Monday, December 26, 2011

“What Child Is This” (Isaiah 40:1-11)

S-1288 CD 3B 12/25/11 Hymns: (O) #387; #364; (S) #370; LS. 374; 379; 375; (C) #388

Text: Isaiah 7:11-14; John 1:1-14; Isaiah 40:1-11

Theme: “What Child Is This” (Isaiah 40:1-11)

Question: “Did you children turn out as you wanted?” Armour, SD.

Faithful followers of the Savior, Merry Christmas to you and your family; the text for our Christmas celebration is from Isaiah 40: “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. A voice cries: In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

A voice says, “Cry!” And I said, “What shall I cry?”All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the LORD blows on it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades,
but the Word of our God will stand forever.

Go on up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good news; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good news; lift it up, fear not; say to the cities of Judah,
“Behold Your God!” Behold, the Lord GOD comes with might, and His arm rules for Him; behold, His reward is with Him, and His recompense before Him. He will tend His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs in His arms; He will carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those that are with young (1-11 ).

In Nomini Iesu,

Every parent’s wish, hope, aspiration and dream are that their children will grow up to be good citizens. For those of us called to follow Christ, our standard is a bit higher. We long for our children to be godly.

Whether the story I am about to share with you is only a legend or truth, I don’t know. But this much is fact. In 1662 @ Bastille, France in the ledger of the prison, a prisoner was identified as “Prisoner #64389000 who wore an iron mask.” This prompted Director Randall Wallace to produce the movie “The Man in the Iron Mask.”

The story takes place in France. Louis 14 is King, but he has an identical twin brother (the man in the mask) imprisoned to hide his identity. King Louis is ruthless, cold, callus and cruel. While his people were starving to death, he was living in luxury and indulging himself with the pleasures of life.

Three of his former body guards, former Musketeers set out to rescue the Man in the Iron Mask and place him on the throne instead of his brother Louis. These Musketeers were hoping to have a good king who will be honorable and deal kindly with his subjects.

When the man (Philip) with mask is rescued the three Musketeers asked him “If he would be willing to risk it all and be the king of France?” Philip responded, “You have rescued me from hell prison, and I am thankful. But I need a good reason which you have not given me to be a king.” Athos said: “I had my Raoul, Porthos had his lust for life, Aramis had his faith and D’Artagnan had his devotion. But we all had a common dream that one day we would finally serve a king worthy of the dream.” Athos continued, “We have dreamed, bled fought for, and spent our whole life waiting to see a king who would be good and kind. Show me that my son Raoul’s life was not in vain!”

Philip accepts the challenge to be the king of France knowing the risk that he and the three Musketeers are undertaking—putting their lives on the line if they are discovered. PAUSE.

The Man with the Iron Mask might be a legend or true, I don’t know. But the story I am about to share with you today is most certainly true. It is the story of a Child, born to a couple in Bethlehem who will not be ruthless, but righteous, not cold but caring, not cruel but compassionate, and not callus but committed to saving the Human race.

Unlike King Louis the 14 who only thought of Himself, this New Born King of Israel, thought of the whole world and that is why He came—He came to remedy the problem of sin that caused mankind to suffer the punishment of hell.

For this reason, Isaiah tells us in the text: “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…Go on up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good news; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good news; lift it up, fear not; say to the cities of Judah, ‘Behold Your God!’ Behold, the Lord GOD comes with might, and His arm rules for Him; behold, His reward is with Him, and His recompense before Him. He will tend His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs in His arms; He will carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those that are with young”
(Is. 40:1-2, 9-11).

Now this is a picture of a noble and honorable King—a King who will shepherd His people; a King who will lead His people the young and the old; a King who with His mighty arms and outstretched hands cares and feeds His people. PAUSE.

The Hymn writer asks the question “What Child is This? He is God Child’s. He is Mary’s Child and He is Your King and Lord. This Child didn’t have anyone fighting for Him to put Him on the Throne. This Child didn’t have anyone toiled and dreamed about Him ruling their lives. No this Child was God’s gift to the World. John the Gospel writer put it this way: “For God so loved the world (kosmos) that He gave His One and Only Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

This is why Christmas is so special. It is about the Child that came and does come even today. A Child of heaven mingling with the children of earth so that He can lift them up to be children of the heavenly Father. He did this when He lived His perfect life from the moment He laid His sweet and gentle head in the cradle all the way to the wood of the cross and with those outstretched arms, He announced to the world that He will embrace you, forgive you, love you and care for you. This is no ordinary Child, but God’s Child, a Child who will be more than just a noble king, but a grand and glorious King and the King of kings. PAUSE.

Therefore, today we keep our eyes on the Manger and the cross and there behold our God—the Babe of Bethlehem. Isaiah emphasizes the work of this child with these words: “He was led like a Lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so He did not open His mouth” (Isaiah 53:7). There were no green pastures. Rather spit and blood are caked on His cheeks. Neither were there quiet waters, in fact, no water at all. His lips are cracked and swollen and His throat is parched from the hot Palestinian sun. He’s passing through the valley of the shadow of death as pain twangs her morbid melody. There’s no rod or staff for comfort. The cup overflows all-right ... He drinks from the cup of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. Surely goodness and mercy have been twisted and perverted in the most inhumane way. Mary’s little Lamb is crucified, dead and buried.

But, but Isaiah 40:8 announces “The Word of our God stands forever.” The Word stands when Israel bursts forth from Babylon. The Word stands when the Babe bursts forth from Bethlehem. And climactically after three days the Word stands when Jesus bursts forth from Joseph’s tomb.

“Comfort, comfort my people.” That’s what the Shepherd does. When I’m lost and exiled He leaves the ninety-nine and runs after me. When I’m confused by voices of demons and devils He calls me by name and I know that voice. When I’m dirty and full of filth He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. There is a Shepherd who gathers me in His arms until I’m better, holds me ‘till I can live with the hurt, and carries me close to His heart forever! PAUSE.

In the movie The Man in the Iron Mask, there are many riveting scenes, but I want to highlight just two to make my point. While Athos was speaking to Philip to convince Him to be a king said, “Philip, I am offering you the chance to be a king!” Philip, responded saying, “No, Athos, you are offering me the chance to pretend that I Am A King!” and the second scene is one that tugs at your heart. Anna, the mother of the twins said to D’Artagnan, “Louis is cold and cruel. I have raised a son who destroys life, rather than save life.”

At the end of the movie, Athos speaks yet one more time saying: “King Philip ruled over France with justice and brought food, prosperity and peace. He was the greatest king in his nation.

Philip may or may not have been a great king. But the Child of Bethlehem is the Greatest King of the whole world. He brings food that doesn’t spoil or get destroyed—food that feeds us for a life time—His body and blood. He gives us peace, not only temporary, but eternal with the Father of all Grace and Mercy. He rules with Justice and kindness.

And this Child doesn’t come to destroy, but to save lives—lives that have been held in a worse prison than behind an iron mask, but in the prison of hell by the Evil One. This Child comes to save and set free all mankind from the flames of the eternal fires.

Now that is the Child of Heaven—Your King and Lord. Today we worship, praise and bow before Him with adoration and praise. Amen and Merry Christmas.

Now the peace of God…


“A Man From Nazareth” (Joseph Matthew 1:18-24)

S-1287 CE/3B 12/24/11 Hymns: (O) 379; 368; 380; 361; (S) #376; 363(C) #387

Text: Micah 5:2-5; Galatians 3:26-4:7; Luke 2:1-20; Matthew 1:18-24

Theme: “A Man From Nazareth” (Joseph, Matthew 1:18-24)

A First Person Narrative Sermon will be preached here, Armour, SD

I will enter dressed in simple clothing of the time of Christ. ! The text for Christmas Eve will be read by one of the saints from Matthew

In Nomini Iesu,

For a long time I had been waiting for my wedding day to the love of my life. Just like any other Jewish boy, I was hoping, yearning and dreaming that the woman I was engaged to would help me build my home and raise a family in accordance to the Torah.

When our parents gave us their blessings, we got engaged. Our village people congratulated us and wished us to have a happy life and Mary would be blessed as Rachel and Leah were. We were so excited and waited patiently for the wedding day. I worked very hard in my shop preparing my home for the woman who will share my house and give me children. PAUSE (move to another location)

In the midst of my joy, you can’t believe the pain she brought upon me—like a knife going through my heart. I bled with the news. (Sit down and rub my beard) When she told me the news, here is what went through my mind. What audacity! What foolishness! What does she think any way? Does she think that I am a fool? Doesn’t she know that it takes two people to have a Baby?

But no, she came to my shop one day and told me the news—news that caused me to see my life and dreams unravel. I couldn’t believe my ears, my Mary, the one I knew all of my life, the one I watched grow up in my village, the one who was going to be my wife—now she stands before me and tells me SHE IS GOING TO HAVE A BABY! (Pace back and forth)

I couldn’t look at her. Pain seared in my heart like fire. Hurt was written all over my face. I was angry. I was mad and anguish filled my mind. Just as I was about to leave her, she said, “The Baby that she was carrying is God’s Son and she got pregnant by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

I didn’t believe her. But because I love her, I didn’t want to harm or hurt her. I want to spare the love of my life the pain of what the Law requires. You see according to the Torah’s teaching I would be the first one to pick up the stone (pick up a stone) and cast it upon her. Then her father and brothers would have to follow suit and then the whole town would participate until she would fall dead. I couldn’t imagine her bleeding and bruised to death. Though she hurt me with the news of the pregnancy, I couldn’t envision the Baby in her womb to be stricken, smitten and afflicted for her sins. (Is. 53) I was trying to figure out what to do and how to get out from the marriage contract without causing a scene. (Move towards the table and sit down)

I went home dejected. That night I sat at the table with my family but hardly touched my food. My father asked what was wrong, but I gave him no answer. And oh, when I went to bed, I tossed and turned and sleep didn’t come easy. I kept playing in my mind the moment she told me about the Baby. I JUST COULDN’T GET IT OUT OF MY MIND. I don’t know when I finally fell asleep. While sleeping something spoke in my ears; I awoke not knowing if I was dreaming or it was really happening. (Shake my head back and forth)

As I sat at the edge of the mat thinking about what has taken place; the angel of the Lord stood by me and said: “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call [H]is name Jesus, for [H]e will save [H]is people from their sins.” (Mt. 1:20b-21) PAUSE. (Extra long, and move to another place)

I had been raised in a good Jewish home and was taught the Torah in the Synagogue. I had read the prophecy of Isaiah: “Therefore the Lord [H]imself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call [H]is name Immanuel” (7:14). But would it really happen to me, Joseph a mere carpenter from Nazareth? Could it be that it is happening to Mary—my Mary.

I laid back on the mat and tried to go back to sleep, but sleep wouldn’t come. I thought about the words of Mary and the words of the angel and wanted the day to arrive soon. As the morning sun shone upon the Galilean hills I hastened to Mary to tell her of my visitor and I felt ashamed that I doubted her words and thought so low of her.

I asked her to forgive me and grant me the privilege to be her husband and be the protector of God’s Son. Mary smiled and agreed. And soon we were married. Laughter filled our home. As her belly began to grow, we thought of this Child promised by God to Adam and Eve in the Garden—and we were so joyful. We were so excited at the thought of the birth of Emmanuel, God with us—in the flesh. Can it really be…?

Late into the pregnancy a decree came that brought us both discomfort. Caesar Augusts had decreed that all people return to their hometowns to register for the census. I didn’t feel comfortable with that decree but had to obey the law. I had to shut down my shop and take my wife in her state all the way to Bethlehem, {raise my voice} 95 miles away, a journey of 4-5 days. I was nervous! I was afraid! I wasn’t sure if Mary could handle the trip. Besides, what of the Child?” But Mary comforted me saying, “The Lord will guide our way.”

We started out. I set Mary on the donkey and I walked along beside her. All along there were other people from our village traveling too. So we felt safe. Our bread and cheese sustained us on the journey, but the nights were a little chilly. As we got near Bethlehem, Mary was getting nervous and kept telling me “Joseph, the time is getting close we need to find a place to have the Baby!”

My hands hurt as I went from one inn to the next knocking at the doors to see if there was a place for us to stay. But every place, I went, they told us, “Sorry, there is no room in the Inn!” As the night was descending, I was getting nervous and the voices all said the same thing: “There is no room in the Inn!” Mary was getting uncomfortable and I still didn’t have a place for the night. The final Inn we stopped at, the owner Moshe Ben Yehuda and his wife Sarah had compassion on us and allowed us to stay in the animals stall.

Oh, we were happy to be in a warm place and out of the wind. As we were settling to go to sleep, Mary said, “Joseph, its time! The Baby is going to come!” As a young husband, I didn’t know what to do. But Mary, my lovely wife asked me to go and get Sarah. When Sarah came she helped Mary and soon, our Son—God’s Son was born and we gave Him the name “Jesus” as the angel had told us because He will save His people from their sins. Then, I remembered again the words of Isaiah, “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call His name Immanuel”

(Smiling now and with eyes lifted heavenward), Yes, yes, Mary and I beheld Him with our own eyes. We were so joyful, that God has answered our prayers. Emmanuel has come. We were so happy that we had been given the privilege to be the guardians of God’s Son.

It wasn’t long and there were all kinds of commotion. Shepherds came saying to us, “Angels filled the skies above them and told them the good news: “That today, in the city of David a Savior has been born.” Oh, the joy that filled our hearts at the thought and kindness of God that He has not forgotten His people. But He has fulfilled the promise of sending a Redeemer to restore us back to Him—the One who would forgive our sins; the One who is from the line of David—and will sit on His Throne forever.

But at first Jesus didn’t appear to me to be a king. But when we took Him to the temple, two elderly children of Abraham greeted us. Simeon spoke these words, “Now, Lord, let Thy servant depart in peace for my eyes have seen Your salvation which You have prepared for all people.” And He also said to Mary: “This Child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” (Luke 2:34-35). And Anna, a prophetes, “gave thanks to God and spoke about the Child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem” (Luke 2:38).

All of these people, shepherds, angels, Simeon and Anna all spoke of Him as God’s Son, who has come to redeem His people and forgive their sins. He would be the future King of Israel

If the real king, not Herod was sitting on the throne, I would be in line to be the king. For, I too, come from Royal blood. The blood of David runs through Mary’s and my veins. But God didn’t choose me to be the King of Israel, instead the Baby born to Mary He would be the True King and whose Kingdom would have no end. PAUSE.

Two years has now passed and the angel visited me yet again, and told me to hurry up and take the Child because someone was trying to kill Him. In the middle of the night, I gathered all of our belongings and fled to Egypt, a long, long journey. With the help of our God—the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob we made it safely. After the death of Herod, who was trying to kill Him, we felt safe to return.

From there, I returned to my home town Nazareth and lived and worked making sure that Jesus and His brothers were taught the Hebrew Scriptures. What a delight to be home with Mary and listen to all the children had learn in Synagogue school. But it wasn’t anything like the time we traveled to Jerusalem.

When Jesus our oldest son, was 12 years old, we traveled to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. While there, Jesus amazed us by His gifts of teaching as He was talking with the Jewish leaders in the temple. As I looked at Him I marveled at His wisdom and knowledge and I praised God for the privilege of learning from my Son about Gods’ love. PAUSE.

I know what is coming for my son. I heard the words of the angel. I heard the words of Simeon who told Mary that “A sword will pierce her heart.” And I remember the prophecy of Isaiah, “Surely [H]e has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed [H]im stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But [H]e was wounded for our transgressions; [H]e was crushed for our iniquities; upon [H]im was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with [H]is stripes we are healed” (Is. 53:4-6). I, Joseph, son of David, didn’t live to see it face to face like Mary did, but I know and I believe and I praise my Father in heaven for the gift of salvation.

Therefore, I encourage you too, as the sons and daughters of Abraham and Sarah that you too, know these truth and by the power of the Holy Spirit, believe—that Emmanuel has come—Jesus is born to forgive us our sins and give us His salvation.

Joseph leaves the stage.

Monday, December 19, 2011

“Lift Up Your Heads, Ye Mighty Gates” (Isaiah 40:9)

S-1286 4SIA/3B 12/18/11 Hymns: (O) 64; (S) #341 LSB; (C) #74

Text: 2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16; Romans 16:25-27; Luke 1:26-38

Theme: “Lift Up Your Heads, Ye Mighty Gates” (Isaiah 40:9)

Question: “What are some of the idols you are building?” Armour, SD.

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! The text for the 4th Sunday in Advent is from Isaiah 40: “Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good news; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good news; lift it up, fear not; say to the cities of Judah, ‘Behold your God!’”

In Nomini Iesu,

Saints in Christ how many of you are tired of hearing bad/sad news? How many of you are sick of picking up the newspaper, only to read of murder, rape, Government corruption, going out of business and churches closing. How often do you watch TV and hear of the pain, hurt and harm done to all kinds of people? Wouldn’t be nice if every once in a while we could hear good news? Wouldn’t our world be a better place if the good news was constant? The answer to all of these questions is yes! Yes, I am tired of hearing bad and sad news. Yes, I am sick of reading the newspaper that is filled with gloom and doom. Yes, I am tired of watching TV because there is nothing good on it. Yes, I would gladly hear good news if available.

Well, you don’t have long to wait. Today, the prophet Isaiah in this text tells us of the one who has been dispatched with news worthy of repeating and hearing. The news that Isaiah is sharing is this: A King is coming (40:10–11)! His highway is prepared (40:3), and the message has been proclaimed (40:6–8). So that ALL may hear this gospel, the proclaimer is summoned to get up on a high mountain and with his mighty voice tell the world the good news.

Why did the people of Isaiah’s day need to hear the good news? Because they have been living like bad news people—people who have forsaken the God who brought them out of slavery with a mighty hand and outstretched arm. They have chased after gods of their own making and own choosing. PAUSE.

Walk into any library, Lowes, Menards, Home Depot, True Value, Ace Hardware or Hardware Hank, and you will see all types of do it yourself books and magazines. We can with the help of these books create, remodel, fashion and produce something. Actually we are encouraged to do it ourselves. Almost all of the commercials tell you that you CAN.

With this kind of attitude, no wonder it spills over into our theology and understanding of who our god should be. We can easily be deceived by our hearts that mislead us to trust in our own creation, rather than in the God who has created us.

It is to these people that Isaiah spoke and speaks today. Yes, you and I are just like Israel of old, always attempting to fashion a god to our liking and our thinking. Review your life and answer truthfully: Are we not the same, looking inside of us for the god that pleases us? How many of us build our own idols?

Just as Israel was slow to trust their God, we find ourselves in a similar plight. There is a part in all of us that delights in, shall we say, “Creative craftsmanship.” We conceive it in our mind.  We build it with our hands.  We choose what it looks like. We personalize it with our preferences.  It’s just what we want in a god. It’s a god who likes what I like, hates what I hate, and who shares my opinion. It is a god who increases my standard of living and happiness.  This is a god who gives me what I want and stays out of my way the rest of the time.

John Calvin states that the human heart is a perpetual idol factory. Commenting on the First Commandment, Luther states in his Large Catechism, “That to which your heart clings and entrusts itself is, I say, really your God.” And the Creator Himself spoke these words in Genesis: “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5); Again, the Lord laments the heart of man through the Prophet Jeremiah: The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? Jesus tells us about our hearts when He teaches in Matthew 15: For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.

We are, I am sad to say, just like the rest of humanity building our gods, our own idols. What are some of the idols you and I are building? How often do we place the ultimate trust in the things we possess—a job, marriage, investments, homes, cars, positions, and places we want to see or on our Bucket list. We chase after them. We forsake God in our efforts to obtain them. We neglect our time of studying the Word of God to own them and possess them—all for naught.

Why, these are nothing but idols. Idols are nothing but gods we fashion and form to our liking only to drag us down and cause us pain. The word “idol” in the Hebrew can be translated as pain. Idols bring the same misery, heartache, and pain experienced by our first parents. PAUSE.

And who among us here today in spite of all the joy and jingles; of all the glitter and glow of the season doesn’t have hurt or pain? Who of us, doesn’t want to hear good news and better yet hear the Great News.

Hear again, the words of Isaiah: “Fear not; say to the cities of Judah, ‘Behold Your God!’” Yes, tell the world from the highest mountain about Your God, the God who comes among you to bless you. No need to fear. No need to worry He is the God who is not made by human hands, but made the world by His mighty power and strength. This is Your God. Behold Him at work in your life and mine.

Look intently at Him and see what manner of God is this who is involved in the life of His creatures. We see this in the life of Jesus the Babe of Bethlehem who comes to lift us high. We see Jesus’ ministry God’s end time gospel reign is now active--active to bring about a change that is extraordinary.

Yes fear not. But stand high and lifted up and proclaim to the whole world about your merciful and gracious God and what He has done and is doing for you. We and the world should stop creating a god to our liking, and rely only on the ONE True God—Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

As we do, we realize and know that Yahweh’s transforming grace and commission to Zion foreshadows His plan for the church, Zion for this present age (Heb 12:22–24). We, God’s Church of today, should shout the message from the highest gates and mountains so all can hear the good news—in a clear, firm, and positive voice that her message is true. She must be vigorously and militantly evangelistic. We don’t have to be afraid and trembling, but rather with boldness and vigor announce “Behold your God.” Luther writes, “This is the gist of your preaching: Behold your God! Promote God alone, His mercy and grace. Preach Me alone.”

So what is the answer? In the context of such massive idolatry we have a word from God. Isaiah says, “Behold Your God!” Yes, behold Him with eyes of faith. See Him as He comes to us again today as we stand lifted up high upon the gates.

In the fullness of time He came, and in one instant, He made Himself breakable. He who was larger than the universe became a Babe. And He who sustains the world with a word chose to be dependent upon the nourishment of His teenage mother. Our God came, not as a flash of light, or as an unapproachable conqueror, but as One whose first cries were heard in a cattle stall along with cows and sheep. No silk, no ivory, no hype, no hoopla—just humanity.

His feet will feel the cold sea water and writhe at the invasion of the nail. His heart will be torn by people’s accusations and be crushed under the weight of our sin. His eyes will see our shame, for we cannot hide. They will see our selfishness, for we cannot give. And they will see our pain, for we are so full of hurt. His hands will touch lepers, hold little children, break bread, claw the ground at Gethsemane, and be stretched out on a Roman instrument of death.

Because He bled and died in our place, Jesus demonstrates that He alone is able to heal our hurts, forgive our filth, and defeat our death. No wonder the Bible says that idols are nothing but chaos and only compound our pain because a cross-less god is no god at all.  A god who doesn’t suffer, a god who knows no agony, a god who doesn’t die; this is a god without grace, a god who cannot deliver, and a god who offers no hope and no future.

But this is not our Jesus! He is crucified, but risen indeed! So it is time to turn in our tools, stop building substitutes, throw away the idols, and to never, ever again do business at a build-a-god workshop. Instead, we hear our God who could and did say to a people that were under His judgment, “You, you bring the message of good news to the world. Do it from the mountain tops. Shout it with a “voice of strength.” Declare it to the world and do it without fear. YES, stand high and lifted up to praise and worship Him Jesus the Savior of the world and declare to all—BEHOLD YOUR GOD. AMEN.

Now the peace…


Thursday, December 15, 2011

“Advent Redemption—Bought With A Price” (1 Peter 1:18-19)

S-1285 3MIA/3B 12/14/11 Hymns: (O) 70; S 32; (C) LSB #801

Text: Isaiah 62- 63:5; 1 Peter 1:17-25; Luke 2:36-38

Theme: “Advent Redemption—Bought With A Price” (1 Peter 1:18-19)

Question: “What is the most expensive gift you have ever received?” Armour, SD.

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! The text for the 3rd and final Midweek in Advent is from 1 Peter: “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.” (1 Peter 1:18-19)

In Nomini Iesu,

Tonight, as your pastor, I am privileged and blessed to speak to you as the Redeemed of the Lord and the not forsaken; but ones who have been sought after. Sought after by Him who claims YOU to be His very own; by Him who Restored, Rescued and Redeemed you from the empty ways of life; by Him who bought you; not with gold or silver BUT with His own precious, sinless, spotless blood.

My beloved in Christ, Advent is a time of looking forward with great anticipation of the coming of the Savior, the Redeemer of the world to be born in a manger, but it also moves us to look ahead with great expecation to His Second Advent to take us to the Paradise of heaven.

Throughout all of Holy Scripture, we see the many faithful saints who looked forward to such a time as this. The beloved physician, Luke, paints in his Gospel many wonderful events to help us see the birth of Jesus. One particular incident that I would like to highlight from Luke’s Gospel is this. As the aged priest held his eight-day-old son in his arms, he just had to sing. For in the birth of John, who was to prepare the way for the Savior, Zechariah—filled with the Holy Spirit—saw the certainty of Christ’s birth. And while that wondrous event still lay sixth months in the future, Zechariah sang of it as if it had already happened. “The Lord, the God of Israel, has come to redeem His people” (Luke 1:67). He prophesied these words for all to hear. The centuries of waiting and watching were almost over. Now it was time for unwrapping and for wondering in awe at God’s love gift—a Savior, a Redeemer who will redeem the human race from the pit of despair and the fires of hell.

Can you envision Zechariah holding his son in his hands—a gift from God and praising the Lord of the universe in hearing his prayers? Do you see the tears in his eyes that the waiting for redemption is almost over? Oh, Zechariah marveled at the gift of love in the coming of the Redeemer.

Therefore, like him, we need to marvel at the miracle behind Bethlehem. He hadn’t seen the Christ Child yet, but he knew who that baby would be. The Lord, the God of Israel,” he stated. In that coming Child, he saw “God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God,” as we also see and confess in the Nicene Creed (The Lutheran Hymnal [TLH]). Zechariah could understand the miracle behind that birth no more than we could, but, like us, he could marvel at the love involved.

A love that moved the Lord to do the impossible—He came down from the unreachable, with a love that is unmatch-able, so that you and I might live forever with Him in heaven. As we unwrap God’s Christmas gift, may we, by the power of the Holy Spirit NEVER forget the miracle that was needed to achieve it and the love that provided it. Zechariah sang that day not only because he saw who that holy Child would be but also because he saw what that Child would do. Again, inspired by the Spirit, he spoke as if it had already happened: The Lord has redeemed His people.”

Yes, indeed, the Babe in the Manger, the heaven sent Restorer, Rescuer and Redeemer, Jesus the Christ has accomplished the task that saints before us have looked to, and still do. O redeemed of the Lord, don’t pass too quickly by this Word! PAUSE.

Do you understand what it cost the Savior to redeem you? Do you know why He did it? Let me return for just a moment to my old profession a house painter and paint to you with wide brushes and colorful images this picture for you to make you appreciate your redemption—bought at a price.

(Here move over to the center where the table is and the cage is located). A story is told of a pastor of a church in Boston, met a young boy in front of the sanctuary carrying a rusty cage in which several birds fluttered nervously. The Pastor asked, “Son, where did you get those birds?” The boy replied, “I trapped them out in the field.” What are you going to do with them?” “I’m going to play with them, and then I guess I’ll just feed them to an old cat we have at home.” When the pastor offered to buy them, the lad exclaimed, “Mister, you don’t want them, they’re just little old wild birds and can’t sing very well.” The pastor replied, “I’ll give you $2 for the cage and the birds.” “Okay, it’s a deal, but you’re making a bad bargain.” The exchange was made and the boy went away whistling, happy with his shiny coins. The pastor walked around to the back of the church property, opened the door of the small wire coop, and let the struggling creatures soar into the blue.

In another town, another Preacher came walking by one day and saw Satan holding the sons of Adam and the daughters of Eve in a cage if you will—a prison cell. The Preacher asked “What are you going to do with them? Satan said, “Oh, I will play with them, and torture them with the fires of hell and cause them to work hard labor in my prison cell.” The Preacher looked at him and said, “What would you like to have to spare their lives?” Satan replied, “You don’t want these sons of Adam and daughters of Eve, they are no good to you. They will break your heart, disobey Your commandments, dishonor You with their lives and shame Your name”. The Preacher asked again, What will it cost for you to let them go?” Satan, with gleeful smile looked at the Preacher and said, “YOUR LIFE FOR THEIRS!” The Preacher responded “DONE!” Okay, it’s a deal, Said Satan, but you’re making a bad bargain.” And the exchange was made.

(Open the cage here) All of the sons of Adam and daughters of Eve were released from the prison cell at infinitely high price—the precious blood of the Preacher—Jesus the Babe of Bethlehem. And those who were released, with hope in their hearts; with eyes looked heavenward they appeared to be singing: “Redeemed, redeemed, redeemed!”

Saints in Christ, You and I have been held captive to sin, in the prison of Satan, but Christ has purchased our pardon and set us at liberty. When a person has this life-changing experience, he will want to sing, “Redeemed, redeemed, redeemed!” We have done that tonight with our sermon Hymn, “Redeemed, Restored, Forgiven!” Yes, we have been Restored, Rescued and Redeemed by the Only One who could and would—Jesus the Christ.

There are many people out there who rescue others in time of need—firemen, military personal, police officers. There are many others who help in time of need, but ONLY Jesus can redeem, because His life-blood is pure without any sin.

God’s people of old and God’s people of today rejoice in the glorious Good News that we have been bought with a price—not gold or silver, but the precious blood of Christ. God’s people understand the cost of their redemption and the unmatched love of the Savior. And for that we are thankful and joyful to praise His holy name and give thanks to Him for saving us from the fires of hell and opening the gate of Paradise for us. Amen.

Now the peace…


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” (Isaiah 40:6-8)

S-1284 3SIA/3B 12/11/11 Hymns: All from LSB (O) 590; S 357 vv. 1-4; LS. 349; 364; 383; (C) 357 vv. 5-71-4

Text: Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24; John 1:6-8, 19-28

Theme: “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” (Isaiah 40:6-8)

Question: “What’s in a name?” Armour, SD.

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! The text for the 3rd Sunday in Advent is from Isaiah: “A voice says, ‘Cry!’ And I said, ‘What shall I cry?’
All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the LORD blows on it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever
.” (Isaiah 40:6-8)

In Nomini Iesu,

Beloved in the Lord Jesus Christ, in His book The Richest Man in Town V. J. Smith writes about a man who made a difference in his life. This is the kind of book when you read it you can’t put it down, tears will run down your cheeks and you will feel the lump in your throat. It is not a book that you like, but you love. In the town of Brookings, SD a very poor and humble man by the name of Marty worked at the Wal-Mart Store. He made sure every customer that came through his line was treated with dignity and respect. After he got the money from them, he would often walk over to them, look them in the eyes, shake their hands and thank them for shopping at Wal-Mart and bids them a good day.

That little treatment made a huge difference in the lives of many people but especially V. J. Smith that he actually wrote this book about Marty.

In the story, V. J. tells of the difference Marty made in the lives of many of the customers that came through his line. As the story of Marty is told we are introduced to a young lady about 50 years old who came by in his line one day but wasn’t herself. She didn’t have the usual smile. Marty asked her, “What was wrong?” Linda responded: “She needed a heart transplant and was heading to the University of Minnesota to have surgery right away.” Marty came out from the cash register, gave her a hug and told her “she would be ok.”

When Linda returned home, there was a card on her kitchen table from Aaron Martinson. She had no clue who Aaron Martinson was until she read the card that said: Marty from the Wal-Mart store. Three (3) months went by and then one day, Linda was in the store in Marty’s line. As soon as Marty saw her, he came over, gave her a hug and a kiss. V. J. Smith asked Marty why he sent her a card. “I just think if you want to be a friend,” he replied, “Sometimes you need to do a little more.” (p. 46)

To do a little more is indeed what this world needs and we see it in the text that is before us today. The prophet Isaiah tells us about the God who does all of these things and more; because He loves the sinner—you and me.

Isaiah is being candid in his teaching. He tells us ALL flesh shall pass away like the grass. But the Word of the Lord endures forever. What you and I have, own, possess and work for, will one day be gone from us. Everything that we know and love in this world will be gone; but not God’s Word—that Word shall endure forever.

Even the Lord, Jesus Christ taught us this golden truth when He said: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My Words will not pass away” (Mark 13:31). Yes, we are to remember this valuable lesson and be confident in the Word of Christ that will never come back empty but accomplishes everything He sent it to do and will work everything for our good and His glory. (Is. 55:10-11; Rom. 8:28).

We see the power of God’s promises in what Isaiah has written and taught us. Few chapters later, Isaiah speaks of the Suffering Servant who would be wounded for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities (53:5). And guaranteeing this deliverance is the power and faithfulness of God’s Word (55:10-11). These promises will not return empty. God said it. That settles it. Faith believes it!

The Word that Isaiah points us to is Emmanuel. Do you know who Emmanuel is and does? Emmanuel is God with us. God chooses to come to live with sinners for the benefit of sinners. He chooses to be our God even when we choose to be disobedient to Him. He chooses to love us when we are unlovable. And during Advent we sing the hymn and are reminded of His coming when we say: “Oh, come, oh, come, Emmanuel, And ransom captive Israel, That mourns in lonely exile here Until the Son of God appear. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel Shall come to you, O Israel!” LSB 357 v. 1

In Bethlehem this faithful Emmanuel took on flesh and blood and He had a heart. He lived exiled from the Father’s home for 33 years. Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head” (Mt 8:20). Jesus was exiled, not only from the Father’s home, but finally from the Father. He cried, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?” (e.g., Mk 15:34; cf. Ps 22:1). His lips are cracked and He has a mouth of cotton. His throat, so dry He can’t swallow, and His voice, so hoarse, He can scarcely speak. To find the last time moisture touched these lips we need to rewind a dozen hours to the meal in the Upper Room. Since tasting the cup of the New Covenant, Jesus has been spit upon, bruised, and beaten. He has been a cross-carrier and sin-bearer, no liquid has quenched His thirst. And finally He gives up His spirit.

But all things and outcomes changed on the third day, when He burst forth from the grave and returned to life again. With and by His resurrection He assures us that we have a place with Him in heaven. “In My Father’s home are many rooms, if it were not so, I would have told you!” These sweet Words of Emmanuel, today in this place; bring peace and joy to our hearts.

Oh, the comfort of Isaiah’s Words to our ears and hearts my beloved one. Just as Isaiah spoke the Words to the Israelites who were taken captives to Babylon that God has not forgotten or abandoned them, so he speaks to us today with the assurance that our Emmanuel is here right now and forever.

All of us therefore, with great joy, join Isaiah during this Advent season and kneel at the manger bed of our Emmanuel. There we worship Him, praise Him and honor Him because of the blessings He bestows on us the sinner. For me—a sinner who didn’t desire Him, who didn’t deserve Him, whose only thought was to disdain Him, He, my God, came down to earth into human form to save me. Now that is good news. PAUSE.

Remember Marty the Richest Man in Town? {Emphasis mine} How he made life a little bit happier for others by doing the little things. Today, our Emmanuel, the Richest Man in the World {Emphasis mine} not only made the life of people a little bit happier. NO HE DID MUCH, MUCH, MORE!

Our Emmanuel, who was rich in majesty, beauty, holiness, faithfulness, justice and glory, gave it all up and became poor, humble and lowly. He gave it all up so that we can have it all in Him. Just like Marty would move from behind the cash register towards the people and shake their hands; so the Savior does more. He came from heaven to earth and opened His pierced hands to touch ours. He came not only to put a smile on our face, but to win forgiveness blesses with every spiritual blessing. He came to be God with us and prepare a place for us.

And He comes today in the Word, in the water as it was sprinkled on Dawson Adam Koehn and in the Feast of heaven as He serves us His body and blood at the table. And He keeps coming again and again.

On this third Sunday in Advent, I encourage you and exhort you to read more about the Man who made a difference in your life and mine. His book is rich with the story of love and forgiveness. His grace and mercy are new every morning. And when you read Emmanuel’s book (Lift high the Bible) you can’t put it down, tears will run down your cheeks and you will feel the lump in your throat. It is not a book that you like, but one that you WILL love.

Why? You might ask. Because this book brings healing, changes lives and make your life in heaven secure. It is a book that is a blessing to have, and joy to read. It is the book of our EMMANUEL. Amen.

Now the peace of God…


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

“Advent Rescue” (2 Timothy 4:18)

S-1283 2MIA/3B 12/11/11 Hymns: All from LSB (O) #353; S# Under the Tree Tune 817; #358; (C) #364

Text: Psalm 31:1-4; Genesis 14:13-20; Daniel 6:14-25; Luke 23:36-43

Theme: “Advent Rescue” (2 Timothy 4:18)

Question: “Have you been rescued?” Armour, SD

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! The text for the 2nd Midweek in Advent is from 2 Timothy: “The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory forever and ever. Amen. (2 Timothy 4:18)

Introduction: In Nomine IESU

Saints in Christ, here we are already into the second week of Advent marching towards the Festival of the Nativity of the Rescuer of the world—Jesus the heaven-sent Savior.

Tonight’s sermon brings many memories to me, because it affects me personally—since I have witnessed the power of rescue first hand-in the life of my youngest brother. One day, we saw a young black man walk by, and I told my youngest brother Adnan (about 6 years old) to say “Cuhsi” (Hebrew for a black man) a derogatory term to be sure. When Adnan spoke the word “Cushi”, the black man who appeared to me a giant, grabbed my brother by the neck and lifted him up until I saw his eyes bulging. I thought my brother was going to die and couldn’t stop him. My oldest sisters took their hard soul slippers and began to beat him to no avail. I ran to my father, who came to the rescue. He spoke kindly to the black man and explained that my brother didn’t understand the term. He released my brother and my father invited him over for a cup of tea. All was well.

And thus, the topic of rescue is engaging and affects each and every one of us. In 2 Timothy the context for Paul is poignant. He writes from a prison in Rome. (2 Tim. 1:16-17) He knows he is about to be put to death, by beheading. Paul knows the heartaches first-hand. He has already been deserted by everyone; yet, with the Lord’s help, so successfully defended him that he “was rescued from the lion’s mouth.” (2 Tim. 4:16-17)

Now he is alone again, except for one individual. Luke, the beloved physician is with him. Before Paul is put to death he hopes to see “his beloved child in the faith” Timothy one more time. But Paul must reconcile himself with the reality that Timothy may not make it there before Paul, loses his life.

So Paul writes this letter, just in case. He writes this letter as a last will and testament. In this letter he bids Timothy to fight the good fight of faith. Guard the gospel and be guarded by it. No matter what, keep telling people about God’s love and rescue story. Keep telling people how Jesus Christ came into the world to rescue sinners. (1Timothy 1:15) Keep telling people we are rescued by grace alone. Keep telling people how Jesus came into this world, this world of enemy occupied territory, to be born for us, to die for us, and conquer death for us. The whole life of the Savior from front to finish was one rescue mission.

Even looking death in the face eyeball to eyeball, Paul is confident that the rescue mission of our Lord Jesus will end up short of nothing but eternal life in heaven. Hear his confession The Lord will rescue me from every evil and save me for His heavenly Kingdom.

Christmas time is a time when we pause to consider all that Jesus Christ went through to deliver us, save us, rescue us and set us free. The story goes back thousands of years even before Jesus was born. In the Garden of Eden Adam and Eve chose to put themselves and their posterity in horrible slavery.

Intoxicated with power, seduced by a lie, they bit into a false promise and ushered into the world death, war, pain, poverty, rape, murder, greed, laziness, false witness, and every evil that now marks this fallen world and entrapped it forever and destined it to hell.

There decision to rebel was beyond dreadful. To rescue them from themselves as well as rescue their offspring, Jesus already comes to them in the Garden. He promises to rescue them by crushing the head of the one who seduced them into sin. That first gospel promise contained with it that the rescue mission would be costly. Jesus Himself would be stricken, smitten, and afflicted by the old evil foe for their sin. The rescue mission was to be cosmic, to the death, and so costly that to this day the angels in heaven cannot grasp it and neither can we.

Throughout the Bible there are so many love and rescue stories. Jesus’ pardoning love comes into the heart of His followers again and again forming them not only into loving creatures but courageous people who rescue others. Take Abraham as an example. He was not the most courageous of men when Jesus called him out of darkness to be His dear child. We see that in how he tried to pawn off his wife Sarah to save his own hide.

Yet over time the promises of God, the love of Christ, and the goodness of God began to slowly shape the character of Abraham. He knew first-hand the power of rescue. He was about to offer his son Isaac with the knife, when the Angel of the Lord rescued Isaac and offered a Ram instead for a sacrifice. Later on, Abraham comes to the rescue of His kidnapped nephew Lot with his 318 men. To rescue Lot Abraham must go up against far superior forces in terms of numbers. Yet the love of Christ that rescued him moved him in turn to rescue his nephew.

Again, we see it in the case of Gideon. Jesus as the Angel of the Lord came to Gideon giving him powerful promises. Through the Word of God Gideon was clothed with the Spirit (Judges 6:33) and took 300 soldiers against thousands of enemy soldiers in order to rescue God’s people from slavery, oppression, and unfathomable cruelties.

Other Old Testament believers in Jesus were continually raised up to rescue God’s people. There was a pattern throughout the Old Testament. God would rescue and restore repeatedly but the majority of His people would riot and rebel preferring slavery over freedom, lust over love, greed over godliness.

God sought to rescue His children above all through the teachings of the prophets which were designed to set people free and reveal God’s pardoning love. But like a dog going back to eat its vomit, the children of Israel so often went back to living lives that took them and their posterity into living like the cutthroat people around them. These people would murder their children, eat their own flesh, engage in drug trafficking, and torture minorities in most wicked of fashions.

Ultimately God’s rescue mission would need to go well beyond the lives of frail, fallible kings and broken hearted prophets. They tried their best to rescue Israel and anyone open to the truth, but the hearts of people were turned inward, too intent on making man the measure of things, rather than finding freedom in submitting to God’s royal rule of love.

So God did the unthinkable. Like my father rescued my son from death, He sent His only Son to rescues all of His sons and daughters. The Angel of the Lord took on human flesh and entered the world as a baby in order to rescue mankind. In order to rescue mankind He would have to accomplish monumental feats. For one, He would need to fulfill perfectly the law—never once sinning in thought, word, and deed. He would need to drink a cup of suffering infinitely greater than anyone else had ever drunk in order to pay for the sins of the world. He would need to suffer more pain, endure more shame, and ultimately die the most wretched and horrific death in history in order to rescue mankind. This wretched, horrifying, incomprehensible death would include suffering hell for all mankind. The rescue mission meant going to hell and back for us.

Even, while the Rescuer of the world was experiencing hell from the cross, His arms of love and mercy where not short to help those who cry out to Him. 6 feet away from Him, from another cross, a son of Adam cried out, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your Kingdom.” And He did and He does even you beloved ones.

In the details of this rescue mission the gospel writers make every effort to tell us valuable details as to the incredible love of Christ displayed for us to rescue us. It is not only what Jesus did but how He did it that is so impressive. To think that God Himself would descend in love for us into such depths of shame, such heights of pain and such infinite lengths of rejection for our acceptance leaves us blessedly baffled.

This rescue mission was planned before the foundation of the universe, kicked into high gear with Jesus conception, birth, death and resurrection, and will reveal its full fruits when Jesus reappears again. Until then Jesus gives us sturdy lifelines of love to deliver us from every evil—Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, His love through the saints and His promises. In these we have all we need; BECAUSE WE HAVE BEEN RESCUED! AMEN.

Now the peace of God...



First Person Narrative on Zechariahs

Was given at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Armour, (My parish) for the Ladies Advent Tea on Sunday December 4, 2011

It was a most unusual event. It was my turn to serve the God of my father’s Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in His temple. It is a great privilege given to the priests of God to burn incense in the Holy Tabernacle. I had gone to Jerusalem and the temple because it was my turn. While the people were outside waiting and I was offering my prayers and incense a wonder of wonders occurred. I scarcely could believe what my eyes were seeing. There before me stood this angelic being that frightened me to death. But the angel told me not to be afraid and told me that the Lord of my father’s had heard my wife’s Elizabeth and my Zechariahs’ prayers. “I am to call him John. And I will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.” He was saying: God will grant to us the privilege of having a son. (Smile here).

My ears could hardly comprehend what the angel was saying and I doubted his words. You see, many years have come and gone, and now I am a very old man; and Elizabeth, well she was beyond child bearing years. The long years of waiting for the prayers to be answered have taken a toll on my weakened heart and all hope that a child would be given us… has long diminished and disappeared. But here was the angel, telling me that my God has heard our prayers and He will do what we asked. Can it be? Can I Zechariah old and weakened man and Elizabeth, the love of my life; whose womb has been silenced and dried up for years bear me a son? I doubted the angel’s words and for that I was struck dumb and couldn’t speak. (Will tell you more about that later).

I should not have doubted Gabriel’s words. For the Lord I Zechariah should have known better. Did you know that my name means “The Lord remembers?” and with the angel’s Words I was awakened from my slumber to see the hand of God bringing joy to us in our old age. {Move here to a different locations}.

When I came out of the temple, the people knew something had happened. A revelation had taken place but I couldn’t speak. My tongue was tied and I couldn’t tell them the good news God revealed to me.

After my term of serving as the Priest in the Holy Temple, I returned to my home in Judea and in time as the manner of men and women (I hate to admit it at my old age) Elizabeth was found with child. She told me with the biggest smile saying, Zechariah, “You are going to be an ABBA—you are going to have a son!” I was so happy and excited, but I couldn’t tell her of my joy, because the Lord withheld my tongue for unbelief.

But poor Elizabeth, for five months she kept herself hidden, saying, “Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when He looked on me, to take away my reproach among people”. Oh, don’t misunderstand me. She was soo happy, yet it was an awkward moment. How would you feel if you are already old and you begin to show that you are with child? But I kept comforting her and assuring her that the Lord in mercy has remembered us.

As the baby began to grow in her womb, I would put my hand on her belly and would feel a movement. As I felt the belly of Elizabeth, a kick. We smiled. A kick. We smiled again. Then we wondered if this was how Sarah and Abraham felt with their miracle child.Then we both looked at each other and would smile that the Lord had remembered us. PAUSE {Stare in the distance}

I should like to tell you of a visitor that came to our house one summer day. Elizabeth had begun to show and while she was milking the goat, she looked up and there was a relative—Mary from a far away village—Nazareth. As Mary entered the house and greeted Elizabeth, at her greetings the baby leaped in her womb. And my wife was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” PAUSE.

Mary stayed with us for 3 months and then went home. Soon after Mary left, Elizabeth gave birth to a son. All the neighbors and family celebrated the birth of my son. They were so excited and so were we. And on the 8th day, as it was the custom for us according to God’s Word we took him to the temple to circumcise him. All of the relatives wanted to call him after me. But Elizabeth wouldn’t hear of it. Then they came to me and asked me “What should my son’s name be? Since I couldn’t speak I asked for a writing tablet. Then I wrote {write out the name} John. As soon as I finished writing John, my tongue was loosed and I could speak.

Oh, the joy that filled my heart. Then I remembered again Gabriel’s words who told me, I will not be able to speak until these things take place. I, Zechariah remembered the kindness of the Lord and my tongue was loosed. By the power of the Holy Spirit I began to say: “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited and redeemed His people and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David…”

Today, I, Zechariah, stand before you because I remember the mercy of the Lord and want to share it with you. “The Lord remembers…us” We stand like Hannah before Eli, like the enslaved Israelites as Moses comes on the scene, as Abraham with the knife in his hand before Isaac as the Ram in the thicket is revealed. For all time God has remembered His people and in that remembrance has blessed us. Yes, the Lord remembered and gave me “My Son” John who is really a “Gift of God” for that is what his name means. Not Zechariah Jr., but “GIFT OF GOD…JOHN”. PAUSE.

This is the Lord’s way, even when I am weakened by age and inability to have a child, He remembers. He remembers that I am dust... a sinner... and so He gives me... gives you too... your Savior. My doubts are no different from your doubts.

In a dramatic fashion the good news for us seemingly, “too good” and yet it is true. My son, my Gift from God grew up as the last Old Testament Prophet - the forerunner of Him who makes all things new. I didn’t get to see with my eyes or hear with my ears the words he spoke or the Baptisms he performed. Oh how I would have loved to have been there on the banks of the Jordan River that day when God Himself, in my flesh, knelt down and fulfilled all righteousness. But I knew my boy as a boy, and though I taught him the Word of God as a good father must do, my boy taught me that God truly remembers. I am a sinner and a doubter, yet one who has been blessed by the Lord to be His own. In your calling, as women of faith, you stand before the Almighty Father with hands ready to serve Him and His people. Each of us has been called first to be His own - through Jesus’ blood and righteousness. Then, to share His joy with others.

One final thought if you would permit me to share with you before I return to Judea. I believed that doing my “once in a lifetime” service in the priestly service in the Holy Place would be the highlight of my life. And it was, but not because I was serving God, but because He served me, and remembered me and my wife and our prayers, and because He served and loved you in that same moment. The altar of incense offering was not the key, ah but the Word of the Lord, “Fear Not!!! - Now that was the key then and it is now for you. You have fears and needs - Fear not, the Lord, He has remembered you. Even so, Amen!

Zechariah leaves with joy in his heart and on his face.



“Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous” (1 Peter 3:18).

Let me ask you a question: Have you ever doubted a speaker—Pastor, Politician, Policeman or President? Perhaps you are like many of us who are cynics and skeptics. We live in a world of uncertainty. We have been lied to far too many times to believe everything someone says or someone has written. Yet the old saying is true that the only thing that is certain is death and taxes. I would venture to say there is yet another certainty. In this world the only thing that seems certain is uncertainty.

Study your life and the world we live in and you will have to acknowledge that it is true—the only thing that seems certain is uncertainty. The economy moves in fits, it flares up and it fizzles— forward and backward; up or down it goes. A job that seems secure today could be gone tomorrow. After years of a perfect driving record, car insurance could be canceled after just one incident. Health insurance premiums can skyrocket despite good health and an untouched deductible. A nag­ging cough or pain could turn out to be something that ends up tak­ing the life of a loved one. The only thing that seems certain is uncertainty.

Imagine a far more important scene. Imagine that you die and arrive at the entrance to heaven. At the Pearly Gate you are greeted warmly, “Welcome home, child of God! You’ve run the race; you’ve relied on Christ Your Savior for the forgiveness of YOUR sins and His blood has made you clean and holy. You are saved by grace alone! Come on in!”

As you walk through heaven’s gate, someone holding your file folder stops you. “I’m sorry, but your salvation has been put on hold. There’s some ques­tion as to whether or not Jesus’ blood actually paid for all your sins. There were some things you did when you were younger that are being reevaluated. You pushed the envelope too far and really pushed God’s grace to the limit. Also at issue is the validity of Jesus’ one-time sacrifice on the cross. Does the blood of Christ really save? Does it cover the debt of ALL sin? In your case, we’re not sure. Just sit tight while we reevaluate your status.” The great deceiver and accuser—Satan can whisper and place doubt in your heart and soul, that your sins are too many and too terrible to be for­given. Add to that, the world can mock your belief that forgiveness is free and full and complete. Don’t believe them. There is no doubt about it—they are wrong. It has happened! It has been done! “IT IS FINISHED!” (John 19:30). “Christ died for sins once for all!” There is no question! No doubt about it! This is sure and certain, finished and com­pleted is the work of redemption and salvation. We can take that all the way to the bank. We can stake our whole life on it. Christ died once for all. He died for you. YES, FOR YOU HE DIED AND ROSE.

The other day, I heard someone say to his wife: “I love you with all of my heart!” and her response was this: “I know. There is no doubt about it!” Isn’t it wonderful when we know we are loved; when we don’t doubt the speaker who is before us; when we believe what they say to us and take it to heart!

How much more then are the words of St. Peter who tells us: “Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous.”

This is a staggering statement of undeserved grace. Christ, the “righteous” One, died for the “unrighteous” and undeserving—that’s you and me. He died for the entire world, but most importantly and personally, He died for you. Against the back­drop of this sure and certain truth, every moment can be lived with the confidence that the debt of your sin is paid in FULL. With this rock-solid truth in place, you have a most certain salvation—in Christ the ONLY TRUE GOD AND LORD.

Therefore, as we rush here and there to prepare for the birth of the Savior of the world, may we not lose focus of why He came to earth and took upon Him human flesh—He came to die your death and earn you a place with Him in heaven. There is no doubt about it.

So, when the opportunity arises KINDLY share the Good News of the Birth of JESUS the Savior of the world with the certainty of why God sent Him to us. For sure, there is no doubt about it.

Merry Christmas and Blessed New Year!

In Christ’s love and in His service,

Rev. Nabil S. Nour Pastor and Foot Washer Phil. 1:6

“Prepare the Royal Highway” (Isaiah 40:3-5)

S-1282 2SIA/3B 12/04/11 Hymns: All from LSB (O) #344; S#343. (C) #338

Text: Isaiah 40:1-11; 2 Peter 3:18-14; Mark 1:1-8

Theme: “Prepare the Royal Highway” (Isaiah 40:3-5)

Question: “Are you prepared for Christmas?” Armour, SD

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! The text for the 2nd Sunday in Advent is the O.T. lesson: “A voice cries: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together,
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken
.’ (Isaiah 40:3-5).

Introduction: In Nomine IESU

Saints in Christ, the voice of the Prophet Isaiah has echoed throughout the centuries calling upon Christians to hear the voice of the one speaking in the wilderness to prepare the Way of the Lord. This voice calls upon every follower of the God of the universe to prepare rightly by making straight in the desert a highway for our God. Everything in the way must be removed for this heavenly visitor who is about to come upon the scene of humanity. The voice has spoken and speaks even today—Prepare the Royal Highway!

This voice in the wilderness is none other than the voice of John the Baptist who came calling upon sinners to prepare for Christ’s arrival. He called the rich and poor, learned and educated, men and women, boys and girls. And He calls you today to Prepare the Royal Highway. PAUSE.

It is evident that many in our community, county and country are busy preparing for the celebration of the Savior’s birth. Last Tuesday, some of the saints of Redeemer met at the Miller’s garage to prepare the Church’s float for the parade of lights. After we were done, it looked beautiful and had a lovely message—THE GREATEST GIFT OF ALL!

If you took the time on Friday and stopped at Todd Vogt’s garage for lunch, you would have seen all of the work he and his crew went through to prepare the building for the 20th year Grand Re-Opening. The garage looked clean as if no one had worked in it. Certainly lots of hard work went through to bring it to this point.

Throughout the whole town preparations have been going on. You see the evidence of lights, Christmas trees, backed goods and the like. It is so nice to drive around and see the many preparations that have and are taken place.

We see all the external preparations that have been made for this season. But of more importance is the preparation for the reason we exist and move and have our being. It is to welcome Jesus as the Savior of the world and to make our hearts His manger.

Therefore, today, I would like to share you with a couple of points that I believe are of the utmost importance in our preparations. The first is the heart—yours and mine. As I mentioned before so many preparations are going on. Homes are cleaned and decorated, stores are filled to the brim with all kinds of gifts, and ads are sent out via radio, TV, newspapers and cell phones. But what of the heart? Is your heart prepared? Or are you distracted by all of the buzz?

During this time of the year my heart and yours can easily be distracted and diverted with all of the things we need to accomplish. We can go through the motions, we can even be in Church, but our heads are a million miles away. We are here, only because we feel obligated and as soon as the 60 minutes are up, we begin to prepare to leave and leave everything we heard behind.

At times our hearts are not filled spiritually. Our hearts are dried up as a bone. We go through the liturgy without thinking of what it is we are saying. We are here, but far from being here. So close, yet so far away. Our lips sing His praises, but our hearts are far from Him. Oh the preparation of the heart is so hard to do, but a necessity for us to be blessed.

And the second point is of repentance. True repentance of sins we have committed and do commit daily. This is more than just general sorrow over getting caught. This is being cut to the heart that we have sinned against a God that has given us so much! You know your heart, and I know mine and the truth is we are filled with sin. The odor of disobedience, despair, dejection and death hang heavy in the air. Ever since Adam and Eve have sinned we have been doing the same. We see the evidence of it in the personal hurts people go through. It is during this time that many people commit suicide, (this morning at 4:00 a.m. I got a phone call from a dear friend whose son took his own life), others have a terrible attitude and still others don’t care what happens to them.

Certainly the odor of disobedience, despair, dejection and death hangs heavy in the air and over our hearts, but we don’t have to live that way. Isaiah tells us there is a voice calling us to prepare to receive Him who is Royalty—the heaven-sent Savior. We are to prepare as the wise men did when they traveled over 3000 miles to kneel and worship the King of kings and Lord of lords; and as the shepherds did when they heard the announcement of the angel saying to them, “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people. Today, in the town of David a Savior has been born to you, He is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10b-11).

Yes, we want to prepare our hearts more than our homes to see the glory of God that will be revealed. Just as it was done during the time when a king would return from victory, his emissaries would remove all stones and debris from the road so he could come in on a smooth surface.

As sinners, we can’t do this preparation on our own. We can’t even repent by ourselves, but when the Word of the Lord strikes and when the Holy Spirit convicts our guilty conscience, we fall down on our knees and weep for the sorrow in our hearts—because our hearts are not prepared for His coming in the flesh. PAUSE

My beloved know this: When Yahweh comes, He will not come alone. “Like a shepherd He will tend His flock, with His arm He will gather. Lambs in His lap He will lift up, He will lead mothers of sheep” (40:11). He meets His people in the wilderness of their exile and invites them to join Him. This foreshadows Christ’s first advent in Bethlehem (Lk 2:1–7), as well as His Second Advent at the end of the age.

The coming of Christ offers a joyful homecoming to all who have been exiled from the Father because of sin, described as mountains, hills, crooked ground, and rough places. “The sins of the nation, which had brought about the period of indignation and had kept God from His people, will be removed so that they will no longer stand in the way of His appearance among His own.

Jesus Christ is the ultimate and permanent expression of God’s glory (1 Cor 2:8). The shepherds saw the glory of the Lord when Jesus was born, and they were terrified (Lk 2:9). In the infant Jesus they saw God’s glory in human flesh (Jn 1:14). At our Lord’s transfiguration His glory was displayed when His clothes became dazzling white (Lk 9:29). But on Good Friday His disciples deserted Him. His garments were gambled away. Then His Father turned His back. As Jesus cries out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Mt 27:46;) the Lord’s presence leaves the Temple alone to die upon the cross…But His glory returns on Easter and this means that the day is coming when, at the Second Coming of Christ, all flesh will see God’s glory.

How shall we prepare THEN? In a word – repent. For then we will see God’s glory in a Babe in a manger; in His body and blood at the Table; and in the eastern sky on the last day. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken it!

Dr. Luther in his Christmas hymn “From Heaven Above to Earth I Come” gives us an insight to the preparations of the heart: “Ah, dearest Jesus, holy Child Prepare a bed, soft, undefiled, A quiet chamber set apart For You to dwell within my HEART” {emphasis mine} v. 13

My brothers and sisters in Christ, We are told that when John Huss was arrested and informed that he would be burned to death for his faith, he purposely practiced holding his hand over fire to prepare for his final test. He burned himself in preparation. He wanted to be faithful to the end.

You and I don’t have to burn ourselves; we don’t have to beat ourselves to death; we don’t have crucify ourselves; because the infant Child of Mary did just that for us. The Coming One has done all we need. The call for us is faithfulness. And even this He gives us as He calls, gathers, enlightens and sanctifies us in His Word and Promise. This Word and promise leads us to know and trust that He is leading us on level ground to a place He has prepared for us—a place more beautiful than any place in the world, more glorious than any palace and more lovely than any other location in His story—with Him FOREVER. Amen.

Now the peace of God…


Thursday, December 1, 2011

“Advent Restoration” (2 Corinthians 5:17-18)

S-1281 1SIA/3B 11/30/11 Hymns: (O) #68; S. Advent to a New Creation to the tune LW 438; (C) #73

Text: Isaiah 11:1-11; 2 Corinthians 5:16-21; Matthew 19:28-30

Theme: “Advent Restoration” (2 Corinthians 5:17-18)

Question: “Have you restored something?” Armour, SD

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! The text for the 1st Midweek in Advent is the Epistle lesson: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation…;” (2 Corinthians 5:17-18).

Introduction: In Nomine IESU

Saints in Christ, when I used to be in the painting business, we would often get a call to restore a house or a business that had been damaged by fire. We would be the first on the scene and the last to leave. We would come in and spray a special chemical called “Kills” to seal and cover the smoke and charred walls. We would spray every possible corner of the house from inside of the attic to the base-board of the basement.

At times we would have to spray it more than once so that the smell and blackness be covered. When we were done, other professionals would enter into the restoration process: sheet rockers, plumbers, air-conditioners, electricians, carpenters, and carpet layers. All of us would work hard to restore the house or business so it is functional again. When the restoration was completed, the house or business was newer and better than before the fire.

In the Epistle reading for our first Midweek in Advent, Pastor Paul tells of the restoration that takes place in the lives of the believers. Listen again, please to the text: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. How does this restoration takes place? Paul gives us the answer “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation…;”

This restoration has taken place from God Himself who restores and reconciled us to Himself through Christ . On account of Christ, you and I have been restored anew. While you may look the same, you are not the same. At the foundational level you are totally new! All of the old is gone, and now is the new you, worked in your life in Christ, on account of Christ and because of Christ. PAUSE.

At the fire site, the professional workers used all sorts of tools to help them get the job done. All of these people worked hard and long to accomplish the task of restoration. Some used soldering gun, skill saw, drills, taping knives, brushes and the like to make the house lovely and livable again.

And so did the professional Messenger of heaven—Jesus the Christ in restoring us to the place of being new again. However, He didn’t use the tools of blue collar professionals like skill saw or brush. No He used something more valuable and precious. He used a manger and mountain; straw and spear; cradle and cross. These were the elements the heaven-sent Messenger used to restore us back to who we were intended to be. Once this work is worked upon us, we stand before God not remodeled, but remade. We are new! Yes, we are! This is what Christ has done for you!

We see this newness and restoration revealed in Holy Scriptures. We behold how the Lord Jesus Christ gets involved in the lives of His people because He loves the earth He created and He loves us even more. Unlike the TV show “Extreme Makeover”, where people come in razes a house to the ground and start all over, the Lord of Creation doesn’t destroy what He has, but restores it to its original as it was in the day of Eden where all of creation was at peace with God. There Adam and Eve walked in the Garden among the beasts of the forests without fear. There they enjoyed the privilege of worship the awesome heavenly Father.

Tonight, in our readings, we behold the great miracle of restoration done by the Author of life Himself—Jesus the Christ. First in Isaiah we hear these words: “The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den. They shall not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11:6-10).

Again, in the book of Revelation we read these blessed promises: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And He who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I Am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

Yes, write it down and know it. These words are trustworthy and true! This is a golden promise for you and me beloved. Here we see the marvel of God’s love. Here we behold how the sinner is justified. Here we learn of the new creation in our hearts worked not by professionals, but by passion. Our Lord’s passion for me and for you is evident in making us new again.

Now this Advent Restoration defies all human logic and physics. It is a restoration more amazing than the miracle that Christ did when He changed the water into wine. When water became wine, He changed the molecules so that which is water, become fermented wine. In an even greater way, we have been changed on the Spiritual level. Our molecules of sin are now molecules of saints! Now that is different! PAUSE

Do you remember what I said I used when we went into a house to paint after the fire? Kills! We had to spray every corner to kill the stench and scars of the fire. Well the Author of life uses something betters than Kills, He uses His own precious blood. His blood covers every stench of death and scar of sin. His own blood makes us pure and holy. His blood kills, remove every sting of death and gives us new life begun here and lived with Him forever in the New Mountain of Eden.

This Advent we anticipate and celebrate newness. We look forward once again to the newness of the Babe of Bethlehem. This newness also signals our newness. We, who once bore all the marks of death and hell, are new creations! We long for that final advent when we will no longer have to wait for this. Come Lord Jesus! Bring us your eternal newness! AMEN.

Now the peace of God…