, but not as a slave, but as a fellow worker and brother in the Lord. This is indeed a tale worthy to be told.

Onesimus, a slave man became free on account of hearing the story of Christ’s sacrificial death for his sins and the worlds; returns to his master to serve him with loyalty and love because he knows he belongs to another. As a brother in the Lord, he knows how useful he has become. And thus, returns not because he has too, but because he wants to serve his earthly master, and more importantly to serve His heavenly Master—Jesus Christ. PAUSE.

Paul tells us he derived much joy and comfort from the love of Philemon. This is not just any kind of love, but a love rooted in Christ, His cross and the empty tomb. A love that allows Philemon to forgive the runaway slave; Onesimus and take him back again. Now Onesimus is welcomed not as a slave but as a brother and fellow story teller of Jesus. Paul from Prison, Philemon the master and Onesimus the slave share something special with one another–the love of Jesus. This love is so rich and beautiful that they tell others about it.

Like Onesimus, we were slaves to sin, death and eternal hell. We were runaway slaves and useless to God. But because of God’s mercy in sending His Son to be the Mediator of the world, in dying our death on the cross, we have peace with God. Now we are free and have become useful to Him and His ministry.

We too, are fellow workers with these men. We too, have our tale to tell. How God for Christ sake has saved us from the destructive power of Satan and the punishment of hell. You, my brothers and sisters in Christ have a story to tell. The world needs to hear your side of the story—and what it is that Christ has done and continues to do in your life. Don’t be embarrassed to tell the tale that changed your life. Each one of you has been touched by the power of the Gospel in a special way. You have your own story that warms the heart and captures the mind. Use your story telling ability to convey that marvelous love story the Lord Jesus has given you to share with a world that needs to hear it.

Please, stop running away and being useless. Don’t permit Satan, or anyone else from hindering you to share your story. The world is not interested in these kinds of stories, but they need to hear it none-the-less. Your story is a story that needs to be told again and again; because Christ has given you such a beautiful story.

Remember my opening paragraph? I shared these thoughts with you. “Telling stories is an art that draws many people. We love to hear stories. Sad stories grip our hearts and cause us to weep. Good stories make our hearts glad. Love stories warm our hearts, and remind us of our love. Great stories capture our attention. We love telling and hearing stories, because stories engage us on many fronts.”

Today, I have tale to tell you that is nothing short of a miracle. It is not a once upon a time tale but once upon a cross TALE. The whole Bible is a compilation of great tales told by God to humanity to remind them that they are His chosen and beloved people. The tale that I am sharing with you today, is one that you have heard before, but is worth repeating again and again and told over and over—it is the story of our salvation.

Because of sin, we were pronounced dead in the sight of God—dead to God and dead in sin. We use to be useless but not anymore. For the Great Mediator, Jesus has pleased our cause before the Mercy Seat of God. Jesus, the Great Physician had a remedy for this death. On the cross of Calvary He hung naked for 6 hours. His warm body slowly gave way to coldness and death. Eventually He was put in a cold, dark grave and rose again on the third day.

But through His resurrected and warm body, He takes us close to His skin, caresses us and embraces us close to Him with His pierced hands. He gives us the milk of His Word to revive us. He gives us the body and blood to strengthen us. He gives us His message of mercy to comfort us. He gives us His compassion to sustain us. He gives us His forgiveness to cleanse us. He gives us His love to warm us. He gives us His ALL to reconcile us. Now that is a tale to tell.

In my opening story, I told you what the Ogg’s did was called “Kangaroo Care.” Through his mother’s touch, Jamie was revived. Today, I don’t share with you a “Kangaroo Care,” but a “Christ Care”—“A LOVE Care”—where Jesus draws us to Himself, holds us against His skin, never letting us go. God cared enough for you to revive you, restore you and redeem you. What an amazing and incredible story you have. A tale to tell the world. May the One who saved you, made you useful for His cause; bless you as you tell this comforting and incredible tale. Amen.

Now the peace…


“No Other!” (Exodus 20:3)

S-1206 14SAP/3C 3/03/10 Hymns (O) #; S#; #(C) #

Texts: Proverbs 3:3-6; Ephesians 5:15-21; John 15:12-17

Theme: “No Other!” (Exodus 20:3)

Wedding: Whitney Marie Wright and Michael (Angelo) Montoya


Angelo and Whitney, as we gather in the Lord’s house today to join you as husband and wife in His presence, I share with you these words to encourage you in your married life. “You shall have no other gods before Me (Exodus 20:3).

“I Am the LORD Your God…You shall have no other gods.” This is the first commandment God spoke to the people of Israel out of the thunder and lightning on Mount Sinai. The Lord had graciously rescued the Israelites from the bondage, tyranny and slavery in Egypt. They were His chosen people—His treasured possessions. He demonstrated His love for them, by the 10 plagues He brought upon Egypt to win their freedom. They would find every blessing of earthly life and for the future heavenly life ONLY in Him. So He commanded them to worship Him alone. Sadly, within the next 40 days, the people became guilty of open idolatry by worshiping the golden calf.

“You shall have no other God”, the Lord said. It is an important lesson for you to remember as you enter into this most solemn and blessed life style that He is granting you. Remember it well when the temptations come. Did you hear what I said, WHEN THEY COME, not if they come? Certainly the temptation to forsake God and partner are very high when you consider that almost half of marriages end up in divorce. Therefore, Angelo and Whitney be on the alert and have no other God in your lives BUT the Lord Jesus to reign and rule your hearts, heads and homes.

You shall have NO OHTER. Those are valuable words for you. Don’t take them lightly. Don’t take them carelessly, but think about them and ponder them often. What does it mean for you Angelo that you would take Whitney to be your wife, and you Whitney to take Angelo to be your husband. PAUSE.

In 1995 Mel Gibson directed and starred in an epic drama movie called Brave Heart. Mel Gibson played A Scottish warrior William Wallace. William married in secret the love of his life a farmer’s daughter called Murron. The reason they did it in secret was to avoid the primae noctis, (first night”). This was a law in the land that demanded any newlywed bride to sleep with the king before she sleeps with her husband.

The marriage was performed in secret, knowing full well the danger of being put to death. They chose to do it, because they will not have another person in their lives. As the vows were spoken by each to-be-spouse, each one said: “I shall take you and NO OTHER!

With these words, the couple swore allegiance to each other and to the God who bound them together as husband and wife. With these words they were committed to each other and not to another. That is a good virtue.

As God’s holy and redeemed children, I exhort you to take this attitude and thought into your marriage as well. That you would have no other person or things come between you two. Not work, friends or even family. You be committed to the Lord Jesus Christ first and foremost; this will help you be committed to each other also.

Remember what I said earlier? “Sadly, within the next 40 days, the people became guilty of open idolatry by worshiping the golden calf.” It is the golden calf of today that I want you to be aware of. Be careful to avoid the golden calf of pleasure, power, and prestige that may get to your heart. Don’t let the golden calf of time, of job, or fun get in the way of worshipping the Lord together. Don’t let the golden calf of building your future and focusing only on earthly things, drag you down. But instead, feed yourselves on the Word of God. Worship together. Pray together and for each other. Pray that God will guide you to be a godly husband and father Angelo and you Whitney to be godly wife and mother. And when the child arrives, make sure you take him/her to the Lord’s house to baptise him/her and continue to be present around the Word and Sacrament so that he (and any other children) may grow in the grace, knowledge and love of Jesus.

Today is a very exciting day for both of you. You are so excited, you are not thinking about the challenges that will come 5, 10, 20 or 30 years from now. But I assure you they will come. And in order for you to be able to meet the challenges and your marriage survive; you need a personal relationship with Jesus and His Word.

Angelo, you will be the head of this house. As such, God lays upon you the responsibility to care for, protect, cherish, spoil, love and build Whitney up. You are to be the spiritual leader in the house. You make sure you know the way to the Church. Take Whitney by hand and the child in the other and spend time listening to Jesus and His Word. Grow as the man of the house in love, compassion and goodness towards your beloved Queen.

Whitney, you as the Queen of the house are to care for, love, honor, cherish and support your husband in every aspect of His life. Be quick to listen and slow to speak. Be patient with each other and forgive each other often. Let nothing get between you or go to bed angry with one another.

I pray that God’s Word and the text I have chosen for your special day would be of great help to you as you walk together in this lifestyle as husband and wife. Remember what the Lord said, “I Am the LORD Your God…You shall have no other gods.” And indeed He is a God like no other. He is a God who loves you with an everlasting love and cherishes the opportunity to embrace you with His grace and mercy. He is a God who supplies all of YOUR needs—in Christ Jesus. The Apostle Paul tells us in Philippians And my God will supply every need of yours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus(Phil. 4:19). Indeed, we have a God like no other who desires to be our God, provide for our earthly life and the life to come with Him in heaven. This God doesn’t do anything in secret because of fear, but made His love known to the world, through the death and glorious resurrection of the world’s Only Savior, Jesus Christ, so that all may know of His everlasting love.

Angelo and Whitney, you have a God like no other, who loves you more than you love your future spouse. He made known this love to you as He sent His only Son, Jesus to die and rise for all of your sins and grant you life and salvation.

And with a God like this, who has given you such great blessings in Christ Jesus and in YOUR spouse to fill your every desire, you need NO OTHER. May God continue to bless you as you devote your love first and foremost to the God of love and from Him take that love and share it with each other.

Angelo and Whitney, I want to give you something to help you remember these words. A cross that I made for you to keep your eyes focused on the God of love, Jesus Christ. God’s richest blessings upon your married lives. Amen.


“Moving On Up!” (Luke 14:10)

S-1205 14SAP/3C 8/29/10 Hymns (O) #318; S#380; L.S. #276; #199; 314; #(C) #43

Texts: Proverbs 25:2-10; Hebrews 13:1-17; Luke 14:1-14

Theme: “Moving On Up!” (Luke 14:10)

Question: “Do you like to be the life of the party?”


Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! The text for The 14th Sunday After Pentecost is from the Gospel lesson: “But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.(Luke 14:10)

Introduction: In Nomine IESU

People of God, chosen and beloved, from 1975 – 1985 many Americans sat in front of their TV’s and watched a sitcom called The Jefferson’s. This sitcom was about literal upward mobility of an African American couple George and Louise Jefferson who move into a swanky high-rise building. George was an obtrusive, often rude guy who thought his wealth should get him anywhere he wanted to go. His wife was more level-headed and often cut him down to size when his schemes went awry.

The theme song for the 11 seasons was this: “Well we’re movin on up, To the east side. To a deluxe apartment in the sky. Movin on up To the east side. We finally got a piece of the pie...Fish don’t fry in the kitchen; Beans don’t burn on the grill. Took a whole lotta tryin’ Just to get up that hill. Now we’re up in the big leagues Getting’ our turn at bat. As long as we live, it’s you and me baby There ain’t nothin wrong with that…Well we’re movin on up, To the east side. To a deluxe apartment in the sky. Movin on up To the east side. We finally got a piece of the pie.

George and Louise are like many of us, always looking out for number one; and attempting to get a piece of the pie so that we can keep up with the Joneses. By nature, we sinful and selfish people look for ways and place of honor. We want to be noticed, respected, and given the place that we think we deserve.

We even apply that to God and His continual invitation to the eternal banquet. We come draped in our work righteousness. We flaunt our works and deeds before Him as if He owes us something. We think, and sometimes believe because of our kindness to others, our involvement in the Church—faithful in attendance, giving of our abundance, serving on boards, a perceived notion of obedience to His Word, and even our faith should get us a seat with God.

Our world doesn’t help much in the way Christians should live. Live for the moment. Get all you want out of it. Don’t let anyone stop you. If you have too, climb over, jump higher, run faster than the other. After all you deserve it. How mistaken we are. PAUSE.

In the Gospel lesson today, Jesus the Master Teacher, gives us a lesson about humility (which we all need to learn), by saying always take the seat least noticeable, so that when the Master or the host of the house comes he will invite you by saying “Move on up friend!” But that is not for us. We should get the seat of honor. We should get the most prominent place. We should get all we can out of life now, and not tomorrow. I want it because I can get it by my deeds.

Perhaps this happened to you. You’re in the best seat you’ve ever had in your favorite stadium cheering for your favorite team. And they are winning. The problem is the seat you’re in doesn’t quite correspond with the section, row, and seat number on your ticket (this happened to me. I took a different seat), which is way up there in the serious nosebleed section. Though from here you can see and hear, maybe even taste and smell the game like you never have before, you haven’t enjoyed yourself for even a moment. You’re paying more attention to the usher than to the game. And the dreaded moment finally comes, “Excuse me, but you’re in the wrong seat. I’m going to have to ask you to move.” Busted and embarrassed, unable to look anyone in the eye, you begin the long walk up and up and up until the game shrinks to cheap-seats dimensions.

Indeed, my brothers and sister in Christ, this is what we deserve because of who we are apart from Christ our Savior. Without Jesus, we are nothing but puny people who deserve hell, damnation and eternal separation from God forever. Without Jesus as the Lord our Host, we are busted and asked to be moved from the seat that we claim to ourselves. Without Jesus all of our good works are nothing but filthy rags. Without Jesus we can’t stand in the presence of our Holy God. Without Jesus, we may be thinking that we are on the upward move; it is a false thinking to be sure. For what we do is arrogance and personal exaltation.

On the other hand, humility is the mark and measure of a child of God. But this is no false humility. It is one driven by who we are—poor, miserable sinners. But on account of His abundant mercy and grace our Lord calls us to the place of honor. We NEVER, NO! NEVER, put ourselves forward; instead our Christ moves us to the seat of honor that He has prepared for us. PAUSE.

Children of God, perhaps you have been following the tragic events of the 33 Chilean miners who have been trapped about half a mile beneath the surface for almost 20 days. It is estimated it will take four months to bring them up. While there is rejoicing in the fact that they located them alive, and have begun to send them food, oxygen and other necessity to keep them alive. Yet four months is a long time to wait in the dark and damp earth.

The Government of Chili, the Gold Mine Company, along with all the people, are praying for a way to get these miners up as quickly as possible. They are sparing no expense, in seeking the help of the greatest minds out there or getting the latest and best equipments, machinery and tools to free them and bring them up one at a time. We, along the Chilean people pray for the same.

This operation is costly. This rescue mission is long and arduous; but without any guarantees. We hope and pray t their efforts would be successful and these minors would be able to enjoy life with family and friends. PAUSE.

A long time ago, there were others who were trapped. Not in a gold mine in Chili, but in Satan’s domain in the darkness of hell. To free these people the operation is costly. The rescue mission is long and arduous; but with sure and certain guarantee.

There was no need for government involvement, no need for Mine Company, no money, or the latest engineers, or finest equipments and machinery; but this was the operation of one person—God’s ONLY Begotten Son-Jesus Christ.

Jesus came to earth to rescue NOT ONLY those who are trapped 2300 feet below the earth’s surface, or those who are in dark, damp and dead places, but all of humanity. The cost was His life’s blood as payment. The only machine needed was the Jewish leaders and Rome’s puppet Pontius Pilate. The only tools needed, were nails and hammer, spear and thorns, sponge and soldiers.

The location is not Chili, not a cave; but Calvary. On a hewn cross outside of Jerusalem for 6 hours Jesus was crucified on the wooden beam. For 3 hours He was in total darkness and no food, no water and barely enough oxygen to fill his lungs. The crowds were not cheering to rescue Him, but to put Him to death. He did die, but on the third day, this Rescue of One burst from the dark, damp and death of the grave to conquer our sin, death and the devil.

Now by His grace, Jesus reaches to each of us poor beggars and invites us to sit with Him at the banquet that He is preparing for us. He motions to YOU today and says “Move On Up Child! I have made it possible for you to be with Me at the greatest banquet!”

Thank God we don’t have to be like the Jefferson’s who want a piece of the pie to move on up to the East Side. Thank God we are no longer trapped like the miners. But have been freed and rescued.

Now by His mighty power we go out into the world and share the joyous rescue that the Savior has made possible for us and invite others to receive the greatest piece of pie He cooked for us in His life and glorious resurrection. Amen.

Now the peace…


“A Glory That Gathers!” (Isaiah 66:19)

S-1204 13SAP/3C 8/22/10 Hymns (O) #14; S #609; L.S. #469; 308; 457; (C) #244

Texts: Isaiah 66:18-23; Hebrews 12:4-24; Luke 13:22-30

Theme: “A glory that gathers!” (Isaiah 66:19)

Question: “Have you gathered around with someone lately?”


Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! The text for The 13th Sunday After Pentecost is from the O. T. lesson: “And I [God] will set a sign among them. And from them I will send survivors to the nations, to Tarshish, Pul, and Lud, who draw the bow, to Tubal and Javan, to the coastlands far away, that have not heard My fame or seen My glory. And they shall declare My glory among the nations(Isaiah 66:19).

Introduction: In Nomine IESU

People of God, chosen and beloved, throughout all of man’s history, people have loved gathering with other people. The reason, God made us this way. After all, it is God who desired to be with His created being. We see Him in the Garden of Eden walking with Adam and Eve in the cool of the day. The Apostle Paul puts God’s desire this way: I will make My dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be My people (2 Corinthians 6:16). God Himself is the author of all our gatherings in any place.

Today, we thank God the Holy Spirit who gathered us in this place to strengthen our faith and continue to bless us as His 21st century disciples.

On the Mt. of Olives, our crucified and Resurrected Lord, Jesus, gathered the 11 disciples to Himself just as He was about to return to the Father and spoke these very family Words that are known to us as the “Great Commission”: All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I Am with you always, to the end of the age.” These words are in fact nothing other than the divinely appointed task of the Church—to to make disciples!

By the grace of God alone, you and I have been given the task to make disciples. We have been tasked by the Lord of the Church to take the very Gospel of Jesus Christ to the nations. It is this Gospel of Jesus who is Emmanuel, God with us, who comes to live a sinless life in our place and go to a cross for us and die only to rise victoriously three days later that compels us to go on this disciple making journey. You have received this message from the generation before you and now you and I together are called to proclaim the same glory of God revealed in the crucified and resurrected Christ. It is the glory that gathers us here. It is this glory that leads us to be instruments in the employ of the Holy Spirit to gather others.

But this is not a new process. This mission did not start with Jesus’ announcement in the last moments before He ascended. No this glory that gathers was spoken of some 700 years earlier. The text before us from the prophet Isaiah speaks of this glory that gathers. These are remarkable words delivered from Yahweh to His people. While Isaiah is not short on words of judgment on those who would not listen to Him, He ends the message through Isaiah with words of promise.

These words speak of a day that is coming. Israel was indeed looking forward to a day. They were facing impending exile. Babylon was growing. It would not be long until God’s people would lose their independence, their land, Temple, hope and life itself. However, it was not coming because God had forgotten them. No, this was coming because they as a people had forgotten and forsaken the gracious Word and Will of Yahweh. The very God who had delivered them with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; the God who led them in the wilderness to a land flowing with milk and honey; the God who had delivered that land into their hands even when they were fearful instead of faithful; this God is the One that they had forsaken.

And this forsaken Yahweh is a jealous God. He refuses to share His glory and place with another. His bride Israel, if she will not be faithful, will be cut off. She will pay the price for her infidelity. But that price will not be permanent. A day is coming, Yahweh tells Isaiah. But the day of which Yahweh speaks in this text is not one of judgment. The coming day is a day of glory. It is a day of Glory that Gathers. For not only will a day come when Judah will come back from exile, and even more glorious day will come when ALL NATIONS will be gathered.

This gathering is brought about by the One who loves to be gathered with His people. Yahweh tells us that I will set a sign among them. What is interesting here is that the word for sign in the Hebrew is the exact same word that is used in Is. 7:14 where we read Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel. The sign that Yahweh will set among the nations is none other than God With UsImmanuelJESUS! He is the sign that will display the glory that gathers all men to Himself. And what did that glory gather? The first to be gathered were not kings and nobles. No the first gathered were plain shepherds—common people like you and me. PAUSE.

This glory continued to gather in the years that followed. The nobles were eventually gathered to this glory by the brilliance of a star from afar. The nobles gathered by this glory were nobles from the very same land in which Isaiah made clear that the people of Judah would spend 70 years in exile. GENTILE kings brought their treasures. This is a glory that gathers.

Some 30 years later the glory of this Sign that Yahweh placed among the people of this earth would bring another gathering. BUT they were not gathered to worship. This Immanuel, this God With US, gathered a crowd around Him that would be screaming at the top of their lungs “Crucify Him!” In their bloodlust they would cry out “Let His blood be on us and upon our children!” Yet this final and greatest glory didn’t look very glorious. For there on the cross of Calvary, this sign, this God With Us, was showing the full glory of God as He hangs there bruised and battered, beaten and bloodied by soldiers; and pierced by nails and spear. But this was the glory that Jesus had come to reveal. For there on the cross the sins of the entire crowd, the sins of the whole the world, the sins of every human being of all time including you and me, were hanging on Jesus. In exchange for our sin, His blood falls on the crowd, the world and us. It is that blood that sets us free; cleanses and purifies. We see the true glory of God in the Jesus who would willingly suffer and die for sinners like us!

Like moth to the flame, this beaten and bloodied, crucified and crypted, real and resurrected Jesus—God WITH US still draws people to God’s Holy Mountain. He brings us here as dead and dying and we leave filled with the glory of the forgiveness of sins. And this gathering continues to this day. The same sign, the same Jesus gathers His people to His Holy Mountain that we call in this place Redeemer. Here the glory of the Lord is given to us week in and week out. But this glory is not glittering with gold and precious jewels. This glory still comes to God’s people in the simplest of forms. It comes in the Word that is spoken. This is not just any word though. It is a Word that speaks of our movement from death to life. This Word is none other than the Gospel of Jesus Christ! And this Word comes in other simple forms to. It comes in the splash of water at the baptismal font that gathers another lost and dying soul into the family of God. This glory gathers sinners to bring the baggage of sin and lay it yet again at the foot of the cross because they know Jesus’ very Words from that cross, “Father forgive them…” This glory gathers us to a feast that centers on the very body and very blood of this Immanuel that is continually given and shed for YOU. And in this feast you receive all you need for this life and the next: Faith, forgiveness and an eternal future!

And especially this week we see this glory gathering us yet again, as we begin our S.S. Kick off and sending our college bound students on their way to be men and women who will gather others to the Lord of the Church Jesus Christ. The Lord takes the skills, the prayer and the effort of those who know and love Him to be used as instruments that will gather even more of the nations as this Word of the Lord through Isaiah is fulfilled.

We need people like you because there are still those who will not be gathered by this glory that is the Lord Jesus Christ. They are distracted as they seek after the fool’s gold of glory that this world offers. They would rather be gathered to the glitter of wealth, the glamour of prestige, the glitz of entertainment or the glory of the self rather than the true glory that gathers all humanity to God. And all the while they chase not a glory that gathers, but a glory that kills. For those who will not heed the sign that Yahweh has placed among His creation will have that same glory consume them in the judgment.

In the face of this, the work of the Church continues. It continues because this glory is not done gathering. For as you read the Words of Isaiah written some 700 years before the birth of Jesus we can see the images of another gathering of the glory of God. This one has NOT YET taken place . For as we hear Isaiah speak the Words of Yahweh we can see the gathering of which St. John writes in Revelation 7. After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, "Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!" And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, "Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen."

This is the ultimate end of the glory. It is one that is eternal. It is one that has been promised from the foundation of the world. And that glory includes YOU! AMEN.

Now the peace of God…