Wednesday, October 27, 2010

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

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

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

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

Question: “Why do you come to worship?”


Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! The text for our meditation this morning is from the O.T. Lesson: “Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him. Then the LORD said to Cain, ‘Where is Abel your brother?’ He said, ‘I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?’” (Genesis 4:8-9).

Introduction: In Nomine IESU

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now the peace of God…

Soli Deo Gloria

Sunday, October 17, 2010

“The Big Showdown” (Genesis 32:24-25)

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

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

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


Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! The text for our meditation this morning is from the O.T. Lesson: “And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with Him.” (Genesis 32:24-25).

Introduction: In Nomine IESU

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now the peace of God.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

“A Story Worth Knowing” (Ruth 1:16-17)

S-1213 20SAP/3C 10/10/10 Hymns (O) #297; S#660 L.S. #32; #370; #457 (C) #52

Text: Ruth 1:1-19; 2 Timothy 2:1-13; Luke 17:11-19

Them: “A Story Worth Knowing” (Ruth 1:16-17)


Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! The text for our meditation this morning is from the O.T. Lesson: “But Ruth said, ‘Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the LORD do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.” (Ruth 1:16-17).

Introduction: In Nomine IESU

People of God, chosen and beloved, it is an art to tell a story. A story that is told well captures the hearts and heads of its listeners from the moment the narrator begins until the end. All the while the listeners are sitting on the edge of their seats waiting for the next syllable and the image that will be painted on the canvas of their minds. Therefore, sit back and listen to a story that is worth knowing.

The story begins in the land of Judah—Bethlehem. There we are introduced to Elimelech’s family—wife Naomi and two sons Mahlon and Chilion. Elimelech whose name means (God is my King) didn’t trust God his King, because there was no king in the land. He takes the family away from the land of bread, the land flowing with milk and honey – due to the drought and famine, to another land—Moab to satisfy his hunger. Elimelech is not relying on God here, but himself to be the provider for his family.

While away from his homeland and hometown Bethlehem, Elimelech and his two sons die in Moab, and his wife Naomi and the two daughters-in-law Ruth and Orpah remain. Now there are 3 destitute and distraught ladies. No husband, no family, no land, and no food. They find themselves in an odd place in an odd way.

Now the narrator begins to weave the script by pulling on the strings of the listener’s ears and hearts. He paints with wide-stroke brush the images of the destitute and despondent women and the options before them. And how the Awesome God of Israel, intervenes and provides for all of their needs.

This is the incredible story of Naomi the widow from Bethlehem and her newly widowed daughter-in-law Ruth the Moabite who return to Bethlehem—the house of bread because word had come that God has provided for His people again.

Along the journey home, Naomi begs and pleads with the two daughters-in-law to return home to their father’s homes. Orpah returns, but Ruth with those familiar words proclaims I shall go with you wherever you go. Ruth’s own words have come down to us to encourage us also to return home to the God who provides for all that we need. Here is how Ruth confessed her faith: “But Ruth said, ‘Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the LORD do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.”

With these words, Ruth is determined and declares that the God of the Hebrews will be her God. She will bow to Him, worship Him and serve Him. He will guide her every step and movement. She will live under His banner of love, protection and provision.

The Moabite Ruth after marrying Boaz becomes the mother of Obed {the one whose worship is found in service}. Obed is David’s grandfather. Without our Triune God’s blessing Ruth and Naomi, redeeming both women, we would not have Jesus. Ah yes, the Lord is our King and He provides for all that is needed. He redeemed the truly outcast... and did far more than just save them. He blesses us today through them.

And the story that is worth knowing continues with how God intervenes in the lives of these widows. He provides for them a kinsman-redeemer—one who will buy them back and provide for them to live a decent and honorable life. Ruth the Moabite is now redeemed by the God who redeems all people from their sins—by the greatest provision from Bethlehem—the house of bread, with the Bread of Heaven, Jesus the Christ. PAUSE.

Don’t for a moment think that this story is simply a story that took place so long ago in a foreign land. NO! NO! NO! This story is being played out day in and day out in your lives and mine. For you see in reality you and I are the foreigners, we are the outcast of society, we are the misfits of the world, we are the Samaritans and the Moabites. We are the ones who have been brought from the desert dreary life to eat at the Eternal banquet that God provides for us.

Do you realize that there is nothing that you have, or offer to God that will appease Him from destroying you? There is nothing that you can do to take away His wrath from you. After all, we don’t like our story. We want to compose and contain our own story the way we think it should be.

But the truth is we are nothing but strangers here. Our sermon hymn reminds us of this “I’m but a stranger her, heaven is my home!” (TLH 660 v. 1). We can bring nothing to God. Instead, we see ourselves crawling and coming home from Moab with nothing but the promise from the lips of God Himself, WHERE YOU GO, I WILL GO! (Matthew 28:20b), and with this promise comes from the Father of all compassion and mercy and provides us all that we need.

We saw in the story before us and in the Gospel lesson today, how God intervenes and provides what is needed. The 10 lepers are cleansed from sin and commanded by the gracious Lord, the Bread of heaven—Jesus to show themselves to the priest so that the leprosy of sin will be removed. And they are cleansed and healed. Naomi and Ruth, too, are provided for by the gracious hands of God Himself. And so do you His most beloved bride. Yes, He provides for you what you can’t provide for yourself. We stand before the High Priest Jesus whose crimson blood washes away all of our leprosies and sends us on our way redeemed and forgiven.

Remember the story that is worth knowing? It began in Bethlehem (the house of bread) with no bread. Elimelech (God is my King) but there was no king. There was famine and drought. But how does it end? With a story that you should know and share with others—it is your story and mine. In Bethlehem, the God of heaven in a lowly manger provides the gift of heaven—manna—His Son, Jesus Christ. Now there is bread. Now there a King: Jesus Christ. Now there is a family. Now there are provisions flowing from His pierced side and hands. Now there is forgiveness and peace. Now there is joy in the house because the famine and drought have been replaced with faith and delicacies.

Today, you the Redeemed from Moab, the Samaritans, the outcasts, will dine on the true manna from heaven—Jesus Himself as He serves you the eternal bread and the joyful cup for the salvation of your soul and the blessings that comes from the God who goes where you go.

Most precious beloved of our Savior, know this—this is not simply the story of Ruth—but yours and mine and we should know it and tell it to all people.

Perhaps some you still remember the Television miniseries Roots? It was the story of a slave from Africa by the name of Kunta Kinte who was kidnapped and brought to the shores of the USA. His American captors wanted to give him a different name, but he refused to accept it and kept telling his family about his home, how was kidnapped and brought here. All along he reminded them of the freedom he had in the old country and his name was Kunta Kinte.

We too, have a name and a story—it is the story of our salvation. We have been brought about by the true Bread of Heaven—Jesus Christ, who freed us from the slavery of leprosy, death and the devil; and gave us freedom. Therefore, today, we, like Kunta Kinte relive our story and share it with others—the story of our Redemption and salvation. The story of God’s love for you by sending His greatest gift—His ONLY begotten Son, Jesus the Christ. May God grant you the power and ability to live, know and share the story that is worth knowing Amen.

Now the peace of God…


Friday, October 1, 2010

“Get Out Of The Boat” (Matthew 14:28-29)

S-1212 18SAP/3C 9/26/10 Hymns (O) #735; S#722; (C) #731

Text: Isaiah 52:17-10; Acts 1:1-8; Matthew 14:22-32

Them: “Get Out Of The Boat” (Matthew 14:28-29)

Mission Fest St. Peter, Hannover, ND

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! It is a great honor indeed and a privilege to be with you today. The text for our Mission Fest Celebration is from the Gospel lesson: “And Peter answered Him, Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.’ He said, ‘Come.’ So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus” (Matthew 14:28-29).

Introduction: In Nomine IESU

People of God, chosen and beloved, today’s text challenges every son of Adam and every daughter of Eve to live a life worthy of our calling as God’s redeemed and beloved children. This calling is to get out of the boat and to speak to a world that is lost in sin. Today, the Holy Spirit exhorts us to be Christ’s representatives in the pulpit, in the pew, in the parish hall and in the public square. Today, the Savior calls us to be His men and women, boys and girls and live our lives to change other lives—lives that have not come to know the Rabbi from Nazareth as the heaven-sent Savior of the world. Today, Jesus challenges you not to sit on your duff and do nothing, but to hear the message, and get out of the boat.

The problem though, we don’t want to get out of the boat. We are very comfortable in our life-style. Why rock the boat? Why bother? I live my life and they live their lives. Oh, yes, I am a Christian, but Pastor, don’t you ask me to volunteer, don’t ask me to be a Sunday school teacher, don’t ask me to share what I heard and learned. That is for you Pastor. You are trained in theology. You know what to say and how to say. You are so good at it Pastor. Besides, that is why we called you. That is why we pay you too. Oh how we love our boat. Though it is rusty, old, ugly looking, leaks a little, doesn’t move fast or much at all. None-the-less we still like our boat and love to stay in it. For in my boat I find comfort and contentment. PAUSE

Tell me about YOUR boat. What does it look like? Is it your house, your neighborhood, your work, your tractor, your cows, and your bank account? What is the stuff on your boat? Concerns, cares, burdens, blessings, joys, Etc? Truth be told, most of us to tend to be happy in our boat with our own stuff because it is very safe.

Jesus says, “I have something for you to do!” Trust me in all circumstances. However, we say to Him, “But I like my boat. (Walk over to the boat and continue preaching from it) It is safe, comfortable, leaky, broken, ugly boat, but it is MINE. I can control it. I can push it this way or that. I can determine which way I should go, and when I should go. But it is still MINE!

Do you know why we do this, because we are afraid? We are afraid to let God lead us and direct us. Fear is the number one reason why people refuse to get out of the boat. Fear whispers to us that God is not really big enough to take care of us. It tells us we are not really safe in His hands. It causes us to distort the way we think about Him. You will never know God is trustworthy if you don’t risk obeying Him. When you come to the end of your life—all those “what if’s” become “might have beens.” What might have been if I had trusted God?

You see the devil doesn’t want you to get out of the boat; because it is safe. But Jesus tells us put your hand in mine and I will lead you. Just as our sermon hymn stated “Lord, when the temptest rages, I need not fear, For You, the Rock of Ages, Are always near. Close by Your side abiding, I fear no foe, For when Your hand is guiding, in peace I go.” (722 v. 2)

Oh, but to take that step. Dare to be different. To do the unusual is not me. To get out of the boat is so hard. It is so challenging. It is so demanding. It is downright difficult. “Get out of the boat to serve others,” Jesus tells us. “Don’t play it safe. Go I Am with you wherever you go.” But to take Jesus at His Word is so well…not me. Oh, I trust in Jesus, BUT…send someone else Lord. Tell the next person in the pew, they know how to speak.

You are not alone with fear and doubts. You won’t be the first and you won’t be the last to come up with excuses why you shouldn’t and couldn’t get out of the boat. Remember the prophet Jeremiah. God called him from the womb and set him apart to be His spokesperson. But Jeremiah came up with one excuse after another. Listen to how Jeremiah tells of his own fears: “Now the Word of the LORD came to me, saying, ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.’ Then I said, ‘Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.’ But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’; for to all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, declares the LORD’” Jeremiah, like us expresses serious doubts about his own ability to answer God’s call. He responds, “I am just a kid Lord. Can’t do it! Now how, no way!” But the Lord gently and lovingly says: “You are my man, you are my woman. I will use you because my power is in you.”

Honestly, how can a teenager speak to other teenagers about living the wrong way? How can you

Tell your neighbor about the love of Jesus without sounding preachy? How can you tell your co-worker stop stealing? We are so afraid to be a light that burst in the darkness of sin. Satan loves to keep us in the boat. PAUSE

Do you have doubt about your ability to speak God’s Word and stand boldly as a Christian in difficult situation? Do you feel like a child in your spiritual maturity even though you may have gray hair and a solid standing in society? Do you fear speaking up when the opportunity arises? If so, shift your focus from you to the One who changes YOU—Jesus the Christ. By His mighty power He takes each and every one of us and makes us His spokesperson. He uses us in spite of us. He gives us His powerful and mighty Word to change lives.

Remember, you are the baptized, redeemed, forgiven, blood-bought and heaven-bound children of the Most High God. Remember that Christ has called you by the Gospel. And you should remember that Jesus Christ the Lord of the church is the Lord of action: “Let’s go!” (Mark 1:38). Jesus told His disciples. The Church has her marching orders: Preach the Gospel, have compassion, touch the lives in need! Through repentance and faith, we can get out of the boat with courage to carry Christ’s message to a hurting world. Yes, you can because you are armed with the mighty power of the One who made the universe. You can because you are not alone, but He lives in you and with you where ever you go.

Sometimes we make fun of people like Peter and others. We say something like this: “He has weak faith he fell as he saw the wind! We sit in judgment as if we are better or stronger. But do you know and realize that Peter is the only one from the 12 who got out of the boat? He is the only one who trusted in Jesus mighty power to step out in faith and walk towards Him.

This is not a laughing matter. It is a matter of life and death. We the baptized, chosen and beloved Children ought to be brave and courageous like Peter by getting out of the boat and getting our feet wet. As we recognize our fears, we admit we can’t do it alone, but He does it in us and through us. And we are afraid and begin to sink, Jesus doesn’t scold us, first He reaches down with His nail-pierced hands and saves us and sends us on our way. Christ’s anchor will keep your boat safe in every storm. (Hebrews 9:19)

God uses preachers and people to share salvation's story. That was the way it was when Jesus sent out His disciples. The Gospel of Luke tells of the time Jesus commissioned 70 men to go out, two-by-two, and prepare the way for the Savior. The job of the 70 disciples was to share Jesus' credentials; to make it so people knew Somebody wonderful, Somebody special was coming to town. Jesus said they were to travel fast, travel light, travel with prayer in their hearts and God's words on their tongues.

Now God did all of this not because we are so kind, so caring, so compassionate, so cute. He did it because He cared. He still cares. That's why He still sends the Holy Spirit... the third Person of the Trinity, to try and call lost souls to salvation. In that work He enlists representatives, representatives to tell people the kingdom of God is here in Jesus. That's what the 70 did when Jesus sent them out. It's what we do day in and day out. All of us try to tell people the kingdom of God is near. We tell how Jesus did all which was asked of Him. He lived, He suffered, and He died. That was what was asked. And then, three days after He had been killed, long enough so there could be no doubt about His demise, He rose and showed to the world that even death and grave had been conquered. That's the Jesus story and all who believe it find the Kingdom of God is not just near... they find it is actually here.
My friend, you have had someone share salvation's story with you, haven't you? Maybe that person went to seminary and was schooled in theology... maybe that individual's prime credentials were found in the fact they cared about you. You've had someone speak to you of the Savior, haven't you? Was it a parent, a spouse, a family member who prays for you and tries to get you to go to church... who keeps talking about Jesus... who goes on and on and on about the Savior? They can drive you crazy, can't they? I know. I drive tens of thousands of people crazy every week. What's that? You don't want anybody preaching at you. You don't need anybody preaching to you. Yes, I know none of us likes somebody telling us we're wrong... and telling us we need to change... and pointing out our sins. Of course you don't need another sinner pointing out your shortcomings. Sure, I understand where you're coming from. You think we're boring; well, we can be. You think we do a bad job; sometimes we do. You think we believe we've got the answers; we don't but Jesus does. You think we're pompous and pushy and a real pain. I can't argue with you. Sometimes we are. But there's one other thing we are... one thing you forgot to mention. We are representatives of the Savior. Believe on Him and you will be saved. Believe on Him and you'll get in.

Believe on Jesus... the kingdom of heaven is near. My friend, I know we who are part of Jesus' kingdom have many faults. We do... but He doesn't. I'll apologize for our flaws, but we can't repent of our telling lost souls about Jesus. Look, If I had a medicine which would heal every cancer, I would keep talking about it and telling people about it. I wouldn't be able to help myself from telling them about this miracle cure. It would be a sin if I stopped telling people. That's what's happening here. The medicine of Jesus' blood saves people from sin; it cleans up their souls. It moves them from hell to heaven. It gives them a peace of mind and heart and soul they can't get anywhere else. Jesus is the medicine you need. We have to keep talking about Him.

Today, as we celebrate the Mission Fest, remember your calling. It is not just to sit and listen, but by the grace get out of the boat and tell someone about the Savior of the world.


Now the peace of God…