Sunday, November 28, 2010

“This is NOT A Game!” (Romans 13:11)

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

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

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

Question: “Do you enjoy playing game?”


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

Introduction: In Nomine IESU

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now the peace of God…

Saturday, November 27, 2010

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

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

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

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

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


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

Introduction: In Nomine IESU

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now the peace of God…

Monday, November 1, 2010

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

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

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

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

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


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

Introduction: In Nomine IESU

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now the peace…