Wednesday, March 28, 2012

“Jesus on the Way to Golgotha” 6th in sermon series Places of the Passion

S-1307 6MIL/3B 3/28/12 Hymns: (O) #143 vv. 1-4; (S) #1153 (C) #155 TLH

Text: Psalm 40; Genesis 22:6-14; 1 Corinthians 2:1-9; John 19:14-17

Theme: “Jesus on the Way to Golgotha” 6th in sermon series Places of the Passion

Question: “Have you carried a heavy load for a long time?” Armour, SD.

{As the sermon begins, there will be a processional of young people carrying crosses imitating the Via Dolorosa) which Christ endured on the way to Golgotha}

Faithful followers of the Savior, the text for the 6th Midweek in Lent is from the Gospel Lesson: “So he [Pilate] delivered Him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus, and He went out, bearing His own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha” (John 19:16-17).

Saints in Christ, over the past years I have been privileged to lead tours to my home country—the Holy Land. On one of the days, we follow the way of Via Dolorosa—the way of suffering, which Christ carried His cross all the way to be crucified. Some pilgrims carry crosses (just like our young people did tonight) to imitate what took place so long ago on Friday morning as Jesus was compelled to do by the command of Pilate.

Tonight, with your blessing I like to take you on a tour, following in the footsteps of Jesus as you and I continue on the Journey to the Places of the Passion as we reach the summit of Skull Hill. Even though we are traveling together on this journey, yet this is a personal journey. No one can take it for you. You will walk in the shadows, from a distance, but can’t take your eyes of the disfigured person in front you.

Remember it is now about 8:00 a.m. on Friday morning and that Jesus has not slept all night. He has been interrogated by the High Priest and Pilate and abused brutally. Pilate tried many times to release Jesus because he KNEW, Jesus was innocent. But couldn’t; so He submits to the will of the bloodthirsty cry of the crowds—“Crucify Him! Crucify Him!”

So the order is given. They begin with the scourging, and when they are done scourging Him, Jesus collapses to the ground, and He is released from the column. As He slowly gathers His strength and rises to His feet, the mockery and humiliation continues more fervently. Roman soldiers often mocked condemned criminals, and here before them stood the beaten and bloodied Man, who was supposedly the King of the Jews.

If He was a king, then certainly He needed to be dressed like one. They took a purple cloak and threw it roughly over His bloody shoulders. If He is a king, then He must have a crown as well. So they twisted a crown from thorn branches and roughly jammed it down on His head, piercing His sensitive scalp so that blood begins to drip down His cheeks. If He is a king, He also needs a scepter—the symbol of a king’s strength and power—so they put a reed in His hands.

Then they ripped it from His grasp and struck it over His thorn-crowned head, showing just how powerless this King of the Jews was. Jesus suffered greatly from the Roman soldiers both physical and emotional brutality. But He was also suffering for them, taking on Himself God’s punishment for the horrendous and horrific way they were abusing His One and ONLY Son.

Finished with their mockery the soldiers rip the blood-soaked cloak from Jesus’ shoulders, and another wave of excruciating pain crashes through His body. Roughly dressing Him in His own clothes, they line Him up with two other condemned criminals.

Next they take a cross and put it on Him as the condemned criminal begins the very slow and agonizing trek up the mountain to the execution site. The gates of the palace are opened, and the 600 soldiers of Pilate’s Jerusalem cohort push their way through the Passover crowds, making a road for the grisly procession. Jesus’ legs tremble and ache beneath Him with each step, as He struggles to carry His cross down the narrow road leading outside the city.

After all that He has endured thus far—His beating at the hands of His Jewish enemies and His brutal flogging, He repeatedly struggles stumbles and falls. Jesus is almost dead. His energy is almost gone, and He is too weak to take another step and falls flat on His face with the cross’ weight upon Him.

After He gets a little rest, He slowly and methodically rises up and continues to take yet another step and He keeps going and going and going. You are so close to this gruesome processional, you can hear His labored breathing, you can see the blood residue on the dust below His feet, you see the grooves being plowed in the road as He drags the heavy weight of the cross; but they are not as deep as the furrows in His back. He knows what lies ahead. He is half dead. He is bleeding. He is bruised and badly beaten and He falls yet again, from the weight of it all; yet He keeps moving towards the Place of the Skull—Golgotha—the cross.

As your tour host I am encouraging you not to take your eyes of the disfigured body before you. Look at Him intently. See Him stricken, smitten and afflicted for the sins of humanity. See Him as He puts one leg in front of the other and keeps going forth to the place appointed from before the foundation of the world and offered as the ultimate sacrifice to appease God and pay the ransom price for your souls my beloved. PAUSE.

O you who are cherished and loved by the Father of all Grace and Mercy, what is that causes Jesus to keep going? Why does He trek up the Hill of DEATH? Because, He SEES YOUR FACE beyond the cross and the grave! He sees your sinful condition and He knows the only way to save you, redeem you and reconcile to a Holy God; is offering His life for yours. He loves you so much, He would rather go to hell for you, rather than heaven without you.

Tonight, we too, reach the summit of Golgotha and behold Christ’s final destination and the end of His earthly pilgrimage. How sacred should the memory of this place be to us? How holy is this night for us sinners. Here in this place, our greatest hopes are born. Here in this place salvation is earned. Here in this place, a lamb is offered to be slaughtered, a Lamb that is not caught in a thicket, but nailed to the cruel cross. And here in this place we learn that “the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanses us from ALL SINS” (1 John 1:7).

Do not forget, dear children of the heavenly Father, that Jesus did it all for the love of sinners, and you are one of those sinners. Today, we see Him as a condemned criminal under sentence of death advancing to the place of execution. Wearied and worn with agony and affliction, He takes your place so that you don’t suffer the punishment of hell and separation from God; but receive complete healing. As the prophet Isaiah reminds us: “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His wounds we are healed” (53:4-6).

All that Jesus did was for you and your benefit. Through His pain, you gain salvation and redemption. Through His agony you receive untold blessings. Through His efforts, “you will renew your strength; you shall mount up with wings like eagles; you shall run and not be weary; you shall walk and not faint (Is. 40:31 paraphrased).

As your tour host, I implore you to come often to the height of this summit, and watch Him carry His cross to GOLOGOTHA and give His all for you, in order that you may be His forever. Amen and Amen.

Now the peace of God…


Sunday, March 25, 2012

“A Letter of Salvation” (Hebrews 5:7-10) 5th of sermon series “Letters For Lent”

S-1306 5SIL/3B 3/25/12 Hymns: (O) 377 vv 1-4; (S) 377 vv 5-10; L.S. 149; 157; 314; (C) 29

Text: Jeremiah 31:31-34; Hebrews 5:1-10; Mark 10:35-45

Theme: “A Letter of Salvation” (Hebrews 5:7-10) 5th of sermon series “Letters For Lent”

Question: “Have you saved anyone’s life?” Armour, SD.

In the name Jesus, Amen! The text for the 5th Sunday in Lent is the Epistle Lesson. “In the days of His flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to Him who was able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His reverence. Although He was a son, He learned obedience through what He suffered. And being made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey Him, being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek (Hebrews 5:7-10).

You are who are cherished, loved and adored by Your Faithful God and Lord, Jesus Christ. In 1981, a Minnesota radio station reported a story about a stolen car in California. Police were staging an intense search for the vehicle and the driver, even to the point of placing announcements on local radio stations to contact the thief. On the front seat of the stolen car sat a box of crackers that, unknown to the thief, were laced with poison. The car owner had intended to use the crackers as rat bait. Now the police and the owner of the VW Bug were more interested in apprehending the thief to save his life than to recover the car.

Our loving, gracious and compassionate God is not interested in destroying us but delivering us, He is not interested in harming us but helping us, and He is not interested in sentencing us but saving us from the eternal punishment of hell and death.

It is during Lent that we see a clear picture of this love, as our High Priest Jesus, whose name means Salvation became obedient to the Father’s will. He went the way of the cross and the grave and through His merit becomes the source of Eternal Salvation—not only to the world, but my own salvation too.

The author to the Hebrews in this text defines what is the role and qualifications of Jesus our High Priest. The writer wants to show us that Jesus is a genuine High Priest, far superior to any of the descendents of Aaron, and is therefore, someone we can rely on, place our trust in, and put our hopes in because He stands before the Throne of God’s grace and speaks on our behalf and defends us against every enemy. The first qualification of Christ’s high priestly rule is that He is appointed by His heavenly Father, and the second qualification is that Christ is a perfect High Priest, able to renew, restore and revive our relationship with God.

He further paints the great act of devotion and obedience the eternal High Priest carries out throughout His earthly life—He prayed for His eternal salvation and that His prayer was answered. It was answered in His resurrection because of His “reverent submission” - He was “heard for His godly fear and total obedience in keeping the Law perfectly in our place.”

What this means is that our Lord’s Prayer was heard because of His perfect obedience, devotion and submission to the will of God. He came through the trials victorious and as such, He did not suffer annihilation.

Lent shows us again and again the cost of our salvation. It once again illustrates the price that was paid for it. Indeed, with these words, the writer of our text, takes us back into the dark Garden of Gethsemane were Jesus was “crying out with tears” to His heavenly Father in that He was “heard”. The Father heard the prayer of His Son because He was found obedient.

Many times we speak of the cross, its benefits and its blessings. But we don’t take time to view the cost of the cross or understand the price paid for our salvation. We speak of the cross; but don’t look at it as an instrument of torture; but more as a decoration around our necks, homes or churches. But don’t be fooled my beloved and His, the cross was foreboding and tormenting for the Savior—our High Priest—Jesus the Christ.

To be sure, the cross is more than just a symbol of good luck to be kissed at a BB game or football game, or making the sign of the cross as many soccer players do before entering the game. NO, the cross is our hope. The cross is our life. The cross is our salvation. The Cross is our redemption. And the cross is the BRIDGE between us and our holy God.

In the Gospel reading today, we heard Jesus say: “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Mk. 10:45) Yes, this is the Ransom paid for our salvation. Certainly Jesus had to struggle with all the temptations, tests, strife..... that are part of human existence. Faced with the cross, He chose the path of honor and integrity rather than dishonor and in so doing could stand before God as the tested and honorable Son - having emerged perfect through suffering for your sake and mine.

Oh, what a letter of Salvation the author to the Hebrews shares with us this morning: that Christ was “made perfect”. Christ is perfect in the sense that He is the fully qualified Savior of His people, having traveled the way of faithfulness unto death, and He is God’s designated perfect high priest according to the type of Melchizedek, which priesthood was not Aaronic, but rather an eternal order which was superior in nature. As God’s high priest, Christ is the pathfinder and source of a permanently valid “eternal” salvation for His people. This salvation is available to all who by faith hold on to Him as their Lord and Savior.

This is the Letter of Salvation for today and every day. A Letter that brings hope to the hopeless, light to those in darkness, wholeness to those who are broken, and life to those who are dead. This letter is yours to share with all people just like the radio station in Minnesota did when they wanted to save the thief of the VW car from eating the poison laced crackers.

What a privilege the Savior, Jesus Christ our High Priest gives us to be His Letter of Salvation to share with those around us. What a blessing that our High Priest chooses us to be His Royal priests to share His love and mercy with a world that desperately needs to be saved. What an honor that our Suffering Servant, the Lamb slain on the Altar of the cross bestows upon us to be His instrument of delivering good news to a bad-news world.

Saints in Christ, every time we are found in the Lord’s house we hear again the message of this Letter of Salvation that changes our lives for the better. Every time we are guests at His table we receive the gift of salvation. We are indeed blessed by our High Priest to have His Word, to read it and receive its benefits—the forgiveness of sins and life everlasting. PAUSE. But at times we don’t feel our salvation. Our sins and situations in life cause us to doubt that God is our salvation. Don’t think that you are alone in this. But the Holy Spirit moves you to trust Him completely as David did when he was running from his son Absalom. This is what David wrote: “O Lord, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me; many are saying of my soul, there is no salvation for him in God. But You, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. I cried aloud to the Lord, and He answered me from His holy hill. I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the Lord sustained me. I will not be afraid of many thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around. Arise, O Lord! Save me, O my God! For You strike all my enemies on the cheek; You break the teeth of the wicked. Salvation belongs to the Lord; Your blessing be on Your people!” (Ps. 3).

Yes, our salvation IS guaranteed by the One who came to earth to redeem, restore and revive us to God. I don’t know if the thief of the VW was found. But I KNOW you and I have been found by Him who went looking for us our High Priest—Jesus Christ, to Him be glory now and forever. Amen.

Now the peace…


Thursday, March 22, 2012

“Jesus in the Courtyard” 5th in sermon series Places of the Passion

S-1305 5MIL/3B 3/21/12 Hymns: (O) #151 vv. 1-4; (S) #145; (C) #151 vv. 5-7TLH

Text: Psalm 26; Exodus 14:26-31; Acts 25:1-12; Matthew 27:1-2, 11-14, 24-26

Theme: “Jesus in the Courtyard” 5th in sermon series Places of the Passion

Question: “Have you ever stood for a long time?” Armour, SD.

Faithful followers of the Savior, the text for the 5th Midweek in Lent is from the Gospel Lesson: When morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put Him to death. And they bound Him and led Him away and delivered Him over to Pilate the governor(Matthew 27:1-2).

Saints in Christ, Jesus has had a very rough night filled with emotions, anguish, and pain. It all started out in the Upper Room late last night, when He told Judas His betrayer, “What you are about to do, do quickly!” and it just kept getting worse. From there they head to Gethsemane. There He is all alone. The disciples fall asleep while He is praying and no one is there to soothe or comfort Him. He prays profusely so that His sweat is like drops of blood. Then the betrayer comes and with a kiss sells His friend for 30 pieces of silver. They chain Him, dragging Him first to Annas, then to Caiaphas and there more torture and humiliation. By now His body is aching from all that He has gone through.

From the moment the Rabbi woke up on Thursday morning till now, it has been a little over 30 hours without sleep, without rest and without peace. And most of the time He has been standing for interrogation. But it is still getting worse. As the night came they put Him in a dungeon.

Having condemned Jesus, the Jewish leaders now bind Him, lead Him away and deliver Him over to the Roman governor Pontius Pilate—exactly as Jesus predicted several times before. It is now early Friday morning. Off they go to the Governor’s Palace and drag the bound-up Jesus with them to be tried as a criminal against the State of Rome—and Pilate as the Judge to condemn Him to death by crucifixion. But they themselves did not enter the Praetorium in order not to defile themselves before the Passover by being in the house of a gentile.

What hypocrisy do we witness in the early morning hours of Friday in the Courtyard by these Jewish leaders? What holy men are these! They had just most out­rageously sentenced an innocent man to death. They had been the chief accusers to the crime of perjury, they were criminal participants in the outrageous treatment given Jesus; but, ironically, they could not step within the shadow of a pile of stone and mortar for that would make them unfit. What a strange compound is human nature. How blind sin makes it. What terrible things it will do in the name of religion, to serve their cause. What injustice do we behold them acting.

Like ravenous wolves, the Chief Priests and the Jewish leaders began to make one accusation after another. They were waiting for blood to spill from His sacred veins. There is no denying it; they wanted Him dead. They wanted Him out of the picture. But since they can’t crucify Him, they bring Him to Pilate to be the judge and jury and sentence Him to death on a cross.

What irony we behold in the early morning hours, as we review the scene. Jesus is fatigued, weary, haggard, pale, bearing the marks of physical abuse, and ready to fall from exhaustion, Yet He stands tall and strong. He doesn’t try to defend Himself against His accusers. No, He remains silent. Through Scripture we learn the truth that they wouldn’t understand or believe: “He came unto His own, but His own received Him not.” How sad. What mockery and travesty. All is playing out in the courtyard.

Consider the scene before us and what a strange scene it is! On the throne of judgment sits a regional governor of a conquered province: before Him stands in chains, the Judge, the King, of heaven as well as earth. What irony we behold here; the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy: He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth” (Is. 53:7).

Why might you ask? Why does Jesus the King of heaven and earth remain silent? You and I are different. When we are accused the first thing we want to do is defend ourselves. We want the world to know the truth that we are not as bad as they are painting us to be. We swear in the name of God that we are not guilty. That is our nature.

Even the Apostle Paul, wouldn’t remain silent before Festus in Caesarea (our second reading for tonight). He speaks in his defense and tells them the truth he is not guilty of any of the charges against him. He wouldn’t let Festus send him to Jerusalem to be tried, but asked to go to Caesar instead.

But not Jesus! Jesus remained silent for you and me, for this reason He came. St. John put it this way: “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (1:29). Yes, behold Him please as He in the early hours without sleep, without companions, without anyone to defend Him or rescue Him—standing all ALONE for you my beloved. PAUSE.

With His silence Pilate is amazed at this strong Man before Him. After reviewing the case and the evidence, Pilate came to the clear conclusion that Jesus is innocent of all charges. Saying, “I found no fault in this man. I will scourge Him and release Him”. But that wouldn’t do. Their eyes pop out and the vessels on their necks expand as they scream for His death. They wouldn’t let the Judge give the innocent verdict.

Yet, since we read in every Gospel account that Pilate found no fault in Jesus and wanted to set Him free, we have to ask: What happened to justice? Why did Pilate change his mind? Matthew even says that Pilate’s wife, Claudia Porcula, had dreamed about Jesus and sent word to her husband: “Don't have anything to do with that innocent man” (Matthew 27:19). But the screams of the Jewish leaders prevailed. They kept pushing Pilate into a corner.

He finally asks Jesus to get away from the crowds and follow Him inside. And there in the quietness of the chamber, He asks Jesus, “Are You a King?” Jesus answers, “Do you say this of yourself or others told you about Me?” Pilate is in a frenzy. He doesn’t know how to get out of this situation. He knows without a shadow of a doubt that Jesus is innocent but not a threat to Rome, so he decides to pull the Ace in his sleeve.

It is the governor’s custom to release a prisoner of minor offenses during the festivities to show favoritism to the Jews. But early Friday morning, he will up the ante and decides to give them a choice between a real criminal Barabbas or this simpleton, Jesus. And again with a roar, the Jewish leaders ask for Pilate to crucify Him. At long last, Pilate can’t take it anymore and gives in to the ravenous wolves and condemns Jesus to be flogged and then be nailed on the cross. PAUSE.

My beloved and His beloved, Pilate asked a very important question that you and I must answer also. Who is Jesus—a rebel or royalty; a murderer or Messiah; a sinister or Savior? Is He a King? But more importantly is He Your King and Lord.

I pray that you and I would be bold enough to stand shoulder to shoulder with Christians and proclaim that He is not only a King, but my King who lives in my heart and I would gladly pay homage to Him any day and anywhere.

In our O.T. reading we read of the great redemptive deliverance Moses brought about in the early morning hours as the Israelites walked on dry ground but Pharos’ army drowned in the Red Sea. Tonight as you and I stand in the early hours of Good Friday, we see greater and far grandeur redemption—ours—worked in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Know this my beloved. In the early hours that long ago Friday the Jews wouldn’t go into the palace because they didn’t want to defile themselves, so that they can observe and celebrate the Passover. But Jesus takes the punishment of our sins, so that we, who are defiled may not remain outside the Palace of Grace or in the courtyard; but be brought in with Him to the Holy of holies and live with Him forever.

Yes, behold Him in the early hours of Friday standing in the courtyard in your place. Amen.

Now the peace…


Sunday, March 18, 2012

“A Letter of Preparation” (Ephesians 2:10) 4th of sermon series “Letters For Lent”

S-1304 4SIL/3B 3/18/12 Hymns: (O) #300; (S) #149; (C) #540

Text: Numbers 21:4-9; Ephesians 2:1-10; John 3:14-21

Theme: “A Letter of Preparation” (Ephesians 2:10) 4th of sermon series “Letters For Lent”

Question: “Are you well prepared?” Armour, SD.

In the name Jesus, Amen! The text for the 4th Sunday in Lent is the Epistle Lesson. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:10).

You are who are cherished, loved and adored by Your Faithful God and Lord, Jesus Christ. Today we pray that the Holy Spirit will give us faith to grasp the mystery of His suffering, death, and resurrection as we continue our journey with Him this Lenten season to the cross and beyond that, to the empty tomb; as we consider our role as A LETTER OF PREPARATION.

The Apostle Peter writes: “But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being PRREPARED {emphasis mine} to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15). Pastor Pete exhorts us to always be prepared. But for what? To tell everyone of the hope that fills our hearts. That hope has been given to us as a gift from Him who suffered, died and rose again—Jesus the Christ.

The Missionary preacher—Paul, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit has penned the words of the text, “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”. (Eph. 2:8-10).

I am amazed at how many of our saints know those two verses, but don’t know the following verse (10). I call it “the most forgotten verse among Lutherans”. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them We know that we have been saved. We know we have been redeemed. We know we have been restored to God again. We know it is all the work of God. We know we shouldn’t boast about it, since it is not our doing—it is ALL the work of Christ. But we fail to understand and tell the world that God has prepared us for loving service in His kingdom.

To be prepared is a wise thing. The other day, I was reading the March issue of LW (2012), and on P. 5 found this advertisement (show picture) Preparing for ‘Rainy Days’. It is important and prudent that we plan for the future, for retirement, for health care and other things.

All of us in this room prepare for all sorts of activities: A mother prepares supper for her family. A coach prepares his team for the next game or tournament. A contractor prepares to make sure he has all the materials and help needed for the job. A CEO prepares for his next board meeting. An attorney reviews the case in preparation for the upcoming court. A teacher prepares her lesson plan. And a Pastor prepares to write and deliver his sermon.

But what about being spiritually prepared? What about being prepared for the work the Lord has given us to do—His loving, caring and serving others? What about being prepared to share the Gospel with those around us? What about being prepared to always to give a reason for the hope that is within us.

In this letter to the Ephesians, Paul exhorts and encourages the saints to live out their calling. He moves them to be prepared to do the work God had established before the foundation of the world for us to do.

Look at your life and answer these questions: Am I spiritually prepared to meet my maker? Am I prepared to share the Good News with all people? Am I prepared to defend the faith? Am I prepared to honor my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ with my life—whole life, not just for one hour on Sunday morning or when people are looking? Am I willing to forsake all, but not Christ? PAUSE.

John Hus, who was born in 1369 was a Czech priest, philosopher, reformer, and master at Charles University in Prague. He lived 100 years prior to Martin Luther. We are told that when John Hus 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. And on July 6, 1415 he was burned at the stake.

This event in the life of John Hus and other Reformer prepared Monk Luther 100 years later to be the Great Reformer, who would stand against all declaring that we are saved by Grace Alone, by Scripture Alone, and through Faith Alone (Three Solas). Luther became the Letter of preparation for many others in His solid and strong stand on the Divine Word of God.

You and I are blessed because we have had others who prepared to teach us the truth of Scripture that we are saved by Christ alone through His death and resurrection apart from any works or worthiness in us. Thank God for Pastors, Godly parents like Nathan and Becky who bring their children like Allison to receive the gift of grace in the waters of Baptism, teachers who have instructed the young the precious Life-Giving Word of God.

Today, this church, Redeemer Lutheran of Armour, SD after 71 years stands strong and firm in preparing you to be the letters God wants you to be. For 71 years Pastor after Pastor, teacher after teacher, parent after other parent have passed on this letter to prepare their children to receive this God giving gift of faith.

What a blessing to know we are indeed loved and cherished by Pastors and parents alike. What a blessing for us to become parents that we might prepare our children to know the Scripture, live by the Scripture and teach the Scripture to the next generation.

We do all of this not to boast but because it is our privilege having being prepared to go out in His name and tell the World of our Awesome and Gracious Savior, who prepared Himself faithfully to giving up His life for our sins and paying the punishment of hell for us.

From the day He was baptized, Jesus began the preparation of laying down His life. He prepared for the moment of choosing the 12 by spending all night in prayers. He Prepared and equipped the 12 disciples to go in His name and preach the Gospel to the ends of the earth. In His final week, He prayed often as He prepared Himself and followers for that which was to come—death by crucifixion. When Good Friday rolled around He was well prepared to say, “Father, into Your hands I commit My Spirit.” He was well prepared to say to the thief next to Him: “Today, YOU will be with Me in Paradise.” He was well prepared to say to those who hated Him, spit upon Him, dragged Him, beat Him and crucified Him, “Father, forgive them because they don’t know what they do!”

By the grace of God today, you and I are the new believers—His workmanship created to do good work. As a believer, I am a unique design of the God of all compassion and grace. He who put faith in the Savior into my heart expects me to show it in my daily life. He wants me to follow His Son’s example in life, not as a cause for salvation but as a result of salvation. He wants me, like someone who had received a glorious gift to throw my arms around His neck in appreciation for what I have received.

My beloved saints, today again, you have received the grace of God in the words of forgiveness and the miracle of baptism. Today, you have been well prepared by the power of the Holy Spirit to be His letters. Today, the Holy Spirit exhorts you to go out and share that glorious hope not because you “have to”, but because you “WANT TO.”

As a letter of preparation, we want to go in His name to every place and tell them of the Hope and joy and peace that fill our hearts on account of Christ our Savior. In His mighty name Amen.

Now the peace…


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

“Jesus before Annas and Caiaphas” 4th in sermon series Places of the Passion

S-1303 4MIL/3B 3/14/12 Hymns: (O) #518 vv. 1-4; (S) #156; (C) #518 vv. 6-7 TLH

Text: Psalm 27:1-10; Acts 4:1-12; Isaiah 60:1-3; John 18:12-24

Theme: “Jesus before Annas and Caiaphas” 4th in sermon series Places of the Passion

Question: “Have you ever stood a Trial” Armour, SD.

Faithful followers of the Savior, the text for the 4th Midweek in Lent is from the Gospel Lesson: So the band of soldiers and their captain and the officers of the Jews arrested Jesus and bound Him. First they led Him to Annas, for he was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year. It was Caiaphas who had advised the Jews that it would be expedient that one man should die for the people(John 18:12-14).

(I am holding in my hand the Jerusalem Records and I begin to read) You just can’t miss the headline JESUS ARRESTED!!! DISCIPLES FLEE!! As I read this article it is clear that something BIG happened last night! CAN YOU BELIEVE IT! Jesus the Rabbi from Nazareth, arrested, chained and dragged to the High Priest Annas. Late last night, one of Jesus’ own followers Judas, led a band of soldiers and officers with torches, clubs and swords to the criminal’s hideout at the bottom of the slopes of the Mt. of Olives. The Rabbi was identified by a kiss from Judas. At the signal, the soldiers and officers grabbed Him, chained Him, and dragged Him the 2 miles walk in the dark to the house of Annas. This is big news. This Jesus is the real thing. And to have Him betrayed by one of His own is just unthinkable!

Here is what the article says...

“Late last night, under the cover of darkness the popular but controversial Rabbi Jesus of Nazareth was arrested by armed members of the High Priest’s Guard. They were led to the Garden of Gethsemane by one of Jesus’ own Disciples, Judas Iscariot. After the arrest Jesus was tried and convicted after much testimony that often seemed to contradict each other. Then, after the conviction, He is to be sent on to the Roman Governor Pontius Pilate to deal with Him as the High Counsel has asked—to crucify Him on a Roman cross until DEAD.

Following His arrest, the sinless Son of God was tried as a common criminal and sentenced to death. During the night and into the next morning a total of six trials were conducted—three by the Jews and three by the Romans. As we consider each of these horrendous trials, it will become quite clear who was really innocent and who was really guilty!” {End of article}

My beloved saints, isn’t it something, the very idea that Jesus “Our heavenly High Priest” (Rom. 8:34) tonight must go before Caiaphas an earthly “High Priest” How paradoxical this seems to us. Jesus is the Long expected King of king and Lord of lords. Yet, tonight with this fraudulent and false trial, He must stand with great humility and face an earthly ruler and be subjected to an undeserved punishment. How extreme an idea is this?

When we consider everything that led up to this point in Jesus’ life then perhaps this paradox can be better understood. This night of ever growing darkness found it’s beginning not in the heart of man—but in the heart of God from before the foundations of the world. Yes our Heavenly Father conceived in His Divine wisdom something quite unfathomable to our understanding. He knew that His perfect creation would fall (not-fail) in the Garden of Eden.

Dear brothers and sisters God could have created His beloved as robots and pawns. But where is the glory in that. Instead the Lord Almighty gave men a choice, “You are free to eat from any tree in the Garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die” (Gen. 2:17).

The Choice is clear. “Obey Him and live—disobey and die.” Die? Yes Die. Because when we disobey God we have placed something in our hearts that doesn’t belong. We have put ourselves above God. We have taken that which is holy, pure and lovely and replaced it with that which is unholy, impure and unlovely. By this act, we have placed something before God and when we do that we have cast aside the gift of another tree found in the Garden of Eden. “The Tree of LIFE.” (Gen. 2:9) The Tree of LIFE dear saints is none other than He who stands before Caiaphas this evening.

Yet, as much as the arrest and trials of Jesus were completely unjustified, it is clear that there was an even greater injustice that happened last night. It was not the Romans who perpetrated it. It wasn’t the turncoat Judas either. No, the greatest injustice last night was worked by Simon Peter himself. The great and bold spokesman spoke volumes last night. But what he said was not a confession of faith. No, his words were words of denial. Three times Peter denied Him. With each denial the force of the denial got louder and stronger.

And this denial did not go unnoticed. It was noticed by Jesus! Oh, if it wasn’t for that stupid rooster who crowed, Peter, may have not been awakened to the injustice at hand. But as the rooster crowed, Jesus’ eyes met Peter’s. When that happened, you could feel the emotions—like a river flowing from Peter’s heart to his eyes. When Jesus caught the eye of Peter when He is at His trial, the look was real. But what did that look, LOOK like? It was a mixture of Pity, sadness, hurt, disappointment. I could preach a sermon on all of these points. But tonight let us concentrate on that which is before us—Jesus before the High Priest. Our District President Rev. Dr. Sattgast has often shared with us at the BOD meeting a line he shared with his children: “IS IT WORTH IT?” I wonder if Peter would say that his efforts to stay out of trouble by denying Jesus was worth it? I wonder if Peter could take back those brave and bold words he spoke without thinking and realizing, is it worth it?

That night in the courtyard of the High Priest, that stupid rooster had to crow. Eye to Eye; we see the mirror of the soul. Jesus was the One person who could read body language better than anyone else. When He saw Peter, there was a double pain. Seeing Peter’s pain at the ghastly confession he had just made and Jesus suffering for Peter taking no pleasure in Peter’s pain. In that moment, you see deep love, deeper pain; and the deeper the pain, the deeper the LOVE.

The love that is so deep and so high is seen only in one place. The cross! Christ Jesus is the TREE OF LIFE, and ever since the fall of the first man, all other men have lost the ability to dine on Him. But there is hope, “God so loved the world that He gave His One and ONLY Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (Jn. 3:16).

In order that we may be restored to Gods original plan for us of living forever with Him—The Father sent His Son to this very moment in front of the earthly false High Priest Caiaphas to grant the Grace of our Lord even to Caiaphas. As Jesus is being interrogated by Caiaphas, one of the soldiers of the High Priest smack Jesus—the Real High Priest on the face. There He stands as He awaits the condemnation and the punishment that soon will be handed down—death that fallen man deserves. But they cannot condemn a perfect Man, so in order to do so they must bring false charges against Him. “This fellow said, ‘I Am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days’” (Mt.26:61).

The charge would claim that Jesus was talking about an earthly building-the man made temple in Jerusalem. When in truth, Jesus uttered this statement He was speaking of Himself the true temple of worship. This then is our Gospel for this evening and every day. Jesus was condemned on false charges—but His words ring true. The Jerusalem Record may speak of the botched up trial, the denial, the betrayal, and blatant abuse of injustice that condemned Him to death. But you dear saints take heart that your names are not written in the headlines of the Jerusalem Record, but IN the Lamb’s Book of Life. And on Easter Sunday the true temple and the Real High Priest, Jesus the Christ, was raised from the dead. He Has risen! He Has risen indeed! ALLUIEA! AMEN!

Now the peace…


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

“A Letter of Instruction” (1 Cor. 1:22-25) 3rd of sermon series “Letters For Lent”

S-1303 3SIL/3B 3/11/12 Hymns: (O) #5; (S) #333; L.S #18; #57; #8 SOD (C) #354

Text: Exodus 20:1-17; 1 Corinthians 1:18-31; John 2:13-22

Theme: “A Letter of Instruction” (1 Cor. 1:22-25) 3rd of sermon series “Letters For Lent”

Question: “Are you easily instructed?” Armour, SD.

In the name Jesus, Amen! The text for the 3rd Sunday in Lent is the Epistle Lesson. “For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men (1 Cor. 1:22-25).

Saints in Christ, the sermon theme for today is: “A Letter of Instruction.” With that in mind, I share with you this Chinese proverb: “Give me a fish and feed me for a day, teach me to fish and feed me for a life-time.” It is vitally important for us as Christians to be taught, not only to fish to feed ourselves and family, but more significantly, to be taught the Truth of Scriptures that feeds us for eternity.

The problem is we are a people who are not well versed in the Bible, its meaning and what it is that we believe, teach and confess as Lutheran Christians. I would venture to say that many of you can’t give a clear distinction between our church body and other Lutheran bodies. Many don’t know what the Catholics believe and why we don’t commune at their table. Many can’t clearly explain why we practice the very loving and Biblical doctrine of close communion; why we don’t have women pastors; why our liturgy is so important; and why we are different in our teachings from other Christian denominations.

Let me tell you, that in the middle of the 19th Century, the founding fathers of our church body decided to be aloof, arrogant, separate, distant, excluded and so haughty that they didn’t want anyone to be part of their church body or come to the Lord’s Table. These German Lutherans didn’t want to associate with anyone and keep the sweet message of the Gospel just for themselves. That is why they decided to practice close communion. PAUSE.

If you believe what I just told you about our founding fathers, then I have some ocean-side property for sale. (Smile).

Often times, we don’t know the truth, nor do we want to be instructed to learn the truth. At times we make things up pretending we know it all. I share this story with you to make my point clear.

In the early 1900, a lively looking attendant stood on the rear platform of a sleeping-car in the Pennsylvania station when a fussy and grumpy old man clambered up the steps. He stopped at the door, puffed for a moment, and then turned to the young man in uniform. “Porter,” he said. “I’m going to St. Louis, to the Fair. I want to be well taken care of. I pay for it. Do you understand?” Yes, sir, but—” The old man started up again, “Never mind any ‘buts.’ You listen to what I say. Keep the train boys away from me. Dust me off whenever I want you to. Give me an extra blanket, and if there is any one in the bunk above me put him in another room. I want you to—”

The attendant said, “But sir—”. The old man once again silenced him saying, “Young man, when I’m giving instructions I prefer to do the talking myself. You do as I say. Here is $5.00. I don’t want anyone to bother me. Not a word sir, you understand?” The train was starting to leave. The attendant pocketed the bill with a smile and swung himself to the ground. “All right, boss!” he shouted. “You can do the talking if you want to. I’m terribly sorry you wouldn’t let me tell you—but I am not going on that train.” PAUSE.

How often do we find ourselves like this grumpy old man doing the speaking but not willing to listen to others? Certainly, we don’t want to be instructed. And the heart of the matter is the matter of the heart. We don’t want to be taught, because our hearts are sinful and want to be the master of our destination.

But it is during Lent that we realize that we need a Savior. It is during Lent that we see our falling sinful nature. It is during Lent that we understand how terrible sin is and what it does for us as it pushes us away from our holy God.

I want all of you to do an exercise as I instruct you. Take two fingers like this. clip_image002First, God is God and the second, we are not. That was the way it was in the Garden of Eden until sin came into the picture and now the fingers are invertedclip_image004. Now I am God and He is not. That is the definition of sin, all sin. I will be in control, not God. I will live my life according to my way, not God’s. I will be boss, not God. Repentance is bringing the fingers back to their original position, and of course, only God the Holy Spirit can bring about that change. God is still God and I am not.

That is what we have in the text before us today. Even the people at the time of St. Paul, had it all mixed up and were not willing to be instructed. That is what He told them: “For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”

Indeed, the Jews demand sign and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles. The cross is an instrument of healing but only to those who believe its message. The cross is the bridge that connects redeemed people with a holy God. The cross is the message that brings about forgiveness and peace between God and man by the Man Jesus Christ. To many it is nothing but showing a weak Savior who died at the hands of Roman soldiers. To many it is an embarrassment. To many it is nothing but foolishness.

Everything that we teach, believe and confess flows from the cross and the empty tomb. Everything that we carry out in this house of worship is based on Jesus’ life and His living Word. People may not believe it, but we do. People may not understand it, but we have the Holy Spirit to help us gain His wisdom. People may not like it and neither do we, but for us to grow in the knowledge and grace of God, we need Him in our life. (Go back to the hand sign again). It is during Lent that we come to our senses. During Lent we acknowledge our sinfulness and seek His forgiveness. During Lent the Holy Spirit helps us let God be God and me be me. During Lent we walk with Jesus, see Him bruised and bloodied for our sake. During Lent we, by the power of the Holy Spirit, learn more and more of what it is that He has done to free us from the devil’s strong hold.

What a privilege to know that our wisdom, our smarts is nothing but foolishness in the sight of God. What a privilege that we have the written Word of God, to read it and be instructed by it. What a privilege to know that the Letter of Instruction from Paul is one that will draw us to a closer walk with Jesus. What a blessing to be here and be instructed in those things that lead to eternal life.

As we are instructed we learn. As we learn we become instructors. We are blessed, honored and privileged to be in the Lord’s house so that we become Letters of instructions to those around us. The Holy Spirit makes you a teacher of His blessed Word so that you can speak with confidence about what it is that saves us, what it is that draws us to Him and what it is that separates us from Him.

Today, I encourage you and implore you in the name of the loving Savior, who died and rose for you to be that kind of letter. Study His Word, learn His Word and grow through His Word and then teach it to your family, friend and neighbor.

May we be faithful in being willing to be instructed in His truth and teachers of this truth? Amen.

Now the peace…


Friday, March 9, 2012

“Jesus before His Betrayer” (Mt. 26:47‑49). 3rd in sermon series Places of the Passion

S-1301 3MIL/3B 3/07/12 Hymns: (O) #551 vv. 1-3; (S) #153; (C) #551 vv. 4-6 TLH

Text: Psalm 16:81-88; Isaiah 45:5-11; Galatians 6:1-10; Matthew 26:47‑56,

Theme: “Jesus before His Betrayer” (Mt. 26:47‑49). 3rd in sermon series Places of the Passion

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

Faithful followers of the Savior, the text for the 3rd Midweek in Lent is from the Gospel Lesson: “While He was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a great crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, ‘The one I will kiss is the Man; seize Him.’ And he came up to Jesus at once and said, ‘Greetings, Rabbi!’ And he kissed Him’” (Matthew 26:47‑49).

Beloved in the Lord, last week, we saw Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane pleading with His heavenly Father for help to take away the Cup of Suffering, but there was none; to His disciples and they were sleeping. He spent hours in prayer and preparation for the final battle. And at the end of the raging conflict in that dark, dismal and dreary night, Jesus came to His disciples, and said: “Rise, let us be going; see, My betrayer is at hand.” (Mt. 26:46b).

Never had that bright Middle Eastern moon looked down on a deed of darkness such as is now to be executed; never before or since has it been the sad duty of historians to tell of such a heinous crime; only in the heart of those who sneak and slither in the dark and slimy corridors of hell could such an act of iniquity have been born.

Come with me now as we continue on the journey to the Places of the Passion and behold that Fateful Kiss that condemned an innocent man to death. Come and see with your own eyes a very dear and precious son of Abraham, convicting The Son of Abraham with the “kiss of death.” PAUSE.

It all started few hours ago in the Upper Room in preparation for the Passover Meal. The Rabbi had taken a basin and towel and washed the disciples’ feet. While they were reclining and partaking of The Meal of Forgiveness, Jesus said: “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me” (Mt. 26:21). Soon after, Jesus watched one of His own—Judas, walk away from the Meal of LOVE, knowing that forgiveness would be there for this fellow, but he was not going to believe it. What a hard thing it must have been for Jesus to say, “It would have been better if he had never been born.”

Look at Jesus’ face in contrast to the bright Middle Eastern moon and see the pain etched on His face. Do you see the sting and sorrow, anguish and ache, the pang and pain in Jesus’ face? Throughout His earthly ministry He has been teaching and telling others, “For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Mk. 10:45). But the One Jesus loved wouldn’t permit Jesus to serve him, love him, save him or forgive him.

My precious saints, if you’ve ever been betrayed by a close friend, family member, or even a husband or wife, then you know what bitter pain will strike Jesus when He watches one of His own disciples bringing soldiers into the garden where He often met with His band of followers to betray Him with a kiss. But why?

Judas seems to have had every possible spiritual advantage. He was chosen to be one of the twelve by Jesus. For three years, he traveled and lived as a disciple of the Rabbi. Judas heard Jesus teach, preach and tell parables; he saw the many healings and other miracles; He helped pass out food during the feeding of the 5000; he was there to see Jesus raise the dead and he was even in the boat when Jesus calmed the storm at sea. Imagine what those three years must have been like. He tasted first-hand, the sweet message of love and grace from His Rabbi Jesus.

How could Judas do such a dreadful thing, after all that he had seen & done? How could he be exposed to Jesus everyday, for all that time, hearing the incredible and amazing things Jesus said, seeing the marvelous and miracles Jesus did, how could he in the end, betray Him? How could he be so unmoved, so little effect on him as to not respond with amazement and gratitude? Doesn’t it make you wonder, how come and why did Judas do it?

Let me be very candid. The Bible is quite explicit, that it was Judas alone as the culprit. He had a choice. The text holds him responsible for his decision. He wasn’t a puppet or pawn, patsy or powerless to do anything else. On the night of the Last Supper, in the Upper Room, this disciple was next to Jesus in the place of honor, and Jesus washed his feet as an expression of love. Scripture is clear that even then, Jesus was holding open a door, a possibility – a desire to Judas to repent, and to not go through with his terrible arrangement. Judas had another option, but he chose to betray His Lord. How sad.

Certainly, that betrayal by His closest companion, one of His very own, with the Fateful Kiss, sealed His fate; and shows the depravity of man. Here we see the heart of man for what it really is—always evil. Sin is never as horrible as when it uses holy things to accomplish its wicked end. It is like putting poison in a drink.

But what about us? How many times have we betrayed our Lord? How many times have we done the evil under the Midwest moon and like a snake slithering into the slimy and murky waters of death and destruction? How many times have we witnessed the mighty miracles of Jesus in our lives, only to turn and join camps with the devil? How often have we dishonored and disobeyed the Lord of heaven and earth, because He didn’t do what we thought He should do. PAUSE.

Tonight, as we witness first-hand the betrayal of the Sinless Son of God with that Fateful Kiss, let me share with you that we are not above Judas or any other person. Let us not stand in pomp and power saying, “I will NEVER do anything like this!” But oh, we do, and often. We sin much, we fall flat on our face, and we run and hide from God, because our hearts are filled with sin and malice.

That is why Jesus came to earth. That is why He entered Jerusalem. That is why He prayed in Gethsemane. That is why He allowed Himself to be betrayed. Ant that is why He is here this evening with you and me to give us comfort as we hear the Word spoken and applied to our broken hearts.

When Judas came, he had a host of people with Him, with lanterns and swords. They were expecting Jesus to be hiding and afraid. Instead, He walked to them and spoke 3 very important Words that should give us hope, comfort and joy. “I AM HE!”

“I Am He,” answered Jesus. “I Am Jesus of Nazareth, whom ye seek.” It appears that with these words, Jesus affirmed all of the things He had spoken about Himself. These enemies knew these things about Him. With these 3 words: “I Am He,” they were all explained. I Am the Light of the world; he that follows Me will not walk in darkness”. “I Am the true Bread which came down from heaven; if any man eat of this bread he shall live forever”. “I Am the resurrection and the life; he that believes in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live”. “I Am the good shepherd”. “If you don’t believe I Am He you shall die in your sins.” “Before Abraham was I Am.” Certainly never had any mighty one spoken words of such honor, such majesty, and of such power as the Lord Jesus in these words: I Am He”.

Notice with your eyes tonight beloved in the Lord, the might and power of these three words: Before Jesus gives His life over into the hands of His enemies; the unrighteous must fall into the dust before the King of Truth—this demonstrates that Jesus will reign supreme over every evil force; and shows Himself the Victor and Conqueror. And the Words of the Apostle Paul in Philippians are a foreshadow of that which is to come: Therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father”. Yes, Jesus is not afraid of His betrayer or those who came to arrest Him. He goes willingly to the cross.

Tonight, as we stand beneath the Midwest moon and see the Betrayer doing his evil deed, and hear Jesus speak His mighty and powerful three Words: “I Am He,” may we take comfort that He will never betray us. He will never leave us, but always and forever, He is reaching out to us in mercy and love and calling us to repentance. Here tonight, you will learn anew the love of Jesus who came as the heaven-sent Ambassador to lay down His life as a ransom for many—YOU DEAR SAINTS.

Join me therefore, in proclaiming to the world, that Jesus is He who has saved us, forgiven us, and loved us to death. In His name and for His sake, Amen!!!

Now the peace…


Sunday, March 4, 2012

“A Letter of LOVE” (Romans 5:6-8) 2nd of sermon series “Letters For Lent”

S-1300 2SIL/3B 3/04/12 Hymns: (O) #657; (S) #430; LSB (C) #245

Text: Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16 Romans 5:1-11; Mark 8:27-38

Theme: “A Letter of LOVE” (Romans 5:6-8) 2nd of sermon series “Letters For Lent”

Two Questions: “How do you show love?” Armour, SD.

In the name Jesus, Amen! The text for the 2nd Sunday in Lent is the Epistle Lesson. “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6-8).

Saints in Christ, they say that “Love is ALL you need.” Love makes the world go round.” “Love changes you.” and “Love changes others!” Do you believe these statements? Is it true that all we need is love? These words maybe lofty, honorable and glorious, but people don’t want just words, they want action. Love is an active verb. It isn’t just the sentimental, mushy, nostalgic or trite. True love is demonstrated by word and deed.

In Salt Lake City, in 1987, a young wife and mother of two, Stacy Bess, whose dream was becoming a teacher, sets out to obtain her first teaching position after graduating from college. With the school year already underway and her teaching options limited, she finds herself accepting a job at “A School With No Name,” where she is expected to teach homeless children from grades 1-6 in the same classroom. Stacey is excited by the opportunity and earnestly prepares for her first day; however, her dream becomes a nightmare when she arrives at the shelter. The building is chained; the “classroom” is a filthy shed with few tattered books, one desk, several old mismatched chairs and a resident rat. The school district’s personnel director (Timothy Busfield) who hired her remains unreachable when she repeatedly tries to solicit resources. Additionally, the undernourished, unkempt and unruly children and their struggling, disillusioned and occasionally disrespectful parents are worlds away from Stacey’s teaching dreams.

Stacey fights off her tears and discomfort and, with the support of her loving husband, (Steve), determines to press on and teach these unwanted and unloved children to the best of her ability. Stacy, the caring and loving mother, begins to spread this love upon the students and win them over to her side. She starts by cleaning, painting and decorating the “classroom.” She buys with her own money, supplies and food to teach and fill their empty stomachs. Reacting to Stacey’s obvious interest, care and love for them, the students begin to blossom. Even the parents are touched by this new teacher and the love she has poured upon their children.

For eight years, Stacey taught in the School With No Name. In her memoir Nobody Don’t Love Nobody, Stacey wrote about her heart-wrenching experience and the changes that took place in the lives of these students because someone loved them enough. She has won many prestigious local and national awards. A highlight came when she was honored with the esteemed National Jefferson Award, along with First Lady Barbara Bush, Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackman and Ambassador Walter Annenberg. Oh what a difference love makes in the lives of others. Love indeed is all we need, when it is not simply words, but tangible and touchable. PAUSE.

In today’s text, the Apostle Paul reveals to us that kind of love with these words: “—but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us”

My brothers and sisters in Christ, Paul tells us that God shows, demonstrated and proved His love for us while were sinner. Jesus didn’t only speak words of love, but showed the world what it means to love someone unconditionally. From the cradle to the cross, the whole life of Christ has been one of love. He loved His heavenly Father, and obediently came to fulfill man’s rescue and redemption. He loved His earthly parents and obeyed them dutifully and joyfully. At age 12, we find Him lovingly teaching at the Synagogue. In love, He called the 12 fishermen to follow Him and be His disciples. During His 3 years of ministry, He was a loving teacher—teaching them about in the Kingdom of God, His mission, His grace and His love. In love He touched many unwanted and unloved people—lepers, outcasts and sinners. In love He healed many, raised the dead and opened the eyes of the blind. But there is more.

Unlike Stacey, who loved her students, purchased school items for them, provided care and shelter; but she also had help, her husband Steve, other homeless people, educators and parents and at the end of the day, she would head home. But Jesus did it ALL ALONE. He not only painted over our sins and decorated our lives with beautiful things—No, He did more. He fought the enemy head-long, suffered our hell, crucified on a tree by Roman soldiers and purchased our salvation not with dollars and cents, but with His personal life. And at the end of the day, He didn’t go home, NO but stayed with us and still does.

I would concur with the opening statement of what people say: “Love is ALL you need.” Love makes the world go round.” “Love changes you.” and “Love changes others!” If you replace the word “love” and place it with “Jesus” then, that is all you need. It is Jesus who makes the world go round. It is Jesus who changes us. And it is Jesus who changes others.

Where God is there is LOVE. But where God isn’t love is not found. We saw this truth this past Monday, in Chardon, Ohio, when a young man T.J. Lane entered his high school cafeteria and went on a shooting rampage killing his classmates. So far this tragedy has claimed the lives of 3 innocent bystanders and two others who are injured.

According to news report, this kid came from a broken home, was a loner, and often bullied. Whether that is true or not, I don’t know. But one thing is evident, not much love has been shown to him either from home or others. I wonder if someone would have shown him love, how would things have turned out. It is hard to say. But I believe, when we Christians, show and demonstrate that kind of love; when we are the letters of love to others, we change lives one at a time.

We see this through the care and love of one single teacher—Stacy Bess in Salt Lake City, Utah. We see it on a far larger and grandeur scale in the care and love demonstrated and shown by Jesus Christ as He lays down His life as a ransom for sinners—you and me.

Certainly, Jesus fulfilled what Paul said in this letter of love: “…but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us Our sermon hymn captures this demonstration of love with these words: “My song is love unknown, My Savior’s love to me, Love to the loveless shown That they might lovely be. Oh, who am I That for my sake My Lord should take Frail flesh and die?” (LSB 430 v. 1). PAUSE.

Did you get it? Do you see what God does? He shows and demonstrates His love towards us while we are sinners. It is too bad that we don’t always show love to others. It is so sad that even in the Church, people hate each other and speak ill of each other. Rather than going to the one who hurt you and speak with him privately, they go behind his/her back. It is a tragedy, when we are not the love letters to the world.

On the other hand, we may show love to those who love us. We may be kind to those who are kind. We may show mercy to those who show mercy. But not God! God doesn’t think and feel the way I do. His love doesn’t depend on what I do. He doesn’t show goodness only to those who are good. That would make His love and concern as imper­fect as mine.

The sweet story of the gospel is simply this—Christ died for me and all people while we were still sinners. God’s eternal Son, Jesus Christ came to earth to give His life as a ransom for me while I was nothing but a disobedient, dirty, dead, dumb and damned sinner. His grace that brings me salvation in Christ is entirely one-sided. It is totally undeserved by me, a working of His divine love. That’s the way God feels about it, and He gave me His letter of love to affirm it in my life.

As you prepare to leave this house of worship today, I exhort you in the name of Him who is love—Jesus Christ, to be a letter of love to others. Again, take one or two names and lift them up before the Throne of Grace and let them taste and see the love of Christ in your words and deeds.

God bless you as you become a letter of love for someone today and always for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Now the peace of God…