Saturday, June 30, 2012

Theme: “The Perfect Plan.” (Luke 1:63-66).

S-1324 4SAP/3B 6/24/12 Hymns: (O) #3; (S) #496; LS. #314; #204; #308; (C) #46

Text: Isaiah 40:1-5; Acts 13:13-26; Luke 1:57-80

Theme: “The Perfect Plan.” (Luke 1:63-66).

Question: “Do Your Plans Always work out?” Armour, SD.

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! The text is from the Gospel lesson: “And he asked for a writing tablet and wrote, ‘His name is John.’ And they all wondered. And immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, blessing God. And fear came on all their neighbors. And all these things were talked about through all the hill country of Judea, and all who heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, ‘What then will this child be?’ For the hand of the Lord was with him’” (Luke 1:63-66).

Dear children of the heavenly Father, no matter how hard we try, in our fallen world, our plans go awry. We end with the perfect spouse, only to discover a week before retirement your husband has stage “4” cancer. You raise a lovely family, but one of your children is killed by a drunk driver. You and your wife are expecting a child. When she goes to the Dr. for her 3 months checkup the dr. tells you: “Sorry, you just had a miscarriage!” You send your son to BB camp, only to receive word that he tore his ACL. You are planning on taking a cruise with your bride and the phone comes, mom just passed away. You are taking a family vacation to the Black Hills, and just when you are about to reach Kadoka, the engine blows.

Sometimes our plans fail because the leaders we look to let us down and disappoint us. Often the leaders we campaign for, vote for, and pray for fail for the same reasons we do. They at times betray us because they only tell us what we want to hear.

All of us have seen our best-laid plans fail. Ultimately, all of these failures can be traced back to sin, both ours and that of others. Our dreams can go unrealized and our hopes can be dashed for so many reasons.

In our broken and sinful world, pain, disappointment, unfulfilled plans are a reality of everyday life. And the saying is very true of Murphy’s Law: “If anything can go wrong, it will go at the worst possible moment.” Isn’t this the story of our lives? SURE IT IS!

Not only ours, but even those who serve God. In Today’s text, we read of a man whose plans never came to fruition. Zechariah a righteous man in the sight of God, had married a lovely young woman—Elizabeth. They longed for the day to cradle an infant in their arms, but that reality never came to be. There plans of being parents never occurred. Disappointment, heartache, shame and pain fills their hearts and lives. They are now old and their plans and dreams are hopelessly dashed. PAUSE.

On a very specific evening when Zechariah was on duty in the Temple offering the sacrifices he had a visitor—the Angel Gabriel came to him with God’s plans for a child that he and his wife would have in their old age. But because of sin, Zechariah didn’t believe that God’s plan would work.

Zechariah was told that he would have a son and should call him John. But he doubted God’s plan for him and the nation of Israel. And with this announcement that meant that the Messiah—the long expected Savior finally would come since John would be the forerunner announcing the Kingdom of God has arrived.

Zechariah is no different from us. He is man—a sinful man just like the rest of us and he must have thought that God had forgotten His promise to send the Savior. Life experience had taught him that the best of plans don’t always materialize. And therefore, he came to the conclusion this plan of God would NOT happen, not now and for sure not with him.

Because of this, (you know the story well) Zechariah was struck speechless for the duration of the pregnancy. During this time, this priest had a lot of time—quiet time to watch before his very eyes the beginning of what he thought would never take place.

But God used this time to teach this old man a lesson, that God never forgets His promises. That God’s plans always work out. That God’s plans to human eyes may appear slow and not coming, but don’t think that way—God’s timing is not like our timing. He doesn’t run on earthly clock but heavenly. Furthermore, Zechariah had time to think both of his son’s name, “John” which means “The Lord has shown favor,” and his own name, which means, “God remembers.”

What is it that the Lord remembers? Praise God that He doesn’t remember our sins. Thankfully He doesn’t keep record of our wrong. No, our merciful and loving God remembers His gracious covenant plans and fulfills them in due time—to bring about the salvation of mankind. PAUSE.

Nine months had passed and now Elizabeth gave birth to a son and the time came to give him a name. Everyone thought he should be called like his father, but neither Elizabeth nor Zechariah agreed to that. Finally, he asked for a writing tablet and wrote the name the angel gave him—John. At that moment his tongue was loosed and he began to praise God for fulfilling His plan.

Don’t you love this story? Finally, the plan came to be as God intended them to be. We love it when God’s plans come together. We love it when our plans come together. PAUSE.

This past Thursday, another plan came together for the Miami Heat as they played against the Oklahoma, Thunder. Under the guidance of coach Erik Spoelstra and their MVP star LeBroan James the Heat defeated the Thunder and won the NBA championship.

In Miami there was great joy for LeBroan, his team mates and the rest of their fans. Celebrations ensued way into the next day because their hard work, their plans of winning the championship became a reality on Thursday June 22, 2012.

Likewise, there was great joy in the town of Judea as these two elderly people held in their bossom their bundle of joy—John who would become the Baptizer—All because of the mercy of God. But of a greater joy was the grandest plan of all time that the long expected Messiah would finally come. The Messiah would come to Redeem His people.

Just at the appointed time, the plans of God became a reality. Jesus came to Bethlehem’s manger as God’s Son and Mary’s Son. He lived the perfect life that mankind failed to live. Jesus suffered and atoned for all the sins of mankind, who had failed to keep God’s perfect Law when He gave His life as the atoning sacrifice on Calvary’s cross.

According to the Master plan, Jesus rose from the grave on the 3rd day to demonstrate His might and victory over the enemy-death and satan and sin. And He also promised that at the right time He will come back to take us to be with Him in His Kingdom. PAUSE.

Where is your life like Zechariah today? Does it appear the plans that God has for you and your life have gone off track? I know that we have those moments. Every sinful human being does! And yet the promise of God to you is the same as it was to Zechariah and Elizabeth. God doesn’t forget you. He never leaves you. You may not like His timing or methods, but He is there for you. He delivers you where you need to be, when you need to be there according to HIS timetable. We have nothing to fear. Our call is to trust the Master and His plan. It will all work out in the end

Today, we, like Zechariah lift our voice to praise God for His wonderful works of making His plans being fulfilled. Today, in your hearing you will see this plan unfolding, your sins are forgiven you, you receive blessing in the sacrament and are sent out to share of the Perfect Plan of God for you and your neighbor.

By the grace of God, Zechariah was taught that God’s plans are the perfect plan. May we take our Bibles, study them and learn them to see how all of God’s plans are perfect for us—for now and for always. Amen.

Now the peace…


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

“Unimpressive, Insignificant…BUT don’t be Fooled” (Mark 4:30-32).

S-1323 3SAP/3B 6/17/12 Hymns: (O) #261; (S) #46; (C) #52

Text: Ezekiel 17:22-24; 2 Corinthians 5:1-10; Mark 4:26-36

Theme: “Unimpressive, Insignificant…BUT don’t be Fooled” (Mark 4:30-32).

Question: Armour, SD. Father’s Day

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! The text is from the Gospel lesson: “And He said, ‘With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade’” (Mark 4:30-32).

Oh most loved children of the heavenly Father, you have a most gracious Father who loves you and desires to bless you in more ways than you can think of. Your heavenly Father is the One who sent His Son, Jesus Christ to speak to us about the Kingdom of God and its mighty power.

In Today’s text, the Savior compares the Kingdom of God to a mustard seed. At first glance it appears to be unimpressive, insignificant, but don’t let its size diminish its power or influence on your life and how this Kingdom works.

Consider this: Tyrone “Muggsy” Bogues is the shortest man to ever play in the NBA. Despite being only 5’3”, he used his height to his advantage by becoming known as a player who was a great passer, ball-stealer, and definitely one of the fastest on the court. His career was set in stone on June 22, 1988 when he was signed to play for the Charlotte Hornets as a point guard. He played for them for 10 years.

Consider the penny please. By most people it is no big deal, but just a measly penny. But did you know if you put a penny away and double the value of that every day, that at the end of 30 days you would have $10,737,418.24. It doesn’t seem possible but it is true.

Consider Elijah, in the book of 1 Kings, Elijah confronts the prophets of Baal’s and kills them. Then he asks the Lord to send rain. He sent his servant 7 times to check on the clouds. The seventh time, the servant said, “Behold, a little cloud like a man’s hand is rising from the sea.” (1 Kings 18-19).

Muggsy Bogues, appeared to be unimpressive and insignificant against the taller players, but don’t be fooled by his size. The penny appears to have no power at all compare to the other larger denominations, and most people wouldn’t even pick it up. It is nothing unless you save it. And that little cloud over Mt. Carmel, at first glance didn’t appear a threat at all, but it brought rain for 3 days that the chariots got stuck in the mud.

In the kingdom of God that which seems unimpressive, insignificant becomes mighty in power. In this text, Jesus compares the Kingdom of God to a mustard seed, which to the human eye appears to be no big deal. But in God’s hand it is mighty and powerful. Therefore, don’t be fooled by what you don’t see, God our loving Father can bring about amazing results.

When God is involved, something small and unimpressive can be transformed into something great and significant. Consider the Word of God and how He uses it. In the beginning of Creation, God spoke saying: “Let there be light,” and there was! That mighty Word may seem unimpressive, insignificant but don’t be fooled.

We wonder sometimes how come the Word doesn’t have any effect on the lives of people. It is because we can’t see what God sees. When the Word is planted it brings forth abundant fruit. We know that because Scripture says so, “My Word will not come back to me empty, but will accomplish the purpose for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:10-11). The Word of God brings comfort and consolations to our hearts. The Word of God is sharper than any double edged sword; the Word of God changes lives one soul at a time. And that mighty Word is what the Savior is speaking about in this text. We just sang our sermon hymn: “On what has now been sown They blessing, Lord, bestow; The pow’r is Thine alone to make it spring and grow” (TLH #46 v. 1). Abundant fruit, similar to the mustard seed that grows up to 10 feet in height.

He is comparing this to the Kingdom of God, where all of the birds of the air come and perch on its branches. This is none-other than the Lord’s Church, where He gathers all peoples from every color, from every tribe and from every tongue and nation. He brings them in to be with Him and dwell with Him forever.

That Word may appear unimportant, unimpressive, insignificant, but don’t be fooled. That Word is the most important thing that you and I have. And it is that Word which will give us comfort when things go haywire. It gives us hope when there is hopelessness. It is gives light when there is darkness and it gives us life when there is death. PAUSE.

That is the Word that we need to cling unto. Perhaps you read this before: “The person who has his Bible all tattered and torn up, has his life put together!” Did you know that during the Russian Revolution when Communist took over, they changed churches into gyms and swimming pools? They attempted to burn and confiscate every Bible from the hands of the Christians. But do you know what the faithful saints did? “They would take a book of the Bible and shred it into separate verses and pass these out to the members to study and memorize. And when they learned these verse they would exchange it with another verse. They clung to these verses as the most precious gift they had. 70 years later, when Communism fell, there were Christians coming out of the woodwork. How, Why? Because that Word was alive in their hearts; that Word was at work in their hearts; and because people put all of their trust in the living Word.

Faithful children of the heavenly Father don’t let satan rob you of the precious Word. Don’t let your sinful thoughts take away that which is precious in your sight. Don’t let the Word make fun of you because you believe that Word. That Word is what changes you for the better. For if we lose the Word, we have nothing.

The most important thing that we can have is God’s mighty, powerful, Living Word. When that Word is sown in our hearts, it will bring forth abundant fruit. God uses us as unimpressive as we are, as insignificant as we are, to be tools in His hands. Let me affirm this thought to you. You may not be famous, rich or well known, you may not be part of the Elite Hollywood crowd, a CEO of a big company or great heart surgeon? BUT don’t let that fool you; YOU are special in every essence of the word. You are God’s own Child and you have God as your heavenly Father.

In His teachings Jesus declares to us what we so desperately need to hear. He opened His mouth to state that we are His. We are special. That God loves you. That God forgives you. That God atones for you through the death of His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. When you cling to that Word, you begin by the power of the Holy Spirit to grasp that what might and power is revealed in that Word.

God uses the unordinary, unimpressive, the mundane, the simple, the quiet, and the insignificant to make it powerful, impressive, extraordinary and significant. In the Kingdom of God, the last will be first, those who appear in the darkness, are in the light; those who think they have their lives put together, concentrating only on worldly pleasures and treasures will lose it all. But those who have Christ have everything; because that Word is Christ in us. PAUSE.

That Word is living and active in our hearts, changing us and calling us to faith. Consider what to the world appears mundane and unimpressive. Go back to Golgotha and look to the cross upon which Christ was crucified. To those who passed by it, it appears to be nothing, but another tree cut down to hang a criminal. But don’t let those thoughts fool you. That Cross held God’s holy Son. Upon that Cross the sins of the whole world were carried. On that Cross Christ gave His ALL for YOU. Through that Cross life and forgiveness and peace and salvation was procured. Don’t let that simple piece of WOOD appear to be nothing. It is the most important gift from God to us sinners.

Consider this little place here (pointing to the Font) simple water—unimpressive in its power, insignificant to many, but don’t be fooled. This water connected to the Word—gives power and changes us from sinners to saints. Consider the gifts on the Altar as we gather around wafer and wine, to the human eye and thought they appear to be unimpressive, insignificant but this no ordinary wafer or wine; this is God’s mighty POWER—His body, His blood shed and given for the forgiveness of your SINS.

But what about you? You may appear unimpressive, insignificant to the world, but don’t be fooled. God is living in you. God is using you to welcome others to this house, His Kingdom where there is comfort and shade under its wings. In this place God uses you to be His missionaries, His evangelists, His Gospel bearers and light torches. This is what God does for you.

And for you Father’s you may seem unimpressive, insignificant. But the one great thing that you can give to your children is not the inheritance of land, and property or the treasures in the bank account; but give them God’s mighty Word. Share with them what God has done for you and continues to do for you.

Many men are so consumed on building their earthly treasures to leave an estate to their families. Wonderful! Do that, but don’t stop short of giving the most important thing—filling your children with the Spiritual truth, so that they might see in you God the Father who loves you and desires to bless you and sent His Son, Jesus Christ to be Your Savior.

Fellow travelers on the journey to eternity, to the world our church is unimpressive, insignificant, but don’t be fooled. Where God’s Word is, there is life and Salvation. When the Word is used, there is healing, hope and there is happiness and heaven. That Word is the mustard seed planted in your hearts so that all the birds of the air can come and build their nests in its branches.

May the Lord, the Word of the Living God dwell in you richly and use you as you share the love of Jesus with those around you. So that they too, may know without a doubt they are loved by our heavenly Father. Amen.

Now the peace…


Sunday, June 10, 2012

“Out of His Mind” (Mark 3:20-21).

S-1322 2SAP/3B 6/10/12 Hymns: (O) #360; (S) #262; LS. # 199; #369; #314; (C) #47

Text: Genesis 3:8-15; 2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1; Mark 3:20-35

Theme: “Out of His Mind” (Mark 3:20-21).

Question: “Have you ever said, “He/she is out of her mind!?” Armour, SD.

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! The text is from the Gospel lesson: “Then He[Jesus] went home, and the crowd gathered again, so that they could not even eat. And when His family heard it, they went out to seize Him, for they were saying, He is out of His mind’” (Mark 3:20-21).

Oh most loved children of the heavenly Father, some people do stupid things and we wonder if they have all their marbles together. Here are some things people do and we question their sanity. On October 5th 1985 a Canadian mechanic “Super Dave” went over Niagara Falls in a barrel. That wasn’t enough for him, and so he made a second trip on September 26th 1993. In the mid 1850 a Frenchman known as “The Great Blondin” walked a tight rope between the American and Canadian sides of Niagara Falls. And if that wasn’t enough he walked again with someone on his shoulders. Evel Knievel was an American daredevil and entertainer. In his career he attempted many motorcycle jumps. The longest was over 24 dump trucks that is 200 feet long. A person, who studies sharks, is willing to jump into shark infested water without any protection. And if that is not bad enough there is now an invitation for you too: “Make 2012 your year. The year you discover big sharks and shark diving in remarkable locations with Shark Divers. In just ten minutes from now you could be on your way and we’re looking forward to meeting you. The next step is an email. In Texas a wedding party spent $250.000 on flowers. As you listen to these stories, we must admit and say, “These people are out of their minds!”

Of course when we hear of people doing stupid and dangerous stunts, we wonder what possess them to do these things. And we say, “He/she is out of his/her mind!” When one of your friends who has a modest income decides to purchase a house obviously beyond his means, we say, “he is out of his mind.” There are lots of situations in which we might ask that question of someone we know, but we are shocked when someone asks that question of Jesus. In verse 21, we find the statement, “People were saying, ‘He has gone out of His mind’”

It is hard for us to believe that Jesus is given such a derogatory title: “HE IS OUT OF HIS MIND!” and this title is given by His own family. St. Mark tells us today, that some people were quite alarmed by Jesus’ behavior. They were offended about what He claimed to be able to do and say. Even His own family didn’t believe Him to be the Messiah nor saw His ministry as one of Divine nature. In fact, we read in John 7:5, “His brothers did not believe in Him.”

We are told in Scripture that our Savior Jesus grew up as a normal boy. His brothers who lived with Him just thought of Him as a brother. They were surprised when He began preaching. When they learned of some of the things He was saying, they wanted Him to quit. They came as a group ready to seize Him, get Him away from the crowds, and have Him deprogrammed. When they finally arrived, there was such a crowd that they could not get in to see Him. They sent Him a message, but he left them standing on the outside, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” He acknowledged no special ties or obligation to them.

Jesus also alarmed the Pharisees, but we are much more familiar with their negative reactions. The Pharisees from Jerusalem had made the considerable journey to Galilee to look into this Jesus sensation. They said His power was not a good power. He had been taken over by Beelzebul, an unclean, satanic, demonic spirit. They warned the crowds about Him. And they tried to find any reason to get rid of Him and put Him to death. PAUSE.

But are the brothers and Pharisees wrong in thinking that Jesus is out of His mind? How about the people of today, do they say, “That Jesus is out of Him?” What about you sitting here, would you say, that “Jesus is out of His mind?” You may not think so, but I do believe that He is. I will use God’s mighty living Word to declare this truth.

I say Jesus is out of His mind, for He claims things that no other human being has ever dared to dream, think or do. In Mark 5, Jesus is asked by a Synagogue leader Jairus to come to the aid of his daughter who is terribly ill. As Jesus begins to head to the house, a servant comes and tells Jairus “His daughter is dead don’t bother the Teacher!” But Jesus responds, Do not fear, only believeAnd when He had entered, He said to them, ‘Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but sleeping’” (Mark 5:37, 39). Those in attendance must have said, “He is out of His mind.”

Even more, when Jesus said, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19), the Jewish Leaders must have really thought He is truly out of His mind for it took 46 years to build this Temple. Can you imagine those who were comforting Mary and Martha at the death of their brother Lazarus, when Jesus said, “Remove the stone?” They certainly thought He has really lost it, HE IS FOR SURE OUT OF HIS MIND.

That is the facts about Jesus; He is out of His mind to love you with such love that can’t be humanly comprehended or fathomed. Jesus is out of His mind to be willing to be put on flesh and bone and be born in a lowly manger. He is out of His mind to walk for 3 years teaching simple men to be His Ambassadors. He is out of His mind to suffer all sorts of humiliation and indignation for you. He is out of His mind to allow people to spit upon Him, pull His beard, slap and plow furrows on His back. He is out of His mind to allow people to drive 12 inch spike nails into His hands and feet. He is out of His mind as He lets them crucify Him on a cruel cross. He is out of His mind to take the full wrath of God and the punishment of hell for all of humanity. He is out of His mind to allow men to put Him to death. Why? For me, the worthless worm, scum and slime of the earth, the worst of sinners.

Yes, for me He was out of His mind to love with such unbelievable love that He would endure all to give us life and eternity with Him. Oh, what kind of hot and inexpressibly great fire must burn in God’s heart toward us Christians that He resolved before we were born—even from eternity—to choose us? This is a love that is higher than the heaven, wider than the earth, deeper than the ocean, and as long as eternity. PAUSE.

Today, non-Christians, call us Christians as people who are out of our minds. They say, we are out of our minds for believing this old fairy tale—the Bible. We are out of our minds when we hold to the truth that is taught in Scriptures. We are out of our minds, when we teach that the Commandments are still true and should not be broken. We are out of our minds, because we will not sell ourselves short and live outside the marriage bonds as husband and wife. We are out of our minds when we give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s. We are out of our minds when we hold to the confession of faith, that Jesus and ONLY Jesus Saves. We are out of our minds when we preach unless you repent you shall have no life with Him.

And it’s hard to see the love when Jesus says, “Unless you repent, you too will all perish” (Luke 13:5). But if no one tells you what will happen to you if you keep heading the wrong way, where will you end up? Preaching repentance abso­lutely is an act of love. It comes with the same hope and desire the Lord has: “not wanting any­one to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). But preaching repentance is more than pointing out sin. It is also pointing to the Savior, Jesus Christ. It is a call to turn back to the only source of forgiveness, the One Way of salvation, the certain promise of eternal life. Then the love is not so hard to see, especially at His cross.

At His cross, you realize that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). At His cross, you recognize that Jesus “was pierced for our trans­gressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).

At His cross, you understand that it wasn’t the nails that kept Jesus on IT. What kept Him there was what placed Him there—His fervent passion to do His Father’s will and His love for us—the sinners. This is why we would teach that He is out of His mind about YOU. He is so much in love with you that He will not let you live as you are, but changes you to be with Him where He is.


Now the peace of God…


Monday, June 4, 2012

“A Night to Remember” (John 3:1-2, 16)

S-1321 Trinity S/3B 6/03/12 Hymns: (O) #239; #244; (S) #245; (C) # 246

Text: Isaiah 6:1-8; Acts 2:14, 22-36; John 3:1-17

Theme: “A Night to Remember” (John 3:1-2, 16)

Question: “Is there a night that stands out in your life?” Armour, SD.

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! The text is from the Gospel lesson: “Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, ‘Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him…’ ‘For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:1-2; 16).

Children of the only true God—Father, Son and Holy Spirit; it certainly was a special night for this teacher of the law, Nicodemus—a night that he would remember for the rest of his life. He came by night, for more than one reason. First, he came because he was afraid of what his close companions would think of him. Second, he came because he had heard much about this Rabbi from Nazareth and wanted to truly know the facts. And third, he didn’t come to attack Jesus, but to be taught if He is for REAL.

People ask that question all the time. Every god who is not the True and Living God is a mean task master. But only the True God Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is loving, kind and full of compassion and He shows us His sea of grace by the things He does. Only this God would take the place of sinners. That is the great truth we proclaim, teach and confess. Indeed, it forms the ground for all we believe. Our Church’s Teaching on the Holy Trinity says: The Triune God is the God who is gracious to man, John 3:16-18; 1 Corinthians 12:3. Since the Fall, no man can believe in the fatherhood of God except he believe in the eternal Son of God, who became man and reconciled us to God by His vicarious satisfaction, 1 John 2:23; John 14:6 {Brief Statement, 1932.}

Nicodemus, this teacher of the law has read what he needs to do to please God. He has lived under the demands of the law that requires so many things of him, to appease and win God’s favor. But he has also seen love and graciousness in Jesus’ life already. But now, he wants to know firsthand if this love is for real. He knows that like his spiritual father before him, Isaiah, Nicodemus is a man of unclean lips and that he comes from a people of unclean lips. He knows that any faith that springs from man is “unclean.” The Hebrew word for “unclean” means “defiled or spoiled” and goes far beyond a simple dusting with dirt. There is nothing surface about this problem. The unclean are ritually unacceptable, unwelcomed and unwanted - outside the family.

I dwell on this with you because that is who we were: Outsiders, unclean, unacceptable—standing on the wrong side of the glass, able to look at the warmth of the fire but having to stand naked in the cold (Ephesians 2:1-3). You have seen this on TV when an Amish person leaves the colony he becomes outsider, unclean and unacceptable—he is shunned by his own family and community. Any god that asks you to live by a set of rules to be right with him; any god that demands you clean up your acts before he loves you; and any god that tells you there is good in new, all you have to do is dig deep inside of you and get it out, is NO god AT ALL. Any god of man’s design will leave you shivering in the cold and dark - to die.

But... if this is the True God! If this Man before me is the Promised Messiah, if this is the Promised Seed of Eve’s womb (Genesis 3:15), from above and with us, God Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14) and the true Prince of Peace from everlasting and to everlasting (Isaiah 9:6) - then says Nicodemus - I want to know and I want to be with Him. Nicodemus, his name means “this people is victorious!” He has the victory and will proclaim the victory, for Jesus speaks to him of being born from above. PAUSE.

Tony Robbins is a great motivational speaker. But he asks you to dig deep from within and what he calls to “Awaken the Giant Within”. He doesn’t seek aid from above. We need not a washing of the filth of dirt like a good bath. We need more—much more—drowning, death, destruction, and resurrection, new birth, and yes, new birth... from above - being born of God (1 John 4:7; 5:1, 5:4, 5:18) to remove all sin and filth from us.

What we need, we can’t have on our own because the Giant within us is dead. Like Nicodemus we can’t enter back into our mother’s womb and be born again. But, by the working of the Holy Spirit we are born of water and the Word. And by that mighty miracle we were drowned, destroyed, died and made alive by the One who touched us and made us His very own.

We are His true and legitimate family, inside the house, with Him. We are clothed with His righteousness and peace and in Him and in His Love we have each other. Yes, this people is victorious, for He is Victorious, for indeed, even as the snake was lifted high on the pole and all who beheld it lived, so also for all who will believe, not in themselves, but in Jesus Christ, God’s only rightful Son, has eternal life, for God so loved the world (loved is in the “completed action” tense meaning that the love is complete, even without us and our understanding or cooperation) that He gave (again, the giving is complete) His only begotten Son for the noble purpose (a “purpose clause” in the Greek) that whoever believes into His name - a living trust - already has and will continue to have life that is without ending! Remember that this God in three Persons is the only God who is gracious to man. John 3:17 puts it better than I ever could: “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.” Yes, we are saved, redeemed, blood-bought and heaven-bound. Yes, we are His now and forever. We are not shunned; we are not left out in the cold but brought in to the warms of His love.

On this Trinity Sunday we confess the Athanasian Creed (TLH 53) which tells us of the co-eternity, co-equality, co-authority of the Three Persons of the Godhead, all of which is seen and received (Faith is His gift, not our work) through the Gracious Act of God in our flesh, who through His definite plan and foreknowledge, did come in our flesh and die in our place, paying for all our sins, both from above and here in time.

Nicodemus lives today. He still sees God in action. That is part of the reason why it is necessary for us to meet together as the Church. We need the fellowship of the saints, gathered around His Gifts, so that we are reminded, “this people is Victorious.” Then, as we walk among our dear ones out there in the world who feel the pangs of an empty heart, who stand in the lonely, windswept cold of sin, and they see this Triune God in us, they may ask, “I know that you, Christian, are a man or woman of God, for no one could love as you do, if God were not with him.” You now can say, with Jesus’ words and with His love, being born from above is His gift for you: As Isaiah reminds us: “Come now, and let us reason together, Says the LORD, Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool” (Isaiah 1:18).

Like Isaiah before you, you have been touched on the lips with the coal of grace that takes away your sin. Like him, when He asks, “Whom shall I send, who will go for Us? (note God the singular and the plural, Trinity!) You can answer with Isaiah, Here am I, send me! Yes, send me Your own dear child. Yes, send me to reach out to those who are not yet part of Your family Lord God Almighty. Yes, send me so that I might be a light of hope to many.

The Father, ah, not “god... generic... other... out there” but “Father.” and He would be YOUR Father. This He guaranteed by sending His Son in your place. Ah, and these two send Jesus’ Holy Spirit, to plead for and abide with us, bringing us over and over again... home!

Like Pastor Pete on Pentecost, preaching to those who put Jesus on the Cross, you can declare that God is victorious, for death could not hold Him. He died to forgive sins and sinners, making us His friends and legitimate family. That is what reveals that He is both gracious and God - He overcame your death and the death of even His worst enemies!

Just like Nicodemus his encounter with Jesus was a night to remember, and so it is for us. Our night/day is an encounter to remember His grace and mercy that made us being born from above. And just like Nicodemus who is a people victorious so are we. And therefore, we remember and declare I am baptized. We remember and declare I am forgiven. We remember and declare we are redeemed. And we remember and declare to the world there is a home waiting for me with God my loving Father, His Son my precious Savior and the Holy Spirit, my comforter.

Many may ask and many may doubt they will come to you by night. You have the privilege, dear ones of proclaiming that this people is Victorious” for indeed we have God as our Father, and in our flesh as our brother, and in our hearts through the Word with the Spirit. For indeed, He came that we might have life and that more abundantly (John 10:10). Amen.

Now the peace…

Soli Deo Gloria

“Princess in God’s Garden” (Isaiah 55:8-12)


S-1320 P/3B 6/02/12 Hymns: (O) #740; #465; 709; (S) #594; #566; (C) # 490

Text: Psalm 139:13-18; Isaiah 49:13-16; 1 Peter 1:3-9; 2:9-10; John 10:11-18; 14:1-6

Theme: “Princess in God’s Garden” (Isaiah 55:8-12)

Funeral for Evelyn Ameera Nies St. John Gregory, SD

My dear, dear brother Jared, Sister Sarah, family, friends, members of St. John and you fellow colleagues in the ministry of the Gospel of Jesus Christ; Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! (3x). The text for the celebration of the New Life granted to our departed sister in the faith Evelyn Ameera Nies is from Isaiah 55For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My Word be that goes out from My mouth; it shall not return to Me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands” (8-13).

You who are loved by the Father of all mercy and compassion, by His Son, Jesus, who paid the penalty of our sins and by the mighty power of the Holy Spirit; who consoles and comforts us by His Word.

What might I say to bring healing to your wounded hearts? How shall I comfort you as you weep the death of your little princess? With what eloquent words may I fill your heart with peace as you walk through this terrible tragedy that came upon you like a tsunami?

Jared and Sarah, there are no human words that I can use to take your pain away. There are no human thoughts that I might share with you, that will remove the tears running down your cheeks. And there is nothing that I or anyone else can say or do to remove this heavy load from your hearts, heads and home. But wait; there is one thing that I can share with you. It is the Living WORD of Christ. The WORD that is strong, solid, stable, sturdy and sound. I point you to the Word that speaks of Christ’s mighty victory over sin, death and the grave.

It is that WORD, that I give to you and all who have gathered in this place, that we may know with certainty and confidence that this WORD IS LIVING and ACTIVE and brings about healing, restoration and fills our hearts with peace; and even causes our lips to sing His praises in spite of the circumstances that brought us here in the first place. Hear now the very WORD that will strengthen and sustain you every day until you join your sweet princess in eternity! PAUSE.

There is a unique story in the O.T. book of 2 Kings. The prophet Elisha had often stayed as a guest at the house of a Shunammite woman. This woman was barren until Elisha prayed to God on her behalf and blessed her with a son. One day the child died and she went to see the man of God. When Elisha saw her, he asked her “…Is all well with the child?’” And she answered, “All is well.” Though her son was dead, yet by faith working through the Holy Spirit she recognized what could have been and what is and thus with resounding confidence she declares, “ALL IS WELL.” Her response should be your comfort now beloved children of the heavenly Father. And we can say with boldness and confidence that all is well with Evelyn Ameera—this little Princess too.

We can say that all is well with her because she is a baptized CHILD of God. All is well with her because her heavenly Father has made it possible for her to spend eternity with Him in His Garden. All is well with her, because Jesus Himself said, “I Am the Resurrection and the Life He who believes Me though He die, yet shall he live.” Evelyn is not dead, but is alive and is in the Garden of God even today.

Please know this is not just wishful thinking, this is not a platitude of a pie in the sky. NO this is a fact based on a concrete event in the past, that hold us fast for the present and guarantees our future—the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ—God’s Son. Because of Him we can say with joy in our hearts and praise on our lips that this Princess is in God’s Garden now and forever. PAUSE.

Today, in the midst of your sorrow, suffering and sadness, I point you to Your Savior who walks with you every moment of your life; for He promised us saying: I Am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” And again, I Am with you always, to the end of the age” (John 10:11; Matthew 28:20b). Indeed, this little Princess is God’s own CHILD, made His own on Friday May 25th @ 5:34 when you, my dear brother, poured upon her the water and baptized her in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We were reminded of this blessed gift again today, when we sung the sermon Hymn, “God’s own CHILD, I gladly say it.” (LSB 594).

Yes, by all means our departed sister Evelyn is now and forever in the Garden of God. You may have had her and held her for a brief time of 35 hours and 47 minutes. But these hours and minutes are measured by earthly time and not heavenly. She is now and ever will be in the presence of Her great, merciful and compassionate Father.

Jared and Sarah, at a moment like this, we question God. We doubt His love. We wonder what we have done to deserve this. And it doesn’t help when people who mean well say something like, “God only takes the very best of us! Or God loved her so much that He wanted her with him more than with you! Or this is God’s will.” I know they mean well, but that is not the case. This is theologically incorrect and proves that salvation is by works rather than by grace.

It is ok to question God. It is ok to pour your heart to Him with tears and ask why oh God, why? It is ok to feel the pain and anguish. But don’t let the devil or anyone to cause you to doubt the love of God and feel He has abandoned and forsaken you. BUT that that is not the case. Don’t let your sorrow drown the image of your loving and merciful Father who grants us by faith to see His compassion streaming from the cross.

To be sure God DIDN’T cause or brought this about, but God is using it for your good and His glory. I have no clear idea how our good and gracious Lord will use this time of sorrow in your life for the extension of the kingdom. Indeed, no good parent will do anything that is hurtful to their child. And neither will God. Yet, God sees things we can’t see. He is loving and gracious and uses every event and circumstance in our lives to bring us to a closer walk with Him.

Certainly no father or mother would ever want to experience or go through what you are going through right now. This grief is too heavy to bear. This is a heavy cross to carry, the heaviest to shoulder. Indeed, you would have never chosen it for yourself or others; but God’s ways are not like our ways and His thoughts are not like our thoughts because we can’t see into the future and how this event will be used by both of you to minister to others.

Study the Living Word of God, and dig deep into the goldmine of His strength and you will see how God takes something so terrible and makes it sooo good to spread His salvation message. King David lost a son, but through that death God comforted him personally and David became great man of compassion and a great king of Israel.

Think of the Apostle Paul who on many occasions was beaten, flogged and thrown into prison. Certainly He wouldn’t have chosen that. But because of his imprisonment salvation was brought about to the jailer and many others. God takes that which is evil, painful, hurtful and disastrous and turns it into good.

You know all too well of that kind of pain, you have tasted the bitterness of a life cut short-death that seems so senseless. And it is natural for you to cry out in grief and anger when you see such things happen. But in this understandable grief and anger, we don’t turn away from our Lord. No, instead we turn toward the One who holds His people safely in His loving hands, no matter what happens. Living or dying, they are the Lord’s and even our death can’t separate us from the love of God the Father in Christ our Savior. PAUSE.

Who knows how God will use both of you as you rely more and more upon Him to do the work of the ministry. Who knows how God will lead you in the future to minister to many who will walk in your shoes some day. What if this death were to give birth to a ministry where a dozen children who might have been lost are saved? Remember my dear brother and sister in Christ this golden nugget: Faith draws the poison from every grief, takes the sting from every loss, and quenches the fire of every pain; and only faith can do it.” Josiah Gilbert Holland (1819–1881).

Having said the above statements, I don’t make light of the situation or disregard your pain and sorrow. Of course this a difficult time in your life, of course there is anguish in your heart, of course there is sadness in your home, of course there is an emptiness in your life. Of course this is a heavy cross, BUT it is not as heavy cross as the Savior carried on His shoulders as He trekked up Calvary’s Holy Mountain. That is the heaviest cross the world has ever seen. And it is from that Cross that Christ, the loving Savior looked down upon her and loved that child more than you, her parents could or ever would.

This precious Child of God is today in His tender nail pierced hands. Death makes no sense, especially of an infant. That is why the Cross of Christ means so very much. He has taken this broken, sinful world with all its horror and has set it aright. Evelyn Ameera is today and forever in the Garden of God walking with Him, talking to Him and listening to Him. She needs no doctor to care for her, no nurse to check her monitor, no tubes or ventilators or anything else, because she has the Great Physician Jesus Christ who has made her whole and complete and blessed.

Evelyn Ameera now has gone out with joy and has been led forth with singing, all because the Resurrection has made all that sin has destroyed - brand new! That is why in the midst of walking in the Valley of the Shadow of death, we can rejoice in the hope of the Resurrection. That is why in the midst of our grief that is too heavy to bear, we look up to the One who invites us saying: Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Mt. 11:28-30). In Jesus, rest is yours because He knows what you are going through. Rest is yours because we know that those mighty outstretched arms have carried your little Princess with Him to His Garden to eternity. Rest is yours, even now in your grief, in your sorrow, in your pain and in your sadness; because you know His comfort and His consolation. You know this because you have Hope in Him who is the Resurrection and the Life—even Jesus Christ!

To that end, by the mighty power of the Holy Spirit, continue to hold on and rest in the arms of Him who loved you to the end and gave His life for you. What a blessing to be here today, in His presence around His WORD that guides us to look with faith to the future and say ALL IS WELL WITH EVELYN! Therefore, with confidence and certainty, I say to you “Evelyn Ameera Nies is walking in the Garden of God for now and forever. Amen and Amen”