S-1298 1SIL S/3B 2/26/12 Hymns: (O) #418; (S) #440; LS. #633; #550; #620; (C) #433 LSB
Text: Genesis 22:1-18; James 1:12-18; Mark 9:1-15
Theme: “A Letter of Encouragement” (James 1:16-18) 1st of sermon series “Letters For Lent”
Question: Two questions: 1. What is an Epistle? and 2. “Are you an encourager?” Armour, SD.
In the name Jesus, Amen! The text for the 1st Sunday in Lent is the Epistle Lesson. “Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of His own will He brought us forth by the Word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures” (James 1:16-18).
My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus, the Apostle Paul in his second letter to the Church at Corinth, wrote these endearing words to encourage the Christians to walk in the walk of faith and to live in such a way, that they make someone’s life a little better. “You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all. And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God” (2 C or. 3:2‑4).
With these words, Paul reminds us of our role as the baptized and redeemed followers of Jesus. And on this First Sunday in Lent, as we gather in this place, we want to listen closely to St. James, the brother of our Lord who wrote a letter of encouragement to the first century Christians, and ask the important question: How does this letter affect me personally?
Therefore, we pray, that the Holy Spirit, will open our hearts, ears and hands to assist us in learning what is our role and purpose in this life; and what we should and shouldn’t do as we hear and heed the Word of God in making a difference in the lives of those we know. PAUSE.
Beautiful people of God, all of us enjoy and cherish receiving letters. Letters are a gift from the sender telling us they are thinking of us. I have personally witnessed people at the post office having just picked up their mail head back to their cars, sit there and open the mail and go through it. I have seen them laugh and cry as they open the letters. What a delight when we get a letter from a loved one—a soldier on the front, a child, a family member, or a friend. We read these letters because we want to know what these family and friends wrote.
If we enjoy and appreciate receiving letters from family and friends, how much more should we be joyful and thankful at the letters we have from God Himself? In the letter today, St. James encourages us to be men and women who stand firm and fight the fight of faith. In this letter we are encouraged to be a firstfruit to those around us. By these words, we are encouraged to a make a difference in the lives of others.
A letter is nothing fancy, but a piece of paper with individual letters that forms words. But oh, how precious these words are to us and what a difference they make in our lives. Some of the letters are more valuable than others depending on the sender and the content.
Ask my wife about the letters in her treasure chest. When we were engaged, I attended college and lived in Huron, SD; while she attended college and lived in Watertown. Every week, I would send her a letter and always conclude it by saying, “I love you very mush” Instead of much (at that time, I didn’t know English well).
These letters were something special for her, because I sent them. They meant something to her then and they still do today. Every once in a while she will get these letters out and reads them as a reminder of our love. These letters became a source of encouragement for her.
We all need to be encouraged because the world we live in is harsh and mean. We, daily are tempted to sin. We, daily are attacked by Satan. Daily we fight against the desires of the flesh. And in this text James reminds us and encourages us to be strong as we fight the enemy of our souls. PAUSE
This past Friday morning (3-24), when my wife and I got the mail and headed for coffee (as is our custom) there was a box addressed to me. She asked me, “What was in it?” I said, “I don’t know.” But when I opened it, I had to smile and thank God for its content and the timing. Indeed, God has a Divine sense of humor. Here is what I got, a beautiful letter and this cup (show the cup). What caught my eyes what was written on the box: “Pastor you are an encouragement to me. This cup is the definition of who you are.”
I had to smile in amazement at our Awesome and Amazing God. Here I’m, about to write the sermon on encouragement and I get a letter of encouragement and a cup to remind me of how I have encouraged this saint.
Today, as you and I assemble in this holy tabernacle, we hear the words of St. James and take them to heart. Listen again to the text please: “Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” (1:16).
This text is a letter of encouragement to each and every one of us here. With these words our eyes are focused on the “Good and perfect GIFT that came down from above.” Not a cup, but the Savior of the world. This gift of the Savior, which was given us from the Father of Lights is not a gift to encourage us. No, it is much more than that. Jesus came down from above and lived among us to be our Savior. He came to take away our sins and overcome our temptations, because we can’t and we don’t. He came to be the instrument of our salvation through His death and resurrection.
By going to the cross, He encouraged those who denied Him, persecuted Him, mocked Him and crucified Him. By His resurrection from the dead on the third day, He guaranteed their destiny and eternity. By His love He moves us to be like Him and encourage others to follow Him, serve Him and worship Him. PAUSE.
The Lord’s brother, James, has given us a letter of encouragement because we often fail to live as Christians and encourage others. We often fail to keep the Law. We often fail to be truly holy and faithful to the Lord. We deny Him, we persecute Him, we crucify Him and we run away from Him because of our sins, and because we don’t appreciate ALL the time what He has accomplished for us. Yet, with these words, we are encouraged to be steadfast and unmovable. We are encouraged to call upon Him to help us fight the enemy of our souls. We are encouraged to be in His house often, hear His Word and dine with Him at His table.
Saints in Christ, when you entered the Lord’s house today, the members of the Board of Evangelism handed you an envelope. Kindly take the content of the letter out. On the outside it states: LETTERS FOR LENT. On the inside, there are the titles of all of the upcoming Sunday’s Sermon Series.
I would like you to place that in a very special place to remind you of God’s letter for you. But, I also want to remind you, that today, you are the Letter of encouragement. Yes, as Paul reminds us saying: “You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all. And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God” Yes, that is what you are to me and others.
Therefore, I encourage you, to place a name or two people, right next to the title of each sermon. I want you, by the Spirit of God that dwells within you to lift them up before the Throne of Grace in prayers and be that letter of encouragement to them.
Oh, my beloved saints, thank God with me for the atoning sacrifice our Savior has accomplished for us on the cross, earned our salvation, and forgiven all of our sins. Because we are the recipients of such abundant grace and mercy, we are moved, by the Spirit’s power, to go out with the message of the Gospel and encourage others to live for Christ. Go my children and be a Letter of Encouragement to others for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
Now the peace of God…
SOLI DEO GLORIA