Tuesday, November 29, 2011

“Comfort, Comfort, Ye My People” (Isaiah 40:1-2)

S-1280 1SIA/3B 11/27/11 Hymns: All LSB (O) #332; S#347; L.S. 380; 352; (C) #348

Text: Isaiah 64:1-9; 1 Corinthians 1:3-9; Mark 11:1-10

Theme: Comfort, Comfort, Ye My People” (Isaiah 40:1-2)

Question: “Have you ever been comforted?” Armour, SD

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! The text for the 1st Sunday in Advent is from Isaiah: Comfort, comfort My people, says Your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins.(Isaiah 40:1-2).

Introduction: In Nomine IESU

Today, saints in Christ, we begin our new journey through Advent culminating on Christmas at the manger. Today, and the next few weeks, we shall listen to the prophet Isaiah speaking to us by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit about the loving God, who sent His Son, our Savior to the cradle in Bethlehem and what does that mean to us personally. Thus, with great joy, we look back at what has already happened in Bethlehem and look forward with great anticipation and expectation to Christ’s Second Coming.

An old “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” TV show was about a woman in prison who became good friends with the prison caretaker. When a prisoner died he would ring the bell, get the body, put it in a casket and nail it shut. Then, placing the casket on a wagon, he would take it to the graveyard outside the prison walls and bury the corpse.

Knowing this routine, the woman devised an escape plan and shared it with this caretaker. “The next time the bell rings,” she said, “I’ll leave my cell and sneak into the coffin with the dead body. Nail the lid shut and take the coffin outside the prison with me in it. Bury the coffin,” she continued, “and because there will be enough air for me to breathe for some time, you can come back to the graveyard that night, dig up the coffin, and set me free.” The caretaker agreed to the plan.

One day this woman heard the ringing of the death bell. She arose, walked down the hallway, found the coffin containing the dead body and climbed in. Soon she heard the pounding of hammer and nails. The coffin was lifted onto the wagon and taken outside to the graveyard. After the dirt was poured on the coffin she began to giggle out loud, “I’m free, I’m free!”

Feeling curious she lit a match to identify the prisoner beside her and in the glimmer of light she discovered that she was lying next to the dead caretaker! In classic Alfred Hitchcock fashion this final scene fades as we hear the woman screaming, screaming, screaming, and then silence. PAUSE.

Beloved in the Lord, of course this is only a show. It is not real. But have you ever been buried like that before? Before you answer, think about it. Have you ever been buried like that before? Sure you have, and so have I.

You might say, “Pastor, I have NEVER been in a coffin! I haven’t been buried yet! I am still breathing and moving!” But really dear saints, the truth we all have been buried.

We’ve been buried in questions – “If God is so good, why do I hurt so badly?” “If Jesus is the light, why am I in the dark?” If Jesus loves me, why am I hated by the world? If Jesus is in control of my life, why am I in total chaos?”

We’ve been buried in disappointment – “You’re just not like your older brother!” “You’re just not like your older sister!” “You’re just not like our last boss!” “You’re not mounting too much.” “You’re a sorry state!”

We’ve been buried in responsibilities – “Here’s a 30 page case study – be ready to discuss it tomorrow. Honey, the kids have softball and baseball games tomorrow.” “Sugarplum, I need to work late at the office, please prepare the supper. “

We’ve been buried in the past – the minute we lost our temper, the hour we lost our purity, the day we lost control, the years we lost our priorities. And on top of it all – literally – we’re buried in our daily self-assertion, self-righteousness, self-satisfaction, self-sufficiency and self-will.

The truth of the matter is this: We are buried, boxed in, six feet under, again, right here, just now – it’s dark, tight, claustrophobic and the enemy has nailed the lid shut. And if there isn’t screaming, there are heavy sighs and lifeless looks and empty hearts.

Buried, boxed in, six feet under – so also were the Israelites in Babylon. They were taken captives by a ruthless king. For 70 years, life was harsh and hard. Life was empty and void. Life was dark and death reigned supreme. PAUSE.

How many of you know that the word “bedlam” comes from the word “Bethlehem”? The hospital of St. Mary of Bethlehem was established in 1247 in London, but the local inhabitants of that time had their own speech, which was not always the King’s English. Bethlehem for them came out “bedlam.” When, under Henry VIII the monasteries were dissolved in the land, the hospital was given to the city of London, which incorporated it in 1547 as an insane asylum. The name bedlam became permanently linked with the noise and confusion within its walls. Leave it up to us to take a gracious hospitable place like Bethlehem and create bedlam; to take Christmas—God’s gift to the nations, and make it so full of clamor, confusion and chaos. We know more about bedlam than we do of Bethlehem.

Look at your life! On the outside everything looks so serene, rosy and beautiful. Even the houses shine with the glitter of lights and the hope of Christmas. But be truthful and honest. Remove the venire of hypocrisy and you will see homes divided, hearts broken, and lives filled with pain. To be srue, no amount of glitter and glamour can cover the grim lives we live. PAUSE.

It was once high noon at the OK Corral and our Savior put down His gun! “Go ahead,” He said, “Take your best shot and shoot Me!” And the enemy marshaled every weapon of mass destruction. Judas, Pilate, Herod, Priests, Pharisees, Sadducees, Soldiers, Crowds … thorns, nails, spear, darkness, sweat and screaming, screaming, screaming, until there was total silence; even the angels in heaven were silent.

It all ended “crucified, dead and buried.” Nothing is as bottomless as a pit, as lifeless as a grave, as hopeless as a tomb. Smell the mildew, the odor of rotten flesh, of blood, the stench of death and your nostrils itch and your eyes water. See the confines, the darkness, and the sealed stone. Witness the charred marks of a divine explosion to life!

Cramped by the chaos, suffocating in the stillness, trapped in transgressions and sins, screaming in the silence, let’s light a match and see who we’re buried with. PAUSE.

Well get this YOU who are buried, boxed in, six feet under – Paul tells us: “We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life!” (Romans 6:4) Again, he speaks: “Having been buried with Him in baptism and raised with Him through your faith in the power of God, who raised Him from the dead.” (Colossians 2:12).

Through water and the Word you and I have been buried and raised with Jesus our New Born Savior and Lord. Our certain defeat is turned into a stunning, bottom of the ninth inning, come-from-behind victory. And so our buried, boxed in scream is forever changed into a baptized, blood-bought, forgiven, Spirit-filled endless Hallelujah!

This is why God writes, through the pen of Isaiah: “Comfort, comfort My people.” Comfort is here. Comfort is yours. Comfort is now. Comfort is forever! Amen.

Now the peace…


Friday, November 25, 2011

“Thankful Hearts” (John 6:25-35)

S-1279 TD/3C 11/24/11 Hymns: (O) #574; 568; S#36; L.S. 566 (C)#578

Text: Psalm 100; 103; Deuteronomy 8:1-10; 1Timothy 2:1-4; John 6:25-35

Theme: “Thankful Hearts” (John 6:25-35)

Question: “How grateful is your heart?” Armour, SD

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! The text for the Thanksgiving Day celebration is the gospel lesson: So they said to Him, ‘Then what sign do You do, that we may see and believe You? What work do You perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” Jesus then said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the Bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true Bread from heaven. For the Bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’ They said to Him, ‘Sir, give us this bread always.’ Jesus said to them, ‘I Am the Bread of Life; whoever comes to Me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in Me shall never thirst’” (John 6:25-35).

Introduction: In Nomine IESU

Saints in Christ, blessed Thanksgiving Day to each and every one of you. A story is told of two old friends who bumped into one another on the street one day. One of them looked forlorn, almost on the verge of tears. His friend asked, “Jimmy, What has the world done to you, my old friend?” The sad fellow said, “Let me tell you. Three weeks ago, an uncle died and left me forty thousand dollars.” His friend responded, “That’s a lot of money.” Jimmy continued “Two weeks ago, a cousin I never even knew died, and left me eighty-five thousand free and clear.” “His friend said: “Sounds like you’ve been blessed....” “You don’t understand!” he interrupted. “Last week my great-aunt passed away. I inherited almost a quarter of a million.” Now he was really confused. “Then, why do you look so downcast?”This week... nothing!

That’s the trouble with receiving something on a regular basis. Even if it is a gift, we eventually come to expect it. This is the “entitlement mindset” that has permeated American society at almost every level—even in the church. We have been blessed to live in a land of plenty and as a result we become complacent and many times are completely unwilling to give thanks to anyone for anything.

Indeed the old saying is true “attitude is everything”... Well, it is no different when it comes to thanksgiving. The attitude we carry with us through life is of utmost importance if we are truly to live lives that demonstrate our gratitude towards our good and gracious God for His continual provisions and blessings in our lives.

St. John tells in the text of the unthankful crowd who had just been fed by the Savior. Jesus had just demonstrated His mighty power by feeding 5000 people with a few loaves and fish. Yet, these ungrateful people questioned Jesus as to how He is going to prove Himself to them yet again. They’d followed Jesus all the way around the lake and rather than recognizing the fact that they were being offered the solution to a REAL need, they were asking yet again to have a PERCEIVED need met. Jesus reminded them of the importance of what He was offering them in His teaching and then continues to teach them rather than meeting their perceived need for food.

When the masses demanded food, He referred them to Spiritual food by His teaching about the things of heaven. When these Jewish listeners were trying to grasp what He was teaching them, He made a historical connection for them referring back to the Manna from Heaven that God provided for the Israelites when they were wandering in the wilderness for 40 years, demonstrating that God met their needs when they needed it. Again, Jesus turns the discussion to things of a spiritual nature and they asked Him to provide “this food” for them. Jesus then told them that He is the Bread of Life. With the Savior in their lives, they would never be hungry or thirsty... at least not in things of eternal significance. PAUSE.

How sad, that we are not any different than the people who followed Jesus around the lake. We don’t always have thankful hearts for all He gives us. WE ALAWYS WANT MORE! No wonder tomorrow many people, maybe even some of you here, would forgo sleep to go and shop for more stuff. We put the physical need, before the Spiritual—the Bread of Life Himself. We pursue cars and homes and trophy spouses and all manner of possessions and in the process neglect the importance of returning thanks to the Giver of all good gifts for the only thing that really matters for eternity.

Beloved in the Lord, you and I live in a land of plenty. Even the poorest among us are wealthy by the standard of the rest of the world! We still have a roof over our heads, a car or two in the garage, 2 or 3 TV’s, cell phones, computers, etc. Certainly, our loving Father has blessed us in ways too many to number, and yet, we feel just like the people in the text for today. We too, want Jesus to give us one more thing... to give us one more demonstration of His power. It is almost as if they were viewing Jesus’ ministry among them as a magic show of sorts and they weren’t satisfied with the things He had already done to demonstrate to them who He was and what it was that He had really come to do in their lives. They wanted yet another demonstration of His power so “then they would believe.” Likewise, we too, at times act just like the people in the text. We don’t believe in the power of the Father, who in love sent the Bread of Life to earth to feed and nurture us. True faith calls us to acknowledge and confess our dependence on Him—who provides every good and perfect gift—and with an attitude of gratitude, have thankful hearts.

I am indeed amazed at how many people wish others “Happy Thanksgiving Day” and rightly so, yet NOT many are happy. Perhaps you can’t see the gifts that God has given you... Maybe the pain of life has overwhelmed you to the point where you don’t see anymore how blessed you truly are. Perhaps, the economy and life’s situation has put a bad taste in your mouth and don’t see the hand of God directing and leading you.

If that is where you are today, then I implore you by the power of the Holy Spirit to lift your eyes to Him who is the Bread of Life—Jesus the Christ. Hear His Words again: ‘I Am the Bread of Life; whoever comes to Me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in Me shall never thirst’” Yes, my beloved, He is the source of every breath, bread and blessing. Jesus the Christ is the One who blesses us when we don’t deserve it.

As you, today, or this evening, munch on turkey, dressing and pumpkin pie; remember these are all gifts from Your loving God and Lord. But also today, as we gather in His house to feed on His Eternal Word, Body and Blood, may we have thankful hearts that appreciate His giving us His all, on the cruel cross of Calvary.

Today, my beloved and His beloved, in the simple, yet very clear way of worship, we have a great opportunity to teach the world, that our loving Father sent His Son for us so that we may be blessed. The Son fulfilled the will of the Father—by dying our death and rising again to fill our hearts with His love and blessings. And therefore, with great joy we do acknowledge our dependence on Him for every good and perfect gift and with an attitude of gratitude, have thankful hearts.

I pray that we don’t have the mind of Jimmy, who said, “This week…NOTHING!” Because every week, we are blessed, not only with material blessings, but more importantly with His eternal and spiritual blessings.


Now the peace…


“I” (Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24)

S-1278 LSOCY/3C 11/20/11 Hymns: (O) #388; S#364; (C) #428

Text: Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24; 1 Corinthians 15:20-28; Matthew 25:31-46

Theme: “I” (Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24)

Question: “Do you think highly of yourself?” Armour, SD

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! The text for the Last Sunday of the Church Year is the O.T. lesson: “Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out… I will rescue them…I will bring them out… [I will] gather them…I will feed them…I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord GOD. I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice.” (Ezekiel 34:11-16).

Introduction: In Nomine IESU

Beloved in the Lord, do you know what is the problem with our world? I am the problem. As a pastor, I admit to you that I am selfish, self-serving, self-centered, arrogant and proud. I will be the first to admit to you that on many occasion I have made strong statements such as: “I am self-made man. I came to this country at age 16 without any English skills and taught myself English. I worked hard and went to college; and I am the highest educated Nour in the whole Nour family both here and in the old country. I came with $500.00 to my name and now I am comfortable.

And if that is not enough bragging about what I have accomplished, last Sunday while hunting deer, I shot one from 450 yards. Yes, I told everyone about it. What you hear is I have done this and I have done that. It is all about me—I.

Even one of the GOP candidates for the presidency, Rick Perry said in one of his commercials: “I am a doer and not a talker!”

Now before you jump all over me and Rick Perry, review your life and your statements. How many times have you said, “I have done this or that? I have built this or that? I bought this car with my money. I shot a big deer last year; I am going to accomplish this in my lifetime and this is what I have in my bucket list?”

This is the problem with our world. I am the problem, but it is also you. You, I and every person who is born likes to take credit for the things he/she does. Remember the story that the Savior taught in Luke 18? Jesus tells us: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’” We all like to tell others of our accomplishments. We like the world to know that we are decent people. PAUSE.

Saints in Christ, have you ever gotten a Christmas letter or sent one out? What is contained in those letters? My Susie is a great athlete! My Jimmy is on the A honor roll. Sam starts on the varsity BB. My husband got a promotion to vice-president. We took this vacation and saw these beautiful sights.

There is nothing wrong with such letters. They are wonderful to receive and read from family and friends. But do they tell the whole story? How many of those letters say it like it is. Susie got pregnant with her boyfriend, Jimmy has flunked algebra for the 3rd time, Sam has been benched because of his drinking; and my husband was fired because of lying to his boss. We don’t tell those kinds of stories, do we?

How often do we admit that we have bombed it? How many times are we the first ones to acknowledge that we have sinned against God in word and deed? Are we always ready to say, that I have sinned against my neighbor? Of course it is always his fault. We are innocent. Do we acknowledge the tax collector’s saying: ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’

You see my brothers and sisters in Christ the problem with the world is me, because I am concerned about myself and not others. I am turned inward rather than outward. I focus on myself rather than my neighbor.

You don’t believe me. Let me ask you this simple question: “What is at the center of the word sin? “I.” Yes, it is I who have done all of these things against God and neighbor. PAUSE.

However, today’s text from Ezekiel tells us if anyone has a right to say, I, it is God Himself. Our God is the Great I Am, who gathers His sheep, seeks them out, finds the lost, rescues them, feeds them, binds them, strengthens them and be their Shepherd. God in this text tells us that He will do all of these things for His people—YOU His precious saints.

If you have a pen, please mark your Bibles or reading for today and see how many times the letter I is mentioned in these few verses? {give them time to count them} 23 times the author of life and the Great Shepherd of His people says I will do these mighty activities for My people.

If anyone has any right to brag it is not you and me, but our Gracious and faithful God. He Himself will shepherd His people to the green pastures so that they will live in peace and harmony. He will bind their broken spirits and hearts and give them the joy and hope of the future that awaits His sheep. He will restore them to the place before sin marked our world and us.

In order for Him to do so, He set One shepherd over them; and this faithful Shepherd—Jesus Christ, God’s only Son and David’s Son, came to earth with redeeming love to gain forgiveness for us and reclaim us as His people. An oft-quoted verse comes to mind: “Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to Him­self as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless” (Ephesians 5:25-27).

Indeed, this faithful Shepherd of the sheep fulfilled His own words of John 10, I Am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep” (V. 11), The Good Shepherd has done away with the problem of the world turning me from sinner to saint, from darkness to light, from hell-bound to heaven-bound.

Because of our Awesome God, we hear Him say to us again today, “I, I myself will do this!” And He has. We believe what He has said only by faith, as our good Dr. Martin Luther taught us in the explanation of the 3rd article of the creed saying: “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength, believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him. But the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel....” Yes, we believe and move and have our being because we are rooted in Him who died and rose for us and gave us hope—Jesus the faithful Shepherd. This is our Awesome God, the Great I Am who has rescued us, restored us and redeemed us by His Son’s great sacrifice on the cross of Calvary. For that we are thankful and we want to tell this story over and over. PAUSE.

Comedian, Bobby Smith tells of a day when she was terribly sick and had to go to the clinic for help. As she entered the clinic she had to take a number. After about 45 minutes the nurse hollered “number 7”. She leaned over and moaned her number was 47. She was perspiring and light-headed. However, there was a 10 year old boy who was obnoxious and loud. She couldn’t handle him because of the many things he kept doing. 2 ½ hours later, the nurse cried out “number 34.” At which the boy jumped up and started saying “I have number 34 and going through the door, if you have number 38, you just have to wait.” He repeated this as he moved from one person to another.

Finally, this kid stopped in front of Bobby and said: “I have number 34 and going through the door, if you have number 38, you just have to wait.” Bobby was annoyed but didn’t lift her eyes from the Bible she was reading. At the sight of the Bible the boy looked closely and said: “Are you reading the Bible?” She responded “Yes!” He asked again: “Are you a believer?” Again, she said, “Yes, I Am!” At that, the young boy’s demeanor changed and said to Bobby: “You know, why don’t you take my number and go and see the dr. I’m not really that sick, but you look like you are.” She didn’t know what to say, she looked at him and looked at his mother who had a big grin on her face as to affirm what her son has done and he repeated again, saying, “You go in my place please.” With tears streaming down Bobby’s cheeks she commented, “Few moments ago, I was reading in the Bible about Jesus, and right before me this little boy became a GIANT of a man and was Jesus in person!”

Beloved in Christ, the problem in the world is me, but Jesus the humble infant is the solution for our problem because He takes our place. He says to His Father, “Father, I will go and die for these sheep!” And He did. But He also rose again to gives us a future and a hope. For that we thank Him and tell His story here and everywhere. Amen

Now the peace of God…


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

“Children of the Light!” (1 Thessalonians 5:4-6)

S-1277 22SAP/3C 11/13/11 Hymns: (O) #8; S#20; LS. #451; #497; #498; (C) #52

Text: Zephaniah 1:7-16; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11; Matthew 25:14-30

Theme: “Children of the Light!” (1 Thessalonians 5:4-6)

Question: “How much do you appreciate the light?” Armour, SD

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! The text for the 22nd Sunday after Pentecost is the Epistle lesson: “But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober.” (1 Thessalonians 5:4-6).

Introduction: In Nomine IESU

Oh my beloved and His, what a joy to be among you again and bring to you the glorious and precious life-giving Word of truth and light and life. Having just returned from Israel, my mind is still in a whirlwind at what I had seen and discussed with fellow travelers, friends and family.

While there, we visited the Shrine of the Book Museum just outside of Jerusalem. This museum was built after 7 years of planning and finished in 1965. The Shrine of the Book houses the Dead Sea Scrolls, discovered 1947–56 in 11 caves in and around the Wadi Qumran. The shrine is built as a white dome, covering a structure placed two-thirds below the ground that is reflected in a pool of water that surrounds it. Across from the white dome is a huge black (basalt) wall. The colors and shapes of the building are based on the imagery of the Scroll of the War of the Sons of Light against the Sons of Darkness; the white dome symbolizes the Sons of Light and the black wall symbolizes the Sons of Darkness.

That war is still going on not only by the Jewish sect, the Essenes who wrote and hid the Dead Sea Scrolls in the caves in first century Palestine, but in every heart of the sons of Adam and the daughters of Eve till today. It is a war that rages between the light and darkness; light that gives life and hope and darkness that brings about hopelessness and despair.

I saw that firsthand while in Israel. One of the nights in Bethlehem I was invited over to my friends George’s house. We had a great time around the meal and began to visit afterwards about the differences between Catholics and Lutherans.

I explained in a most simple way that the differences among many is that we don’t worship Mary the mother of the Lord, nor do we consider her to be a co-redeemer, but she is a vessel used by God to bring about the everlasting light of salvation.

At that my friends took offense. They began to bombard me with all sorts of questions about Mary, if she remained a virgin after the birth of Jesus; if she had other sons besides Jesus; if she married an older widower Joseph? I explained that we adhere to Scripture for it is the light that shines in the darkness. That the Scriptures alone are the truth of God’s work and words of our salvation. The more I explained the more adamant they became with me that I don’t know what I am talking about. Finally, I asked do you have a Bible that I can show you what it states!? Do you believe that there was no Bible in the house! I then asked, have you ever read the Bible? Again, I was amazed at their response of “NO!” I wonder how many people in the USA would find themselves in the very same position. They THINK they know what the Bible says, but really they confess a faith of their own creation.

How tragic that answer was to me personally. Here are the Christians in the Middle East—in the Holy Land of all places, and yet they are in darkness because they don’t have the Word and neither know the rich treasures of the Word of the Living God and the light it sheds on the people who read it.

This was sad enough for me. But then, I went home to my father’s house. While there, I noticed a book called “The Virgin Mary” written by Charlie Casta a Baptist minister who declared that he had come to some revelation that Mary was, is and remains a virgin.

In the book, Casta states that according to the apocryphal Gospel of James (a second century document) Mary was the daughter of Joachim and Anna. Before Mary’s conception Anna had been barren. Mary was given to service as a consecrated virgin in the Temple in Jerusalem when she was three years old, and was married to a widower at age 14 to Joseph, but she had no other children with him. PAUSE.

I share this information with you, not to make us proud and arrogant that we Lutheran Christians are better than our Catholic Christians, but rather because many people are still children of darkness and not children of the light.

Indeed, Paul, the great preacher of truth tells us today But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober.”

You and I are not in darkness and for that we thank Him who is the Light of the World, Jesus Christ who shines on our darkened hearts. Our light comes from His light. It is He who gave us the light that removed us out of the darkness of death and despair. He, through the working of the miracle of Baptism has given us the light by which we become Children of Light. Thus this is the place of our witness—as Children of the Light we live in this light and grow in this light and mature by this light. This is not a light that originates inside of us. Rather, it is a light placed in us by the Holy Spirit—a light then that we reflect to the world. As Paul says: “Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (Phil. 2:14-15).

By the grace of God, the Holy Spirit has revealed to us the truth of Scripture which testifies about Jesus who came into the world as the light bearer. According to Saint John we read these blessed truth: “In Him [Jesus] was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:1-4). This is the absolute truth confirmed by Scripture alone and not by a 2nd century legend. The truth that you and are Children of the Light.

How important therefore, it is for us Children of the Light to read and learn of Holy Scriptures and know its teachings firsthand. How valuable is the Word of God to be placed in your hearts and heads to read and study it—because this Word leads to life and light. The light that can’t be extinguished by the darkness, but shines ever brightly on the darkness of Good Friday and shows us the True Light that came from heaven to die for us and win our salvation. Jesus the Christ is that Light that was extinguished for few hours so long ago on Golgotha’s Hill, but burned brightly on that First Easter morn and still does in the hearts of those who trust and believe His Word. PAUSE.

For this reason, Paul, the minister of light exhorts us to encourage one another in our witness to the Christ our Savior and Lord. This is the fruit of the Spirit at work in us as it was in the life of Mary. Indeed, we rejoice in Mary’s great confession when she sang the Great Magnificat: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…,” (Luke 1:46-47). Likewise, we too, rejoice in her great confession and praise God our Savior who sheds upon us His light of Grace and Mercy.

By the shedding of this light we know the truth of Scriptures that we are saved solely by God’s work of redemption on the cross. We see this even clearly today in the Gospel lesson of the parable of the talents: Now if we make this text about making money, we have missed Christ and will leave our hearts bankrupt. So, this is not an economics lesson. And yet it is! The economy of God’s Grace. This parable sheds the light and mark my words about it; “It is all about the Word of God in our lives and not about us.” IF THE PARABLE FOCUS IS NOT ON GOD’S WORK, YOU’RE READING IT WRONG. Let me repeat that. IF THE PARABLE FOCUS IS NOT ON GOD’S WORK, YOU’RE READING IT WRONG.

Therefore, remember this: You and I and all Christians are Children of the Light. Yes, we are. As Children of the Light we know our fallen state and sinful condition but we also know the grace of God that is revealed to us in His Holy Word. There we behold Him as the Light of the World. There we see Him as the Savior of the World. There, we worship Him as the ONLY true God. And by the working of the Holy Spirit we confess Him as Mary and others have throughout all generations.

Oh my beloved and His beloved. Today, I’m thankful that the gracious God has brought us back together not to sleep, but to grow in wisdom and knowledge of the truth of His light and having basked in that light, we go forth as little lights to the world and sharing the hope of glory with one and all.

God bless our labors of teaching and pointing others to the ONLY source of light, love and life—Jesus the Christ, our ONLY Savior and Lord, Amen.

Now the peace…


“Sacramental Certainty with Evangelical Risks!” (Ephesians 2:8-10)

S-1276 19SAP/3C 10/22-23/11 Hymns (O) #826; S#823; (C) # 722 LSB

Text: Isaiah 52:7-10; Ephesians 2:8-10; Matthew 14:22-31

Theme: “Sacramental Certainty with Evangelical Risks!” (Ephesians 2:8-10)

Question: “Are you a risk taker?” Mitchell, SD

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! The text for the 19th Sunday after Pentecost is the Epistle lesson: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:8-10).

Introduction: In Nomine IESU

It is a great honor and privilege for me to be with you as you celebrate and observe your Mission Festival. I pray that the Holy Spirit will help me to encourage you, enable you and empower you to live a life of a missionary.

Children of God, often instead of sharing the good news we joke about our heritage as Lutheran Christians: We say things like:

You Might Be a Lutheran If...

…You only serve Jell-O in the proper liturgical color for the season.

...a midlife crisis means switching from the old hymnbook to the new one.
...you forget to put water in the baptismal font but never forget to put water in the coffee pot.

...you think a meeting isn’t legitimate unless it’s at least three hours long.

...you make change in the offering plate for a ten.

...you have more than five flavors of Jell-O in your pantry.

...you think hotdish is one of the major food groups.

...you think butter is a spice.
...the church is on fire, and you rush in to save the coffee pot.

But why joke about who we are? We have every reason to be thankful and proud that we are Lutheran Christians. Not selfish pride, but the pride of knowing our Sacramental Certainty and Evangelical Risks.

Yes, you and I as Lutheran Christians have what many other Christians don’t have—the Sacramental Certainty. In this Sacrament Christ has placed His name upon us in the marvelous and majestic waters of Baptism. On that day your parents brought you to the Font, as the Pastor was marking you with the sign of the cross; the Lord of the Universe was claiming you as His very own child for time and for eternity. That day you received forgiveness of your sins, life and salvation.

But there is more Sacramental Certainty for us Lutheran Christians; Christ comes to us in His Body and Blood and feeds us so that we can taste the forgiveness. He comes with the sweet honey of the Gospel found in His broken body and shed blood. He comes to us in His Word inviting us, so that He may bless us as only the TRUE God can and does.

Oh, the certainty we have as Lutheran Christians—the Sacramental Certainty, that no matter how our feelings are, no matter how many other Christians laugh and mock us, we can be certain of God’s Holy, Life-giving and Life Changing Word and promises. For this reason, we, should be joyful and celebrate life like no other Christians; because we know who we are—and whose we are!

With this joy comes the great and blessed privilege of taking the evangelical risks of living the life of a missionary not once a year when you observe Mission Fest, but every day of your life as the Baptized, Redeemed, Forgiven, Blood-bought and Heaven-bound child of the King of kings and Lord of lords—Jesus the Christ. PAUSE.

My brothers and sisters in Christ, A few years back I took some of our youth to Shoshone Base Camp in Idaho for a servant event. I know some of your youth had been there too. One of the activities on sight was climbing a 150 foot a Grand Fir tree. 45 feet up on that tree is a platform for a zip line. The zip line is attached by a cable to another tree 300 feet away. The cable is 3/8" galvanized Aircraft cable, and has a breaking strength of 12,000 lbs.

As you are standing on the ground, the activity seems safe and sound. But as they begin to harness you up for the jump; you begin to get squeamish and maybe even fearful. You climb ever so slowly and sit at the platform for either you jumping or being pushed off. Looking down is totally different than looking up. It appears so risky and so dangerous. But once you are off and zipping down the line you realize you are safe and you may even want to do it again, as some of our kids did.

Certainly there is a risk. You are putting your trust in that cable that at first appearance doesn’t seem strong enough to hold you. And worse yet, that you have never taking a leap of faith like that.

The life of a Christian is a life of risk. The risk is this: We get to go out on limp and share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with others. From the safety of this place we feel so secure. But as we leave here, we begin to wonder, how strong we are. It is just like being on the zip line. But we ought to remember that line is anchored in the Grand Fir tree. (Here move from the pulpit to the boat)

You my brothers and sisters have been called by the Gospel to share with the hurting world about Your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. But we don’t like to do that. We would rather joke about being a Lutheran Christian rather than share the good news.

But Paul exhorts us to do what God has called us to do. Listen again to what I call the most forgotten Lutheran Bible verse in all of Scriptures: For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). Almost every one of us here knows by heart Ephesians 2:8-9. We have been taught that well, but verse 10 somehow doesn’t make it into the recess of our memory.

Even the Gospel lesson for today exhorts us to take a risk like Peter did—evangelical risk of getting out of the boat and share that wonderful and blessed news the world so desperately needs to hear. For this is the greatest news you and I as Lutheran Christians are privileged to share.

Saints in Christ, yes, we have the Sacramental Certainty—with Evangelical Risks. But we don’t have to fear anyone or anything; for we are grounded not in a 150+ years old Grand Fir tree, but in the Tree of the Cross of Jesus Christ. That tree is sturdier and stronger than any tree in the world. That tree held the heaven-sent Savior who died for the sins of the whole world. That tree guarantees our freedom, our hope and our heaven.

The Tree of the Cross is what makes us move out of the comfort zone and step out in faith taking risks for the Kingdom’s work. The Old Testament Prophet Isaiah declares: “Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of My hands; (Isaiah 49:15-16).

Yes, my beloved saints in Christ, the pierced Palms of the Savior, Jesus, are stronger than any aircraft cable. The cable may hold up to 12,000 lbs; but Jesus carried all of your sins to the Tree of Calvary. On that tree He erased every stain and stench of sin. And when He rose again on the 3rd day, He blessed His disciples and sent them out to tell the world of His Salvation work. They took risks, some even died for the faith. And we, His 21st century disciples can do no less. Not because we have to, but because we want to be a shining light to the rest of the world about our Sacramental Certainty and Evangelical Risks.

God grant you the strength and ability to go zipping around, getting out of the boat and sharing the greatest story ever told—Jesus dying and rising for you. Amen.

Now the peace…


“The Eternal I Am!” (Isaiah 45:4-6)

S-1275 18SAP/3C 10/16/11 Hymns (O) #434; S#262; (C) #250

Text: Isaiah 45:1-7; 1 Thessalonians1:1-10; Matthew 22:15:22

Theme: “The Eternal I Am!” (Isaiah 45:4-6)

Question: “How well do you know Your God?” Armour, SD

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! The text for the 18th Sunday after Pentecost is the Old Testament lesson: “For the sake of My servant Jacob,
and Israel My chosen, I call you by your name, I name you, though you do not know Me. I Am the LORD, and there is no other, besides Me there is no God; I equip you, though you do not know Me, that people may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides Me; I Am the LORD, and there is no other
(Isaiah 45:4-6).

Introduction: In Nomine IESU

You who are known and loved by the God of all grace and mercy, Paul in his letter to the Church at Rome declares this golden truth: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). Yes, indeed my beloved and His—God works in all things for the benefit of His Holy Bride the Church and for His glory.

Today’s text affirms again this truth. We see that God’s promise to be working FOR YOU is not some New Testament innovation. Though Isaiah’s words were written about 800 years before Paul’s letter to the Romans the truth of it still stands and will stand forever—because our God is the Eternal I Am who changes not. The author to the Hebrews put it this way: “The Lord has sworn and will not change His mind” (Heb. 7:21) and Malachi also said: “For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed” (Malachi 3:6).

We see this truth in our reading today, as the Great Gospel proclaimer of O.T. Isaiah declares it to the broken, bruised and burdened people of Israel in exile in Babylon. The people of Israel were taken captive. By the grace of God, He moved Cyrus the King of Persia to conquer Babylon and enabled the Jews to return to Judea and rebuild the Temple.

Indeed the Eternal I Am doesn’t change. He gave a promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that He will be their God and they will be His people. Though they sinned and were exiled to Babylon, yet He raised up a Gentile, a foreigner to be His anointed—His messiah to bring about salvation to the children of Jacob so that they may not be consumed.

The Lord used Cyrus the king to be the Savior to His people. The Jewish people wouldn’t and couldn’t get over this—it was a big scandal that God would use a foreigner to bring about deliverance to His people.

But this is what the Eternal I Am does. The people of old didn’t understand it, couldn’t comprehend it and wouldn’t realize it that He does all of these things for their good.

We are told by Isaiah the O.T. Gospel preacher that the Eternal I Am is the ONLY true God, and there is no other. That He is the One who calls Israel by name though they didn’t know Him. He is the One who equips them to walk humbly before Him. He is the One who cares and provides for them all they need; but still didn’t know Him. PAUSE.

Are we not like the people of old? How often have we been blessed by the Only True God, only to chase after other gods—of our own making to be disappointed again and again? How often have we been told that God calls us by name in the Waters of Baptism and we forget that we are His? How often have we dined at His table, only to turn our noses up against His heavenly manna? How often have we forgotten or stubbornly rejected His mercy and His kindness?

At times we are duped into believing that God doesn’t care for us. He doesn’t even know us nor does anything to help us? We let the devil, the world and our sinful flesh to get in the way of seeing the Great and Eternal I Am from blessing us because we think He has abandoned us and forgotten us.

When there is trouble on the horizon, when there is pain in our hearts, when our prayers are not answered as quickly as we like or not in the way we think, we say: “God doesn’t even know us nor care about us!” How foolish we are! Whether we see it, believe it or admit it, God is ALWAYS the God working FOR US! Scripture is full of story after story of God’s Divine intervention—reaching down from heaven by His mighty and outstretched arm and coming to the rescue of His people. Again and again, we are given testimonies of God working everything to the well fair of His Holy Bride—the Church—you and me. PAUSE.

Sheldon Yellen, the CEO of BELFOR the world’s largest disaster restoration company, was featured on CBS’s popular show “Undercover Boss.” This company operates in 29 different countries and has over 6000 employees.

Sheldon Yellen went undercover to see how his employees were fairing. He worked in Norfolk, VA, Denver, CO, Chesapeake, Va., In Chesapeake, Yellen worked with Jen, a water technician to repair water damage. Jen told Yellen: “That she started as a cleaning technician and was ‘promoted’ to a water technician nearly a year ago, but got no increase in pay because ‘corporate says there’s a raise freeze.’ Furthermore, I don’t believe the company even cares for its employees—we are simply a number on a piece of paper. If the boss himself was here and tripped over me he wouldn’t even know me!”

He was so moved at that time that he revealed his true identity right then and there and told her she would get that raise. He later made good on his promise, giving her a retroactive raise, a week’s paid vacation, and a check for $15,000.

We commend Mr. Yellen for going undercover and learning the truth about his employees and giving them a great reward.

However, our Eternal God—the Great I Am has done so much, much more. He doesn’t give us only a reward for our work like Yellen did $15,000.00 He gives us all of the treasures of heaven rooted and grounded in His Son Jesus Christ. The Eternal I Am doesn’t operate in the dark or undercover, but always making His plans known to His beloved—YOU. There has never been a time when God didn’t know you. There has never been a time when God didn’t care for you. There has never been a time when God didn’t work FOR YOU to bring about your redemption and salvation. There has never been a time when our loving God didn’t give us more than we deserve.

Yet, we, at times act like the people of Israel in saying: “We don’t want to be saved. I can save myself by the things I do and the way I live!” How foolish we are to think we can earn our salvation by our works. Know this truth: SALVATION BY WORKS DOESN’T WORK!!!

Remember what I said above that the people of Israel thought it was a scandal that God would use a heathen king—Cyrus to bring about deliverance and salvation to the exiled children of Jacob.

But the Great scandal is not Cyrus who freed the Israelites from exile—but Jesus the sinless Son of God who goes to Calvary’s holy mountain to die our death. The Greatest Scandal in the world is that Jesus the righteous One becomes unrighteous. The Holy becomes unholy. The innocent becomes guilty. The One who is LOVE, becomes the most hated One in the world. Why? Because, He brings about the GREATEST act of freedom from the exile of God; He brings about redemption, restoration and salvation.

Jesus is the Eternal I Am who knows you by name, who works for you; equips you, blesses you and works through you as He sends you out to share your salvation story with the world that doesn’t know Him. Even though He has made Himself known to the world, the world doesn’t know Him. But you do. He is Your Father, Your Lord and Savior—the Great and Eternal I Am. Who works for you even now! Amen.

Now the peace…


“Being With Jesus—Living on the Edge!” (Philippians 4:12-14) LWML SUNDAY

S-1274 16SAP/3C 10/02/11 Hymns (O) #813; S#770; (C) # 850

Text: Isaiah 5:1-7; Philippians 3:4-14; Matthew 21:33-46

Theme: “Being With Jesus—Living on the Edge!” (Philippians 4:12-14) LWML SUNDAY

Question: “Are you living on the edge?” Armour, SD

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! The text for the 16th Sunday after Pentecost and the observation of LWML Sunday is the Epistle lesson: “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me His own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:12-14).

Introduction: In Nomine IESU

Today, as we observe and give thanks for the ministry of the LWML, I remind you of who you are—God’s precious and beloved ones. PAUSE. There are many people who are living on the edge in our world today. Economically, we have families who are living on the edge, one step away from foreclosure and financial ruin. Personally, we have people who are living on the edge in their relationships with family. Even in the midst of a crowd they feel alone and lonely. Even our kids are experiencing this. Have you noticed that the numbers of kids who sign up to play traditional sports is on its way down? But at the same time the number of children who try to ride their skateboard down the handrail at the local park is on its way up! It appears that many people are living on the edge. Some are doing it out of necessity. Others are living on the edge out of a craving for excitement. Instead of seeking points and victories, they seek the thrill of the experience. Living on the Edge has become a way of life any more.

And there are few in Scripture that were truly living on the edge—like Paul the Apostle. We first meet him as the young Pharisee. He studied on the cutting edge of Jewish theology with the great Rabbi Gamaliel. He was on the cutting edge of the sword of persecuting the early Church. But then, after a confrontation with the Risen Lord, Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus, there was a complete turnaround. This man from Tarsus still lived on the edge; but not like before—to oppose the Gospel of Christ, but for the Spread of the Gospel.

And live on the edge Paul did! As he took the Gospel into what is now modern day Turkey and Greece he was opposed on every side. He was arrested. He was beaten. He was stoned. He was left for dead. There were those who plotted to defame him, desecrate him, destroy him and put him to death. He survived snake bites and ship wrecks. And all of this because of the Gospel of Jesus Christ!

Paul could have easily avoided all of this hassle and headache. All he needed to do was take the easy way out. He could have stayed in his comfortable life of leadership within the Jewish Community in Jerusalem. In the text for today he recounts his status: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. He could have piled up accolades and accomplishments. But to do that wasn’t what God had in mind. He was to be the mouth piece of the Gospel of Jesus Christ! For St. Paul, the call to live a faithful life was a call to live on the edge and being with Jesus!

Why? What would make a man of potential position and prestige give it all up to endure what St. Paul endured? He himself gives us the answers as he tells the Philippians: “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and may share His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

More than anything, Paul wanted to be with Jesus. In the earlier chapter of this book, he wrote, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better” (Phil. 1:21-23). Paul wanted to live for and serve Jesus with every fiber of his being. And that is exactly what he did! Remember where Paul is when he pens these words under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit! He is sitting in a Roman prison awaiting execution by beheading. He knows that the appeals are running out; and soon the sword would come crashing down to end his time in this world. Yet, even as Paul lives on the edge of life and death, he writes such grand words of hope and faith! He can only live this life on the edge when he knows that Jesus is in control! PAUSE.

That is the very same call that falls to every Christian. You and I have had an encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ. Ours was not on a road to Damascus. Our encounter happened in the waters of Holy Baptism. It was there that we were confronted by Jesus in our sin and washed clean. From there we were given a path to follow and a mission to accomplish. That mission: To be with Jesus and live on the edge for Him!

And that is what we do. Now, we may not face the persecution that St. Paul faced. I know that I have not been beaten with rods because I am a follower of Christ. I am not aware of any of you who have been arrested and tried for preaching Christ in the streets. There are many aspects of Paul’s life on the edge that are unique to him. But that does not mean that our lives are not meant to be on the edge! For you see, when we are called to faith in Christ we put on the cutting edge of the conflict between a sinful world that is dying and the hope that is eternal. Jesus would tell us that the world would hate us because we are with Him and live for Him.

This is where our living on the edge takes place. It takes place when the Holy Spirit helps us to make the correct choice of standing with Jesus. Maybe it means choosing to not participate in office gossip. Perhaps it means going out of your way to reach out to someone that the crowd has labeled an outsider. It could mean choosing a career path that uses your God-given gifts and talents for service rather than wealth and reputation building. Perhaps it is tenaciously pursuing the process of reconciliation and forgiveness in a relationship that the rest of the world would have long cast aside. Each of these and a million other examples are there to show us of the conflict that exists between the life of the world and life with Christ. We, as Christians are called to be with Jesus and to live on the edge!

And that is what the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League does. You may not know what the LWML is or how it works. But what I can tell you is that it is a group of committed Lutheran Christian Women that live on the edge for Jesus! When they are studying the Scriptures, serving a meal or gathering in their mites, it may not look like it is living on the edge, but they are! These women live and serve on the edge for the sake of Jesus and His Gospel. They take what they have and use it for the sake of reaching others with the saving Word of God. They use their many, mighty mites to fund missions and ministry here in our area, district and around the world. Right in our own congregation they have done many projects—quilting, sending cookies to Pastor Uttecht, hosting new members and new confirmed member and graduates—and remodeling the kitchen. Outside of our area, they have assisted in the process of translating the Bible into native languages of the world. They help fund missionaries and ministries. They help fund the study of future pastors and teachers. They do all this right here. PAUSE.

And it is time for each one of us to embrace what St. Paul calls us to in these words to the Philippians. Today is a call from God to recommit ourselves to living on the edge for Jesus. Know that our living on the edge for Jesus in not designed to seek thrills like those practice extreme sports. No, you and I are called to live on the edge to simply be faithful. The Lord has called us to this.

Last year a Pastor friend of mine Randy Ausbury was asked to teach in Kenya. While there, he met a young man—Frank. This is the life of Frank of living on the Edge.

Frank had been a soldier in a Civil War in Uganda. In combat, He and his comrades came under heavy fighting. Many of his comrades were killed in action. When it was clear that the battle was lost, he decided to give up the fighting rather than die. He threw his rifle down and lay between the bodies of his fallen brothers. As the enemy patrol got closer, they went from body to body shooting them and spearing them with their bayonets to make sure they were dead.  Somehow, Frank’s body was untouched. When the enemy left the camp, he got up and headed home and asked himself the question, “Why did God spare my life?” After some thinking about his life, he decided to enroll in the seminary and become a herald of God’s good news. He wanted to tell everyone about the Friend of sinners Jesus Christ.

Like Frank, You and I are also soldiers in a civil war. Our battle is not political but spiritual. It is a war between our sinful flesh and our Baptismal New Man. On our own, the battle is lost. However, God has in Christ, spared your life for the sake of the kingdom. Christ fought our battle, not a Civil War, but a fight to the death. He chose to live on the Edge by allowing others to crucify Him on the cross for our sins. He chose to lay His life, like Frank among dead people in a cold grave. But He also rose to give us a future and hope. The question we must ask now is the same as Frank’s. How does this sparing by God play out in our life and service? The answer: We are called to live on the edge for Jesus!

Today, as we observe and celebrate LWML Sunday we give thanks for all women who have lived their lives of being with Jesus and Living on the Edge. The LWML are living on the edge as stewards of the gifts the Lord bestows in mites and service. I, like Frank, have been called to the Office the Holy Ministry. You may be too. However, you also may be called to be a faithful servant right here. The place to find out about the life you are called to live on the edge is here: in the Lord’s house and around His table. Get into one of the many Bible Study opportunities. Seize an opportunity to serve! Not sure what to do? Try something! Offer your services to a caring organization, reach out to help families, help with Sunday School, volunteer with VBS. Indeed, there are so many ways that you can live on the edge for the sake of Christ. NOW is the time. AMEN.

Now the peace of God…


“Jesus at His Best!” (Matthew 21:24-25)

S-1273 15SAP/3C 9/18/11 Hymns (O) #5; S#261; L.S. #388; # 398; #314; (C) # 36

Text: Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32; Philippians 2:1-4, 14-18; Matthew 21:23-27

Theme: “Jesus at His Best!” (Matthew 21:24-25)

Question: “Have you always been at your best?” Armour, SD

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! The text for the 15th Sunday after Pentecost is the Gospel lesson: “Jesus answered them, ‘I also will ask you one question, and if you tell Me the answer, then I also will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John, from where did it come? From heaven or from man?’” (Matthew 21:24-25).

Introduction: In Nomine IESU

You who are the most beloved of the Lord, it is one question, but oh what a question. A question that gets at the heart, engages you with intense and profound thoughts and causes you to dig deeper into Scripture. With this question, we see Jesus at His best. He doesn’t permit anyone to distract Him from His mission to save the world. He doesn’t allow anything to dissuade Him from completing the task the heavenly Father sent Him to do. And He doesn’t consent to anyone to run the show.

Jesus is always at His best but we see it here more clearly with this question that He proposes to the Jewish leaders. What is the question that Jesus asked these learned men who wanted to trap Him? The baptism of John, from where did it come? From heaven or from man?’” They thought to themselves how can they answer the question of this unimportant Rabbi from Nazareth?

Notice what they do and how they respond. They discussed it among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From man,’ we are afraid of the crowd, for they all hold that John was a prophet. So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.”

These learned men refused to give an answer. Their answer was all for show and not for learning. They wanted to please themselves and man instead of God. If they wanted to know the truth, they would have given an answer. But they chose to be blind and refuse to know the truth about the Rabbi from Nazareth. They refused this golden opportunity to be taught that this Rabbi is the God-Man who was sent from heaven.

Thus Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things”. Jesus doesn’t respond to their inquiry. He leaves them hanging and wondering by what authority He does what He does. PAUSE.

Today, as the Holy Spirit brought us here to be taught again and again the truth about our Savior, we see who He is, and what He does. We see Him teaching us that He is the Only Savior from sin and hell. We grasp with our hearts and ears, the truth that He came to seek and save the lost. And we seize the blessed hope we have because Jesus, the humble Rabbi doesn’t play games with our souls, but teaches us nothing but the pure truth that leads to eternal life with Him.

This is Jesus at His best. He wills that all men be saved and come to the knowledge of their Redeemer - that is, the truth (1Timothy 2:4). He doesn’t want to trap them (Temple leaders) to destroy them but to free them from their blindness and stubbornness, to redeem, yes, to restore them. This is the heart of our Savior God, our Redeemer who will lift up the humble and cast the proud to the ground (see our Introit and the Magnificat in Luke 1:46-55). But to lift up the lowly and cause those of high degree to come down means that the Savior wants to lift these high and haughty ones as well. Like a Master Builder, He cannot and will not build on a faulty foundation. He must destroy their haughtiness and build on His foundation - the Rock, which is the confession that He is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, yes, to be built on the Apostles and Prophets, and of course, the chief cornerstone - Jesus! (Ephesians 2:20) What a Redeemer. That is why His Holy Spirit instructs the church through the pen of Paul that prayers should be offered up for all in authority - for He wills all men to be saved. That is the context of 1Timothy 2:4! That is also the context for this confrontation between Jesus and the rulers of the Temple.

To those who heed His Words, follow His teaching and observe them, they are at their best too. History testifies and bears witness of the love of Christ in the burning hearts of men and women who followed Him all the way to their death.

On the night of July 18, 64 AD, the monster madman Nero burned the city of Rome. The fire raged for six days and seven nights. When the fire ran its course, it left seventy percent of the city in smoldering ruins.

Not wanting to be blamed for the fiery disaster, Nero looked for a scapegoat. He found it in the Christians, who were living in the city. To appease the masses, Nero literally had his victims fed to the lions during giant spectacles held in the city’s remaining amphitheater.

What is interesting to note about these Christians who were brutally devoured by the lions was this: As they were led to the amphitheater to meet their impending death, they lifted up their voices and sang the song of salvation to the God of all Grace. Even Peter, who for a few moments left the city but returned back according to tradition stated, “To die like my Lord Jesus died is more than I deserve.”

As you and I look at these folks we say: It is beyond human understanding how they faced death without fear, but with great joy. These people are at their best.

Yet, can this be said of us? Have we always been at our best? Have we always humbled ourselves and given the glory to God. Have we tried to be stubborn and refuse to heed and hear the Word of God? If our confession of sin is honest and sincere we have to admit that we haven’t always honored Christ. We have not always done our best. We have not always cared for the needs of others more than our needs. PAUSE.

Faithfull followers of the Savior, Jesus has always been at His best. But we behold Him most at His best when He humbled Himself and took upon Him the form of a servant. Even though He was God, He didn’t consider it equality to be God. Yet He chose to permit others to beat Him, drag Him and force Him to carry His cross without once opening His mouth. He allowed people to spit upon Him, smite Him and scream at Him all kinds of mockery statements. He granted the soldiers to take one hand and drive a huge spike through it and nail it to the big beam. He allowed another soldier to do the same to the other side and still anther to drive spike through His feet and hang on a tree for six full hours. And then gave up His Spirit for YOU. This is Jesus at His best! Doing what He does best: loving you and me to the point of death!

But even Jesus’ best gets better! We see it too, in the wee hours of the first Easter morning as He defied gravity, grave and the power of death and came forth to life again. And because He lives, we, too, shall be at our best in Him. Here He is at His best for us! And that best keeps on. We know that He will come again to take us to be with Him where we too will experience the best of the best for now and forever! Amen.

Now the peace of God…


“A Little Bit of Heaven!” (Revelation 7:9-10)

S-1272 All Saints Day/3C11/06/11 Hymns TLH(O) #656; (S) #457; (C) #360

Text: Revelation 7:9-17; 1 John 3:1-3; Matthew 5:1-12

Theme: “A Little Bit of Heaven!” (Revelation 7:9-10)

Main Street Living TV. Taped in Sioux Falls and will be aired on November 6, 2011

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! The text for All Saints Day is a portion of the Epistle lesson: “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!’” (Revelation 7:9-10).

Introduction: In Nomine IESU

People of God, chosen, cherished, loved and adored in His sight and mine; in April of 2008, I was privileged to travel on behalf of the South Dakota District to Detroit, MI., for The Friendship of Jesus and Muslims Conference. After I arrived in my hotel I went to register for the conference. What a day that was. There were over 188 people registered for this conference. There were many Synodical representatives, along with the Mission Board, and the POBLO (People Of the Book Lutheran Outreach) servants of Detroit.

As the evening waned I felt I was experiencing heaven on earth and the fulfillment of Revelation 7, which states: “After this I saw a large number of people that no one could count, from all nations, and tribes, and peoples, and tongues standing before the throne and the Lamb, dressed in white garments and holding in their hands palm branches.” (Rev. 7:9). This day to me was a mini Pentecost, a microcosm of eternity with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. It was a moment in time when I literally saw a glimpse of heaven before my very own eyes. At the evening banquet there were Muslim converts to the Christian faith, from these different nations—Morocco, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, Indonesia, Pakistan, Kosovo. Tears ran down my cheeks, as I sat at the conference and heard of the power of the Gospel in the lives of these people who have come to KNOW Jesus as the FRIEND of sinners. They spoke of the freedom of being burdened to earn God’s favor, or not certain of their salvation. They rejoiced when they came to know that their friends introduced them to the True Friend, Jesus Christ who won their freedom by the shedding of His blood on the cross. They spoke of the joy that filled their hearts because they knew this love that they have never experienced in the Muslim religion.

This is the scene here in our reading for this All Saints Day. It is righty called Saints Day, because these are the Saints that St. John on the Island of Patmos declares he saw. And what he saw is an amazing sight. Can you envision the sight?

It will be a beauty to behold. There will be billions of believers—a huge heavenly crowd far too great for any human eye to count. People from all nations and tribes, all races and languages will be there. These saints who have gone through any number of great tribulations, martyrdoms, persecutions, violent deaths and violent crimes, painful surgeries, setbacks, sorrow supreme, and Pauline perils will be perfectly united. They will be standing, dressed in white robes, waving palm branches, singing a heavenly salvation by grace song. They will be singing this heavenly hymn before the Throne of the Father and the Throne of the Lamb, heartily sing:

Salvation to our God on His Throne!

Salvation is from the Lamb, the eternal I Am!

This is a marvelous picture to behold and reflect on. All Saints Day helps us to think of those loved one who have been washed by the blood of the Lamb and have gone ahead of us to be with Him who loved us and gave Himself for us on that cruel and cursed tree. PAUSE.

On this day, let me remind you that you are precious in the sight of the Lord, you are loved, you are adored and you are blood-bought by the precious blood of the innocent Lamb—Jesus the Friend of sinners. And because of what the Savior has done for us, we have become saints—holy unto the Lord, washed from every stain of sin, and live under His grace now and look forward to the day we will be numbered among the throngs waiving our Palm branches with other saints from other places, and peoples and nations.

In order to be wholesome leaven we need a little bit of heaven—to enter our heart so that we can impart salt and light, love and life, help and hope to those who don’t know the Savior as their FRIEND.

The paradox here is that this little bit of heaven is quite a bit of heaven, even now. The often quoted, or should I say misquoted 1 Cor. 2:9 is speaking of how even now the Lord has blessed us with gargantuan gospel lifts. For example, we have been blessed with the gift of sainthood. Holiness, righteousness, sainthood are genuine gifts we have even now. Very few Christians grasp such a great gift as this.

In Romans 8 it declares we are already glorified. Paul uses a Greek tense to emphasize how much of the glory of God that has already come to us. A little bit of heaven turns out to be a lot of heaven even now, when we consider the rich resurrection realities that are already ours. Even now Jesus dwells within us as God and man. Even now The Holy Spirit has made us His temple. Even now we are incorporated into the body of Christ. Even now we are already saints. Even now we receive the very body and blood of the Savior. Even now holy angels surround us. We also sojourn through life knowing that God is working everything together for the good of the church—everything. We have been sanctified through the Word via our second birth—baptism. A little bit of heaven comes to us big time every time we receive Christ’s true body and blood.

This little bit of heaven, or more accurately a lot of heaven is yours today, because of Jesus our true Lamb who suffered our punishment. This little bit of heaven is yours not because of heritage, inheritance, position or possessions, but simply because someone washed you clean. Someone loved you enough to die for you on the cross (if there is a cross turn and point to it). On that cruel instrument, you and I have been made saints by your FRIEND and mine—Jesus the Christ—OUR ONLY SAVIOR. PAUSE.

At the Conference in Detroit, we were reminded that 90% of all who come to church come because of a friend who has invited them or told them about Jesus. Many of the Muslim converts spoke of the friend who cared and spoke about this Jesus who loved them by dying their death and rose again to give them life and salvation. One friend cared. One friend shared, and one friend told the truth that apart from Jesus Christ there is no salvation (Acts 4:12).

I further learned that in (2008) there were 350.000 Muslims who have gone through the on-line course provided by The Lutheran Hour Ministries about Christianity. What a blessing to witness and to behold how our Church body is reaching out in the name of the Friend of sinners to others, especially to the Muslims.

I like to inform you that there were 23 nations represented at the Conference. Here are the nations: Jordan, Syria, Togo, Egypt, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, Morocco, Iraq, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Kosovo, Bosnia, Ireland/Scotland, Russia, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Canada, Germany, India, Philippines, Malaysia, and USA. THIS IS A LITTLE BIT OF HEAVEN FOR SURE.

What a blessing to have attended this conference. What a blessing to have heard former enemies of the Cross speak of their FRIEND Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. What a blessing to know that our church body is reaching out to others in the name of Jesus Christ.

On this All Saints Day, I encourage you to remain steadfast in the faith that is yours. And remember this little bit of heaven is a lot of heaven for today and forever. And soon, very, very soon, we, ALL BELIEVERS will be before the Throne and the Lamb shouting and saying: ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’”Amen.

Now the peace…


“A God Without Limits!” (Matthew 20:13-16)

S-1271 14SAP/3C 9/18/11 Hymns (O) #342; S#442; (C) # 744 LSB

Text: Isaiah 55:6-9; Philippians 1:12-14, 19-30; Matthew 20:1-16

Theme: A God Without Limits!” (Matthew 20:13-16)

Question: “Have you ever gotten a rain check?” Armour, SD

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! The text for the 14th Sunday after Pentecost is the Gospel lesson: “But [Jesus] replied to one of them, 'Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with Me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?' So the last will be first, and the first last’” (Matthew 20:13-16).

Introduction: In Nomine IESU

Children of God, today God’s grace will be poured upon you like oil on the head of Aaron running down to his beard. Today, you will see love oozing out from the veins of Christ and making you one of His own. Today, we travel to Palestine and grasp one of Christ’s teaching moments about God’s unlimited generosity. Today, by the power of the Holy Spirit you will learn again what kind of God you have—one who has no limits as He dispenses His grace and favor towards you—unworthy, poor, miserable sinners. And…And today, you will see with eyes of faith that salvation is totally, 100% God’s Work and we have no part in it.

Today’s mighty Word from Matthew will open your eyes anew and make you glad at the treasure found in it. So glad, in fact, that our Savior God isn’t fair! We like to get a fair treatment. We hear such things as he deserves this or that. She should get it because she is so nice and does so many good things to help others. Just the other day on the View, Michael Moore said: “That Osama Ben Laden deserves to have a fair trial right in New York.” At the hearing of these words, the audience began to boo because they didn’t think that Osama Ben Laden deserves to be treated fair or given a fair trial because he killed over 3000 innocent lives.

Yes, we all want a fair treatment. We want to receive the most out of life. But is that possible? I’m certain you have experienced this. It is Black Friday or a big sale day and you are standing in line for an item where there is a limited amount or number available. But you are one person too late. Though you slept on the side walk in your sleeping bag and stood in the cold for hours, the special item was sold out. A limited supply yields a limited result! Today I want to look at the God who has no limits on His supply of grace, of mercy, and of peace! He does not treat us fairly. Indeed He cannot! Indeed, He will not!

The parable of the Rich Landowner reveals much about us - to be sure - but so much more about Him who in love gave us what we don’t deserve. This teaching doesn’t sit well with us. “Unfair,” was the cry of the workers in Jesus’ parable when all received the same wage. Those who had worked just one hour before the whistle blew received as much as those who had broken their backs under the blazing noonday Palestinian sun. Yes, unfair according to the ways of the world but not according to God’s grace.

Here, we see the utter blindness to grace of those hired first. All they can think about is that they should deserve more since the guys hired with but one hour in the work-day received a full day’s wage. The Land owner will dismiss them. His response “take what belongs to you and go!” is very harsh. These folks were in the vineyard, the Vineyard of the Lord, yet they excluded themselves from receiving the true day’s wage - the heart of the One who called them. Condemnation unto damnation is a serious matter. Yet this is not the work of the Land Owner but of the grumbling, self-centered fools who see themselves as being somehow cheated. God does not condemn them, they do it to themselves.

Get the point! Forgiveness of sin and eternal life in heaven are nothing but pure grace from Him who is love. They are undeserved favors from the hand of a loving God. Every believer shares in them equally. Those who are brought to faith in the morning hour of life, and those who come later in the evening hour. Those who are baptized as a baby, as well as the deathbed convert. The mur­derer who repents the night before his execution along with the faithful grandmother. Words like first and last simply have no meaning when it comes to the kingdom of heaven. The word to use is grace. God’s grace that covers us all. PAUSE

We see this gift of grace which results in forgiveness clearly taught in the book of Luke (23:42). It is Friday A.D. 33 in Palestine. A Jewish Carpenter is hanging between two thieves. One of the thieves, had a simple request of the Rabi, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” This son of Abraham did not begin working in the Vineyard at 5 pm to get paid at 6 pm, he started work at 5:59:59 pm! Yet we are glad to hear the good news of Jesus, “This very day you shall be with Me in Paradise!” (v. 43).

Why? Why are we so glad? Is it because we are also latecomers to Grace? NO! The answer, if we look for it in ourselves, will always be lacking. Rather, behold the Land Owner! He is so gracious. We must see ourselves as surely condemned and without hope as this thief on the cross, as those hired one moment before quitting time! Even if our Baptismal date was mere days after our natural birth and we grew up our whole life with the Word of God in our ears and in our hearts, we were still late-comers and in that folks who didn’t then and still do not deserve the Love of God. To turn a line from a cowboy movie around, “Deserve’s got nothing to do with it!” In the cowboy movie a rough character gets his "what he got coming to him” and as he is about to die at the hand of the avenger, he says, I was building a house, I don’t deserve this, to die this way! Clint Eastwood, the avenger, holding the gun to the man with an evil heart says, “Deserve’s got nothing to do with it!”

Look closely at this sweet text and see who is standing there—not an avenger, but a gracious Savior and Lord, the Redeemer. Jesus calls us into His Vineyard, at break of day, 9 am, Noon, 3 pm, at 5 pm, or even 5:59:59 pm. His Vineyard is a place of work. The sun can be hot and the hours may seem long. But it is work in His vineyard! The work is to tend and to gather in the fruit that He plants - other souls. Everything is about souls. Everything about the Gospel, the Church, the Vineyard, the Owner, and those He calls is always and in all ways about Saving Souls. If the church goes into any other direction it ceases to be the Vineyard of the Lord.

Everyone must be called into the Vineyard, and that Divine Call comes from His lips, from His Son’s lips which say, in grace, “Father... forgive them... for they know not what they do!” (Luke 23:34) Yes, “Deserve’s got nothing to do with it!” Aren’t you glad you have a God who is not fair and has no Limits!!! Behold the Vineyard Owner and how He calls the idle to work in His Holy Vineyard. No mention is made of the worker’s production. There are no “quotas” of production by the workers mentioned here. This is no economics lesson, unless you mean the Economy of Grace! This is all about the Rich Vineyard Owner. Because it is, we see His bounty extended to others. His heart will not horde. PAUSE.

To be sure, the law of God teaches that we don’t deserve God’s gifts, and we certainly don’t deserve eternal salvation. We don’t deserve anything from the hands of our gracious God, because more often than not we hoard His blessings. Yet, in the honesty of our confession of sin, we often think we deserve His rich grace more than others. After all, I have done this and this and this for Him. He owes me this much. That is a self-centered person talking. “Deserve’s got nothing to do with it!” If you and I want what we deserve—it is this: DEATH. Paul said it well. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23). This parable shows a God Without Limits. A God who gives love to the undeserving— even to you and me! Jesus has given us more than just crumbs. He gave His life on the cross to provide us with eternal life.

But why should God send His own Son to rescue me from the eter­nity in hell that I so richly deserve? Why should He single me out in the surging sea of humanity to hear the news of His salvation? Why should He struggle with my rebellious heart and bring me to faith in Jesus as my only Savior? Why, why, why? Grace is the only answer that fits. It really is. As Paul says in Ephesians 2:8,9, “By grace you have been saved, through faith ... it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”

Grace is a comfort word. When my sins give me alarm, when my last breath is drawing near, when I need to be reminded that I have an eternal mansion prepared for me by Jesus Himself, nothing does it like God’s grace. Nothing comforts better than the truth, “Plenteous grace with Thee is found, grace to cover all my sin

You and are indeed blessed. One of the blessings we have is this: to sing and preach God’s grace. We are gifted by God to be able to sing and preach of the God who isn’t FAIR, Without Limits and who in love demonstrates in His Economy of Grace no one is excluded and exempted and His love never ends.

My brothers and sisters in Chris, we know this fact, God isn’t fair. Deserve has nothing to do with it. It all has to do with grace! Pure, undeserved, unaltered Grace. In this we can rejoice! AMEN!

Now the peace of God…


“From Tragedy to Triumph!” (Genesis 50:19-21)

S-1270 13SAP/3C 9/11/11 Hymns (O) #123; #239; S#339; LS.#39; #348; #341 (C) LSB # 922 vv. 1-4

Text: Genesis 50:15-21; Romans 14:1-12; Matthew 18:21-35

Theme: “From Tragedy to Triumph!” (Genesis 50:19-21)

Question: “How do you cope with tragedies?” Armour, SD

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: But Joseph said to them, ‘Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.’ Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them(Genesis 50:19-21).

Introduction: In Nomine IESU

People of God, chosen, cherished, loved and adored in His sight and mine; today, as our nation remembers the tragic events of 9/11, many of you here have hearts that are heavy and broken, some are angry at the atrocity done against our nation, and some are even weeping at the loss of life and the life-style we had.

While today marks the anniversary of tragedy and terror, death and destruction, ashes and debris of the Twin Towers, the Pentagon and flight 93; we can’t lose focus of why we are in God’s holy house. Not only to observe and remember the Day of Tragedy, but more importantly to keep our eyes focused on our hope and help, and faith and foundation rooted in Christ our Savior and His life-giving Word as recorded for us in Romans 8:28: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose”. Yes, indeed, God’s Word of promise and power is our confidence and conviction that the Lord of the Universe is 1000 steps ahead of us planning out His plan of redemption.

On this 10th anniversary of 9/11 we remember all of the evil that has occurred against this great nation. We pray for the families that have suffered loss of loved ones and property that the God of all grace would hold them in His powerful hands, and the wounds of Christ would be the ointment of healing and forgiveness.

If anything is evident from that tragedy of 9/11 it is this: THAT SIN LIVES IN EVERY HUMAN HEART, AND WE ARE POWERLESS TO REMOVE IT. Yes, sin is in us and not only in the hearts of those terrorists who carried the atrocity and brought so much carnage and bloodshed to many lives.

We see this sin clearly visible throughout history and even among believers of the God of the Bible. In our Old Testament reading, we have Joseph’s brothers coming to him after his father’s death (their hearts are troubled) and ask him to forgive them for the tragedy they caused him. But even in this they are being deceptive. I am not aware that Jacob made any such request of Joseph.

Remember, my beloved, these were the sons of promise—the sons of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who served the great God of heaven, yet in their jealousy against their brother Joseph, they wanted to kill him. They threw him into a pit and eventually sold him as a slave for 20 pieces of silver. Right there in their hearts lies sin, active and vicious to destroy life—the life of their own kin and blood-brother. What a tragedy!

But how does Joseph answer: ‘Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.’ Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them

Out of this tragedy comes triumph. How could have Joseph known that he would go from dreams to dungeons to diadems in order to save the remnant? He couldn’t have known that, not at that time at least. In our text he states clearly that God used this tragic event in His life to bring about the salvation of many—not only the 70 members of his immediate family, but after 400 years of slavery the deliverance of over 2.5 million people.

Yes, God works everything for our good, from tragedies comes Triumph. We may not see the good at the time, but it is there.

Remember 10 years ago, after our President George W. Bush was informed of the Twin Towers, the Pentagon attack, he said: “AMERICA HAS BEEN ATTACKED!” As he spoke those words, you could see the anger in his voice, and the tears in his eyes. Here is the Commander in Chief. His heart is bleeding for those whose lives ended and property destroyed. PAUSE.

But did you know that our heavenly Father had the same sentiment: He had created a beautiful world. Filled it with every blessing and set Adam and Eve to enjoy it and all it had to offer. But one day, the fallen angel Lucifer came disguised as a snake and caused havoc upon the lives of God’s creatures and destroyed the relationship with their loving and gracious Father.

That day in the garden without any media present, without any microphones and without anyone to observe, God said: “My world has been attacked!” And from this tragedy comes Triumph—God promises to send a deliverer to redeem the world and His most precious creature-man.

There are other tragedies mentioned in the Scriptures. In Genesis chapter 11, men lived in the Plains of Shinar and wanted to build a name for themselves by erecting a tower that reaches the heavens. That was a tragedy. Yet out of this tragedy the gracious Lord confused their language so that many languages are spoken now and people are able to hear the Gospel in their language.

Faithful follower of Jesus, in a strange way beyond our human understanding, it takes a great tragedy that makes us understand the grace and love of God. Again, this is a reminder of God’s Word of promise, that His ways are not like our ways and neither are His thoughts like our thoughts (Is. 55:8).

We don’t understand God’s ways, His plans or what He does sometimes. If you want to talk about tragedy that has turned to triumph; travel with me to Jerusalem. There, hear the voice of God saying my world has been attacked and He did something about it. He sent His Son—His only Son—Jesus to rescue this world from the attacks of Lucifer.

Jesus does just that! In the face of the profound suffering He would undergo for the sins of the world, prayed, “Take this cup from Me. Yet not My will, but Thine be done” (Matt. 26:39). And so it is human and by no means wrong for those so terribly hurt by the senseless carnage 10 years ago, to lament their loss and pain even today, and to cry out, “Why, Lord?” Somehow, in an unfathomable way, the Lord’s hand is not shortened and His universe is still His, despite the carnage of a few madmen. And like His very cross—which appeared to be a tragedy, senseless and pointless in the end brings about the greatest triumph the world has ever known—your salvation and mine.

Joseph understood this. By God’s grace alone He turns the tragedy that his brothers brought upon him, as a triumphal mission of bringing salvation to many. He learned the art of forgiveness and applied the medicine to his own heart and his brothers. Joseph would not and couldn’t put himself in the place of God and exact revenge. He would put himself in the place of God however to exact mercy and live out grace! He received a greater richness and wealth than yellowish metal could ever offer - his brothers and father and their families! God gave to Joseph the true treasure - His own heart!

Today, in this place of comfort and solace, where Christ comes to us in His Word and Sacrament we remember that God turns tragedies into triumph. By His power we learn the true meaning of love and forgiveness and we learn to apply and dispense it to one and all. PAUSE.

We can and we must apply this, not just to the big issues that run across our TV News reports like 9-11, but more importantly, every day and in every way with one another. By the way, I love how you forgive. You make me proud ... and you make me thankful. You, my fellow sinners know what it is to be forgiven much. You can and you do, go out like Joseph by speaking tenderly and gently to others. Take no pride in this, but rejoice in it, for the Lord has remembered you... and now... now He is living through you. You are Baptized. You have been bought with a price, you are not your own (1 Corinthians 6:20, 7:23), so you can resist the devil. His heart now owns your heart! I love seeing Joseph’s heart beating in your chest, and just like Joseph, you cannot put yourself in the place of God to Judge, and just as importantly, He has put His only begotten Son in your place, on your cross, to call you home. Remember, as far as the East is from the West, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. In this gift, from this gift, because of this Gift you and I can love, and love, Divine agape love is the source and completion of your new heart. In the name of the compassionate and forgiving Jesus, we say AMEN AND AMEN.

Now the peace…


“What Makes You Great?” (Matthew 18:1-4)

S-1269 12SAP/3C 9/04/11 Hymns LSB(O) #578; S#801; (C) #433

Text: Ezekiel 33:7-9; Romans 13:1-10; Matthew 18:1-20

Theme: “What Makes You Great?” (Matthew 18:1-4)

Question: “How do you define greatness?” Armour, SD

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! The text for the 12th Sunday after Pentecost is from the Gospel lesson: At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ And calling to Him a child, He put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven’” (Matthew 18:1-4).

Introduction: In Nomine IESU

People of God, chosen, cherished, loved and adored in His sight and mine; the Apostle Paul writes to his spiritual son Timothy saying: “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:14-17). And it is indeed true that ALL of Scripture is for our benefit and for our learning.

Today’s text is being taught by the GREATEST Teacher who has ever walked this earth—Jesus of Nazareth. The discussion is brought by the disciples to their Rabi, “Teacher, who is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven?” And with that question Jesus uses the opportunity to teach His disciples, that greatness is not measured by human standards, but by God’s.

You, I, and the rest of the world consider and define greatness by accomplishments, achievements and accolades. If we don’t achieve or succeed by the world standards we are not worth much. Children are aborted daily, because they are a blob of tissue. Older people are put aside because they are of no use. To be sure, if health care rationing comes into being there will be a mathematical formula to determine whether someone may have a surgery or not - dependent on their age and ability to generate taxes and other revenues. It sounds very crazy but that is what is happening in our world. But do you know what makes you great? Do you know the value that our Triune God places on a soul: behold the wounds of Christ!

We want to be “top dog, King of the hill, the big cheese, and the best in everything.” The disciples ask, “Which one of us is it!?” They want to know who is the greatest. The humble child wins - the one who cannot earn or produce, who merely eats and sleeps and consumes resources and love. God is great and grand. We worry as we age and cannot “do” as we used to. We slow down, mentally and physically. Production is limited, and we think, wrongly, that our value and greatness is diminished. We compare ourselves to the Johnsons’—we want the big house, the big car with GPS and the latest model and style. In short, we think, if we have things we are great. However, if we have a small house, if the windshield is cracked, the door creeks and the muffler is loud, well then… we are not “it.”

With these few words we learn what it is that makes us great in God’s sight. The matter of receiving the Kingdom as a child is the key to greatness. And what makes us great is when we depend totally on God for faith, forgiveness and future. We are reminded of the question of the rich young ruler who asks what must I do to inherit eternal life? (Mark 10:17; Luke 18:18), or the Philippian jailor who asks, what must I do to be saved? (Acts 16:30). The rich young ruler was asked to leave all his “treasures” behind to be owned by The Treasure. As a child—His child simply know that God has you and loves you! The Philippian jailor receives the answer “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved... you and all of your household!” God doesn’t know how to bless a little - He blesses all.

What is it that makes you great? Is it your house, your car, your bank account, your degrees, your achievements, and accolades? NO! None of these matters! This is the measurement of the world—the world looks to you and if you produce and contribute to the economy well…then… you are worth something. What determines the greatness of each is the price paid to own it. God wants you. He wants “all the children of the world!” He has valued us worthy of His Son’s death on the Cross. Any other value is cheap, stupid, wrong, and worst of all... deadly! PAUSE.

Matthew not only tells us how Christ thinks of us, but shows us Christ Jesus goes after the one straying sheep for it is the will of Our Father that none perish (v. 14, cf. John 3:15-16). What an answer to the hideous belief that God created some for salvation and some for damnation! He answers the question of what makes a soul so great and precious in His sight. Then our Savior (don’t you just love that name) goes on to talk about the one who was in the sheep-fold whose sin is standing before him unseen or not responded to.

In this place as we sit at the feet of the Greatest Teacher who ever walked the earth—Jesus of Nazareth, we are given the awesome and great privilege of caring and tending for the soul of your brother (catch that, your brother!) sins against you... go and tell him... alone. Sin is like rust to metal, like mold to wood and cloth - it destroys, slowly, relentlessly, completely. It needs to be removed. A leaking oil pan in a car can be ignored only so long before the engine freezes and the car will go on no longer. Sin is even more dangerous and deadly, for it takes the soul, the soul Jesus calls great and worthy of the Good Shepherd’s full attention. Unchecked sin endangers the soul for all eternity. Confront, in love and with tenderness and gentleness, your brother when he sins (even if the offense is not against you)... and take the counsel of your brother when you sin. What is a soul worth and what is it that makes you great? Not being ignored but truly cherished. Yes, your brother’s soul is worthy of your attention, and then the attention of two or three witnesses, and then the whole church should unrepentance persist. The object is to win back your brother! You know how it feels to be the beloved of God and how it feels when you choose to walk alone.

Want to be great in the kingdom? How about loving as you are first and ever loved! Matthew 18:15-20 has been used as a club to beat up people and to exclude them. This is violence to the Word of God and to our Savior’s very nature. As a child mimics his or her parents, wears mom’s necklaces and rings, or dad’s neck-tie, as the child repeats the wisdom of their parents, the folks are honored because the child is truly blessed. The child has a hedge of protection around them against the wolf, the world, and their own flesh. Want to be great in the kingdom? Be His child. Simply trust as a child that your needs ALL OF THEM are never beyond His care. PAUSE.

Sometimes back I read a quote from a great theologian: “Pray as if everything depends upon God. Work as if everything depends on you.” —Martin Luther. Monk Luther understood this well. The Lord of the universe knows you well and knows of all of your needs. You mustn’t worry - or continue to worry. True greatness is in knowing who you are - His cherished, adored, loved and blood-bought child of the King of kings. My beloved, true greatness is in knowing as a child knows and trusts that He has you in the palm of His hands. True greatness is this: that we would reflect the peace and love and restoration to a brother who is seemingly alone.

Does our God even have the ruling authorities... our today and tomorrow? Yup, you bettcha! Has He given you under-shepherds who must give an account? Yes! As a watchman in your midst I too must teach you right from wrong, I must in gentleness and love warn you, His beloved sheep, of the impending attacks of the wolf. I must give to you the warning of God’s Law so that the sweetness, oh that sweetness of the Gospel may be yours. And the best way I can do that with these texts is to tell you of how He makes you GREAT: You are the beloved Child of God, children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God. (John 1:13 NIV) Please, beloved, as you face cancer, calamities, and cash trials, family needs and faith crises, know this, YOU ARE GREAT IN HIS SIGHT. He makes you GREAT because He bought you with His blood; He restored YOU by His wounds and Has redeemed YOU by His death and resurrection. Do you know what makes you GREAT? Your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen!

Now the peace…

Soli Deo Gloria