Monday, July 30, 2012

“In the Midst of the Storm, Jesus is with YOU” (Mark 6:47-51)

S-1330 9SAP/3B 7/29/12 Hymns: (O) #7; (S) #649; L.S. #316 #467; #442; (C) #54

Text: Genesis 9:8-17; Ephesians 3:14-21; Mark 6:45-56

Theme: “In the Midst of the Storm, Jesus is with YOU” (Mark 6:47-51)

Question: “Have you been in a storm?” Armour, SD.

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! The text is from the Gospel lesson: “And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and He was alone on the land. And He saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them, but when they saw Him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, for they all saw Him and were terrified. But immediately He spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.’ And He got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased’” (Mark 6:47-51).

Family of faith it is impossible for us to see and know how much God cares, loves and is committed to us unless we look deeply into the manger bed of Bethlehem, walk with Him on His many journeys, stand by Calvary’s cross and visit the borrowed and empty tomb of Jesus. Only then, do you have a glimpse of the Words of our text that states: Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

Today, as we stand by the Sea of Galilee with the fearful disciples, we will learn and find out that no matter the size of storm which comes upon us, we are saved by the Almighty and merciful Christ. By the Holy Spirit’s power may we believe, that the heavens-sent Savior and Redeemer is in total control of all of our lives even when the storms are brewing with hurricane velocity.

We would like our life to be a smooth sailing, without any kind of troubles or worry at all. But alas, more often rather than having a smooth sailing, it is rough and turbulent waters. Some of these storms come out of nowhere and when you least expect them.

That is precisely, what happened a week ago Friday @ the Century Theater in Aurora, CO, as many came to the midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises” they found themselves amid a scene from a horror movie. The evening was supposed to be fun, and ended up with the storm that shook them to the core and claimed the lives of 12 innocent people and 58 injured. This is a storm that they will always remember and never forget for the rest of their lives. And so it was that night of long ago immediately after Jesus had fed a great multitudes with few loaves and fish, He sent the disciples ahead of Him to the other shore while He stayed behind and prayed. While these skilled fishermen are out on the water, a storm brews and billows with might that they can scarcely keep the boat afloat. Their fear of the storm is compounded by their fear of a ghost walking on the water and was about to pass them by.

As they saw the super natural, dark figure, walking on water, they began to cry out and immediately, He spoke very comforting words, “Take heart, it is I. Don’t be afraid!” With these words, Jesus was not only their friend and teacher, but He was claiming to be the O.T. Yahweh God who has power over everything including the wind. PAUSE.

It occurs to me that many of us, maybe most or even all of us, have had times in our lives when we wondered why does God permit these storms to come our way. Why does our life have to be turbulent and rough waters instead of smooth sailing?

Now I don’t know what your particular pain or problem, disaster or difficulty, trials or troubles might be, but you do and you are living in it. Right now, or in the past, or sometime in the future you will find yourself in the midst of some overwhelming personal storm, a storm which may have you wondering if God cares about you at all, or if He is even aware of your needs.

Please know this; I’m not talking about a storm which can be tracked like a hurricane or have the sirens give warning as happens with a tornado. It’s probably not the kind of storm which shows up on TV in the evening news or is told to our closest friends. Even so, practicality and human experience tells us we shall see a storm, a storm so intense our dreams, our hopes, our plans, our tomorrows, our lives will be turned topsy-turvy and the things which once seemed unshakable will crumble and lie shattered at our feet.
Our storm may come in the form of an illness or an accident, a betrayal, a disappointment, a failure, or a tragedy of unexpected and monumental proportions. That’s because a world filled with sin comes with a guarantee that a tempest of devastation, destruction, and death, yes, unavoidable death, our own death or that of a loved one will someday sweep down upon us. And although many will try to tell you how to avoid such a moment, Christianity prefers to answer the question: “What will you do and to whom will you turn on that day?”

I encourage you to do what the disciples did, call to the Author of life, Jesus Christ and hear Him say, “Take heart, it is I. Don’t be afraid!” and with these words He assures you He is right here with you in the midst of your storm. The storm may rage and roar, but Christ holds you in the palm of His pierced hands. Be certain of this: “God hath not promised Sun without rain Joy without sorrow Peace without pain But God hath promised Strength for the day Rest for the labor Light for the way Grace for the trials Help from above Unfailing sympathy Undying Love.”

Dear children of the heavenly Father, you should know God does care about every aspect of your life no matter the size of the storm. Jesus came to reach out to the social outcast. Jesus came so that He might heal those who were hurting in body, mind, and soul. Jesus came to calm the storm of every sinner. Because of His unconditional love, Jesus willingly accepted your sin, my sins, and humanity’s sins when He prayed for strength in the Garden of Gethsemane. It was this same love that allowed Him to accept a friend’s betrayal and the disciples’ desertion. It was His unending love that kept Him silent before lying accusers, illegal trials, and unjust judges. It is His pure, genuine love which put Him on a cross for you and me. It is His caring and commitment to you and me that kept and held Him on the cross to win your salvation and calm your storm. This is the love that opened the gates of heaven for you, so that you may know for certain He is right here and right now in your midst.

Don’t for a moment think that you are all alone out there fighting the storms of life. The devil wants you to think that Jesus has abandoned you. The world teaches you not to trust Him, because if He was trust worthy, you wouldn’t be going through these storms of life. And your own sin, clouds your vision so that you only see a ghost rather than Jesus walking with you.

Here in this place—the Nave, which is the Ship, we hear Him again and again saying words of comfort: “Take heart, it is I. Don’t be afraid!” Here in the midst of our storms we sing Hymns that bring comfort to us, like our sermon hymn “Jesus, Savior, Pilot Me.” And He does. He becomes the captain that takes over life’s tempestuous sea and brings us safely over to the other shore. PAUSE.

This is the same Jesus who is in our midst today, coming to us in His Word of Absolution, Wafer and Wine to assure us of His constant presence in our lives and letting us know that He is bigger than any storm we may face.

Beloved in the Lord, in 2006 there was a movie called The Guardian, starring Kevin Costner and Ashton Kutcher as elite Coast Guard rescue swimmers. They rescue peo­ple from the sea in the most dangerous of circumstances. The movie ends by conveying the legend of the guardian— that some people who are rescued from dire circumstances later tell of a mysterious someone, a “guardian,” who kept them from drowning. The STORY of a Christian’s rescue from death and life’s storms is no legend of a mysterious, shad­owy figure, but it is the true story of a real Savior who came into the midst of life’s storms to rescue us all from them. In the name of the One who calms the storms Jesus Christ—Your Savior. Amen.

Now the peace...


“Marriage is A DIFFICULT Journey” (Psalm 15:4)

S-1329 8AP/3B 7/28/12 Hymns: (O) #464; (S) #; (C) #

Text: Ruth 1:16-18; 1 Corinthians 13; Matthew 19:4-6

Theme: “Marriage is A DIFFICULT Journey” (Psalm 15:4)

Marriage for Wade Lynn Wright and Molly Jane Andersh Armour, SD

Let us pray: O Lord our God, source of all blessing in happiness and joy, we thank You for the gift of marriage, which we celebrate today. May you give Wade & Molly the ability to rejoice always in Your true and genuine love that has bound them together as man and wife. May You fulfill every worthy wish of their hearts? May You open their eyes to the beauty and the mystery of the love they hold for each other, every day as today. And may their life together embrace and nurture the promise of this moment, so that all who know them will call them truly blessed; through Your Son, our Savior, we pray. Amen.

Wade and Molly, I hear you are here to get married, is that true? (Wait for response). Are you sure this is what you want to do? (Wait for response). Do you realize that getting married is a very difficult journey? (Wait for response). Do you still want to go ahead with it? (Wait for response). If so listen carefully to God’s Holy Word that it might help you do what you can’t do on your own.

The text I have chosen for this blessed occasion is from Psalm 15:4 “Who keeps an oath even when it hurts, and does not change their mind” The Psalmist teaches us that the Lord honors those who keep their promises even if and when it hurts.

Today, you are so excited because you are going to marry your best friend and begin a journey together. Today, you are so happy, all your family and friends are with you helping you celebrate the moment. Today, you are dressed for the special occasion (and you really look lovely). But, after all of the hoopla and music dies down, there will be just the two of you traveling down the road of marriage together; and this will be a big change and a difficult journey indeed.

Going on a journey (like the one you are taking in September to the Bahamas) takes a lot of efforts. First, you have to contact your agent or go on the website and set the date. Second, you have to pay for it from your hard earned money. And finally, you need to pack for the long trip.

At times, those cruises are the most memorable and most beautiful. And at other times they can be a nightmare. No matter how much you plan, things happen that your dream trip becomes your worst nightmare.

Today, by the power of the Holy Spirit I want to give you three “L” words that will help you make your difficult journey better and grant you a life-long relationship as husband and wife. They are: 1. Listen, 2. Learn. And 3. Love.

The first word is “Listen.” Now as you hear this word, you think listening is easy, but I assure you it is very difficult. As a matter of fact if you were to turn around and ask the women sitting here how well do their husbands listen to them, they will tell you hardly. Every woman knows that men have a problem called “Selective hearing.” And to be honest even women have “selective hearing.”

But this is very important for you to practice and it will take a lot of hard work. That is why God gave us two ears and only one mouth. Listen twice as much as you talk. Don’t just talk, listen first and then share only that which is good. Listen to your partner so that you may give her or him the benefit of the doubt of what it is they are talking about.

The second word is “Learn.” Learn all you can about your partner. Learn what it is that makes them happy and that which makes them sad. Learn what makes them click and that which makes them pout. Learn to read the sign language of one another. So be attentive and study your partner’s needs and supply it, so that you this dream journey doesn’t end up being a terrible nightmare.

Learn to communicate well with one another so that you may have a healthy marriage. You may have heard of a young man who walked into the college library. ‘I’m looking for a book titled, “Man, Master of Woman,” he said. The librarian thought for a moment, then replied, ‘Try the fiction shelf over there’.

We smile at that because most men at some time or other struggle to comprehend the mind of a woman. Yet the Scriptures clearly instruct husbands in 1 Peter to ‘be understanding towards your wife’ (1 Peter 3:7). Make sure you talk to each other, both in the good times and in the bad.

Furthermore, learn that your life together is not always going to be a smooth journey. Soon you are going to be saying the vows and part of the vows are these words: “For better and for worse”. Let me assure you Wade and Molly that there are going to be plenty of worse moments in your marriage. It is not always going to be good even better. You will know what I mean. Marriage is indeed a Difficulty journey.

The third word is: “Love.” Now we use that word so often, you hear it in songs and see it on the big screen. But this is not the Hollywood kind of love, or the country music type—this is not the mushy and gushy type or as one of my friends like to refer to it “merely a quiver in your liver or an ocean of emotion type of love. No I’m talking about the genuine and true love that takes a lot of hard work. This is the kind of love that is mentioned by the Apostle Paul in the Epistle reading you have chosen: “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Cor. 13:4-7).

Rather than reading it as it is, I suggest you read it this way: “Wade is patient and kind; Wade does not envy or boast Wade is not arrogant or rude. Wade does not insist on his own way; Wade is not irritable or resentful; Wade does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Wade bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things”. And to you too, young lady, “Molly is patient and kind; Molly does not envy or boast Molly is not arrogant or rude. Molly does not insist on her own way; Molly is not irritable or resentful; Molly does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Molly bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things”.

Wade and Molly, these words are hard for you to fulfill and do. On your own you can’t do them. It is impossible. What you need is Christ’s love, His sacrificial love that took Him to the cross to die for your sins and rise again so that He may equip you with the right ears to listen, gives you the wisdom to learn all that you can to make your partner happy and blessed; and fills your hearts with His love so that you can love your partner with His genuine and true love. PAUSE.

Wade and Molly, I exhort you in the name of the loving Savior, Jesus Christ to put to use these three “L” words so that you may not be part of the statistics. Keep the vows that you will make, not to me or to your friends or to your parents, but to GOD. Marriage is a DIFFICULT journey even more so, if it is traveled alone without the One who brought you together, Jesus Christ. Don’t make it more DIFFICULT than it is.

Instead, be equipped for this difficult journey by being connected to a church that feeds you His Words properly so that you may listen often to its benefits. Be connected to a church were others have gone through this DIFFICULT journey, learn from them and try to imitate them. Be in a church that teaches you the truth that you are a sinner and that Christ died for your sins and rose again to give you the gift of peace and love. And be steadfastly in the Church where Christ’s love is evident as He gives you His body and blood to nurture and nourish you.

Wade and Molly as I told you before, I say it again, Marriage is a DIFFICULT journey. Even though it is difficult don’t ever quit working hard at making it the most blessed and most beautiful marriage it can be. Remember your sermon text which I have chosen, “Keep your vows even if it hurts.” Yes, keep them when it hurts and especially when you know your partner is not doing his or her part. It is then that you will need to listen to the Savior’s Word again. Learn from Him to forgive and love your spouse unconditionally as He loved His church and died for her.

May God bless your marriage journey! Amen.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Theme: “Don’t Look Back!” (Luke 9:62)

S-1328 8SAP/3B 7/22/12 Hymns: (O) #578; (S) #682; 484 TLH (C) # 790

Text: Jeremiah 23:1-6; Ephesians 2:11-22; Mark 6:30-44

Theme: “Don’t Look Back!” (Luke 9:62)

Installation of Kory Janneke as Assistant Pastor of Faith Lutheran Church, SF

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! The texts are from Luke chapter 9:62 “Jesus said to him, ‘No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God’”.

In the name of the Lord of the church, Jesus Christ, greetings to you President Sattgast, fellow clergy of the “beloved District of SD, you the saints of Faith, but especially you my dear brother Kory.

Over 35 years ago, I married a farmer’s daughter. My father-in-law (Ed) was an excellent farmer and took great pride in working the land, making sure that his rows were straight. On one occasion my father-in-law asked me, “a city slicker” to assist him in planting wheat. I gladly accepted and asked, “How do I make sure that I am planting straight?” His response was, “You always find an object and keep your eyes on it,” and then he added, “but don’t look back!”

I took over the planting. As I headed north it was easy to keep the tractor straight. I had the house, all kinds of buildings and sign-posts. But as I turned to head South, I knew I was in big trouble, because there were no markers of any sort. I kept driving the tractor but I wanted to make sure that I was going straight, so I turned my head to the right (demonstrate), as I did, my hand also turned the steering, and when I looked ahead I realized that I had turned the tractor to the right, trying to correct what I did, I turned it to the left. Right and left it went because I disregarded what my father-in-law instructed me to do.

At first, it wasn’t that evident when I planted the crops. But after a few days the wheat began to grow and you could see how crooked the rows were like a slithering snake. That wasn’t bad, until the neighbors began to say, “I wonder how many beers Ed had when he planted this field!” PAUSE.

Not only in farming is it important to look ahead, but in being a pilot and sea captain—not because you want to make it look good, but because your life depends on it. A pilot and sea captain use an object-a compass to direct their every move. The compass is used to guide and direct them to their final destination. The compass is the instrument that will work when things go wrong, when the clouds cover their sights—they depend on it for dear life.

Therefore, Kory, I want you to come up here and take this compass. Place it in your office in the area where you pray daily to remind you of your calling as an under-shepherd of the flock of God. (Wait to hand the compass to Kory). I pray, this compass will always remind you to look ahead and not to look back.

Kory, today you are enjoying this beautiful moment; surrounded by family and friends, fellow colleagues and the saints of Faith. Tomorrow a new life will begin for you and your family. As this congregation awaits the pastor whom they called to be their shepherd.

In the hearts of these people burns a vision fueled by the power of expectations. At night they pray upon their pillows that in you (as the O.T. lesson for today reminds us) they will meet a shepherd they are longing to have. They are hoping that you will never disappoint them as the other pastors have in the past. The life they live inside their heads is much like the world of expectations that mold your thoughts and prayers. And so it is that both congregation and pastor are much alike. Each is eager to please and impress but of course this must mean that is each very much afraid to be known as we really are. Therefore, we wear a mask and that is why Christ leads us to the cross where we find the grand graveyard of masks.

Brother Kory, today you are being ordained and installed to assist Pastor Sailer in his ministry as a Pastor. And a pastor will want to care for the sheep the Lord has entrusted to his care. The apostle Paul before he left Ephesus spoke these words to the Elders (Pastors) “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which He obtained with His own blood” (Acts 20:28). Did you hear that good brother? “Take care of the flock of God!” These are not your lambs but His, He bought them with His own precious blood shed on Calvary’s cross and therefore, it is your greatest privilege and highest honor to feed and nurture Christ little lambs.

Even as you go about doing the labor of love for which you have been trained and found approved by the seminary. Let me remind you what you will find in this place. You are going to find the worst of sinners and the best of saints. In this place you are going to meet stubborn, obstinate, difficult and challenging people. You will discover they have a gene known as self-centered and self righteous. As you minister to them, sometimes you are going to pull your hair out and ask God, “What am I doing here with these people?” At other times you are going to be so overwhelmed with their kindness, generosity and care for you and your family; that in humility you are going to kneel in prayer and ask God, “What am I doing here, I am not worthy of these saints or minister to them.

You see brother Kory, you are no different than any of the other prophets who have been called by God to go and care for His sheep. I will remind you of the words of Isaiah who said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips” (Isaiah 6:5). You sure are and so are they. But to them you have been sent by the Lord of the Church to care and pour upon them the medicine that gives them life and salvation.

But I don’t ever want you to say, “I am just a pastor!” No, you are God’s mouth piece, called by God to bring the coal from the altar and put it upon their tongues to remind them, that you in the presence and by the power of Christ, forgive their sins, feed them the heavenly manna and strengthen them in their walk of faith.

And to you Heidi, I don’t wish to hear you say, “I am just a Pastor’s wife.” Certainly you are! But you are much more. You are God’s child, baptized into His name and blessed to be by your husband’s side to minister to him and to comfort him when he returns from those long voters meeting. You are to pray for him, encourage him to keep his eyes focused ahead to what the Lord has called him to do. PAUSE.

Saint Kory, now that you are called into the ministry, don’t look back. Your former life is over, now you take up the mantel of servanthood always looking ahead to the future and forgetting what was in your past. Don’t be like Lot’s wife who looked back and became a pillar of salt. Heed the words of Moses as he spoke with the people of Israel: “You shall be careful therefore to do as the Lord Your God has commanded you. You shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. You shall walk in all the way that the Lord Your God has commanded you, that you may live, and that it may go well with you, and that you may live long in the land that you shall possess” (Deut. 5:32-33). Yes, remember these words and store them in your heart. Don’t do what I did, disregarding my father-in-law’s word, of not looking back. This is not only just for looks so that the rows are straight and you can take great pride of what it is you are doing. No, this is much more important because you will be planting the seed of eternal life in the hearts of God’s people.

How can you do that on your own? What gifts might you use to get the ministry going? You don’t have it in you. Remember what I told you earlier about the compass? It helps you keep looking ahead. Yet, there is another compass-a spiritual compass—the cross of Christ. Follow the example of Your Sea Captain Jesus, who set His eyes ahead and didn’t look back.

In the same chapter of Luke, 11 short verses before this text, we read these words: “When the days drew near for Him to be taken up, He set His face to go to Jerusalem” (9:51). Yes, Jesus didn’t look back from the moment He left the comfort of heaven and took upon Him flesh—He focused on the task ahead. While on earth ministering to the needy, He kept looking ahead to that which the heavenly Father sent Him to do—to win man’s redemption. He wouldn’t let anyone or anything stop Him from going to the cross—not the devil, not the people who wanted to make Him king, nor Peter. We are told He was so focused that nothing would distract Him. The author to the Hebrews put it this way: “Looking to Jesus, the Founder and Perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2).

Jesus’ whole mission was one of looking ahead with joy to redeem mankind from the unholy three-satan, sin and death. And He accomplished it when He was suspended between heaven and hell on a Roman cross to win our salvation.

Like your Sea Captain Jesus, I exhort you to be focused by looking ahead. And I want you to come up here and take this cross—your spiritual compass (that I made for you) and keep that in the same place right next to the compass, as you kneel to do your prayers, it will remind you of your calling as a pastor-to care for the flock and to have compassion on them as we are told in the Gospel lesson for today.

As you look at the compass and the cross may I remind you that man’s power brings about fear, but Christ’s cross casts out all fear and fills your heart with peace and joy!

To the saints of Faith Lutheran Church, don’t look back and compare Pastor Janneke with Pastor Sailer or other pastors. He is not them and he can’t be them. {Kory, do me a favor, put your foot forward, (see the size of his shoes) it is not like someone else. Brother Scott, do me a favor, put your foot forward, (see the size of his shoes) they are not the same. Kory, you can’t fit his shoes, so don’t try} Instead, I ask you to Support him, pray for him, encourage and assist him in whatever way possible to make this house of worship a place of harmony and unity.

To you Pastor Sailer don’t look back when you were all alone and wish to go back to that place. Now the Lord of the Church has provided you with an assistant to do the work together. Uphold each other, feed on each other’s thoughts and encourage each other in the work of the ministry.

To you fellow foot washers, don’t look back either. But continue to serve with gladness and joy the saints whom the Savior has entrusted to your care. Pray for Pastor Janneke, be a good example for him and include him in the many activities of the circuit.

And finally, brother Kory, don’t look back, instead, look ahead to the future and with great joy anticipate the mighty deeds the Savior of the world—Jesus Christ will bless you with as you minister, by feeding and caring for His people with His Word and Sacraments.

May He who never looked back but went to the cross—Jesus Christ; guide, guard and direct your heart, as you serve Him and His people. Amen and Amen.

Now the peace…


“The Right Kind of Shepherd” (Jeremiah 23:3-4)

S-1327 8SAP/3B 7/22/12 Hymns: (O) #473 vv1-3; (S) #351; L.S. #324; #413; #314 (C) #473 vv 4-5

Text: Jeremiah 23:1-6; Ephesians 2:11-22; Mark 6:30-44

Theme: “The Right Kind of Shepherd” (Jeremiah 23:3-4)

Question: “Has a Pastor ever disappointed you?” Armour, SD.

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! The text is from the O. T. lesson: “Then I will gather the remnant of My flock out of all the countries where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. I will set shepherds over them who will care for them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be missing, declare the LORD” (Jer. 23:3-4).

Precious little lambs of Christ, Holy Scripture employs many different images describing God as He relates to His people: Husband, Father, Deliverer, Defense Attorney, Savior, Redeemer and many, many more. But the greatest and most loved image of God is a Shepherd who cares, feeds, protects and provides for His little lambs.

In today’s text, we see God’s wrath being poured out on the unfaithful shepherds, leaders, priests and kings who have been appointed to care for His flock—but have neglected them. God is angry because they have scattered rather than gathered His flock. Rather than feeding them, they have starved them. Rather than protecting them, they have victimized them; and He is saddened by the state of affairs that has taken place.

Therefore, our compassionate God promises that He will gather them from all the world where they have been scattered to the His fold and cause them to be fruitful and provide for them the right kind of shepherds—shepherds who will do what is right for the flock. And not only shepherds but even the right kind of King who rules with justice and truth.

To the weeping Prophet (Jeremiah), God promises to do what the other shepherds failed to do. Though Jeremiah was faithful in his ministry, yet he was abused, thrown into prison, beaten, and finally taken into captivity—he never ceased to teach the message God gave Him to speak. Yet, the Lord declares HE IS THE ONE WHO WILL DEAL WITH HIS LAMBS IN A VERY SPECAIL WAY. PAUSE.

Indeed, God is the Only One who would be the faithful Shepherd who will care for His sheep. Study Scriptures and you will see false and evil prophets, rulers and kings. No matter how good they were, they all have come short.

And it isn’t any different today. I will be the first one to say to you, you don’t have a perfect pastor. The best that I can do is point to Him who is the Faithful Pastor—Jesus Christ—Your Good Shepherd. I will also remind you that I don’t have a perfect congregation, though sometimes you think you are. And certainly we don’t have a perfect faith, BUT, we do have a perfect Savior, the True and Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ whom God has sent and set over His people.

We see this faithful Good Shepherd at work in the Gospel reading for today. Jesus is with His disciples. They have just returned from their mission to prepare His way. John the Baptist has just been beheaded. A sense of tiredness and perhaps bewilderment was falling upon the Twelve. The Good Shepherd knows His own, and He calls for them to come apart, to come aside and to rest, apart from the crowds. Rest is good for both body and soul.

But here it is, in this desolate place by the shores of the Sea of Galilee that a crowd has followed them. Jesus teaches.... all day long! It is now late. The place is remote. Imagine 20,000 people descending on our little town of Armour. Sure, we have a couple of eating establishments, they may be able to feed 500-600 souls, but soon they would run out... of milk, and meat, of cereals and grains, even of candy bars behind the counter.

The disciples grasp the situation, it is late and desolate. We should send them home to get some food before darkness descends upon them. But the faithful Shepherd who looks out to the crowd and has compassion on them, says, “You give them something to eat! It’s as though He is saying, “Problem, what problem? Feed them!” He does it every day. There is a song that describes our True and Good Shepherd: “He’s got the whole world in His hands.”

The disciples see a huge problem, but Jesus sees opportunity—He is Lord of all and over all. After all, He is the God made flesh. He came down from heaven and controls everything in the Universe. He cares! He is compassionate and He is concerned for their well being. Therefore, He tells the disciples to have the crowds sit in groups of 50’s and 100’s. He looks to heaven, give thanks, and distributes such that every man, woman, and child ate to their fill. Oh, and 12 baskets of bread and fish remained! No other man could even come close. He is the True and Genuine Shepherd who leads us by the still waters, who prepares the table before us even in the presence of His enemies who are also our enemies. Truly, if ever there was a cup that overflowed, it would have to be in this remote place. Oh, wait; there was one place, more remote where the cup overflowed even more graphically - Golgotha.

Everything done here in this remote place was to point to the True Shepherd of whom Jeremiah speaks. He is our only peace. He alone has broken down the wall of separation and made us One - with Him and one with each other. Yes, the blood of Christ has brought us close and made us family. It all goes back to the Cross of Jesus. His cup of blessing overflows, for He drank the cup of wrath for us. His cup overflows!

When we are hurting, be it for family, or for our own health, when we feel lonely because one we have loved has preceded us in death, when there seems to be more month than money, when loneliness and lack sit on our shoulders crying into our ears and hearts, know this... it is not too late. We are not so remote that He cannot and will not multiply the loaves and fishes for us today. This is not the “prosperity gospel.” We may still feel hunger pangs and still have every reason to need to pray for a loved one. But we know He has us and those we love right in the palm of His hands. He is that faithful Shepherd who hung on the cross, for He alone is the “Lord our Righteousness!” Behold, His cup overflows... for you!

Let me be as candid with you as I can. If I look to my strengths as your pastor, you will find merely a man, who more often than not will disappoint you because I am sinful to the core. If you were to look to your wealth and wisdom as a congregation you will find five loaves, probably not big ones like a loaf of Wonder Bread, but flat, dry crusty tortillas, and some dried fish. We are so puny. Our faith can be so weak. Doubt can grow strong within us. Ah, but remember, He is here with us. He increases our faith in His faithfulness. He feeds us and those around us, incarnationally, in and through our weakness and smallness. Surely His cup overflows even here today! And even now at the table set before you. PAUSE.

Precious little lambs of His don’t look to me to fill you and satisfy you. My best isn’t good enough. Don’t look to yourself, your position, your power, or your possessions, they will disappoint and disappear because of fire, theft and even drought. Instead look to Him who is the “Lord our Righteousness” who alone is our strength and our song, the only One who has become our Salvation.

I hope and pray that I don’t mislead you. I pray often that I would be a faithful under-shepherd to guide you and lead you to the way that leads to eternal life. And if you in love and mercy follow me, I will point you to Him who came to be Your faithful and Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ. He will bind your wounds, He will heal your broken hearts, He will forgive you your sins and He will feed you His broken body and give you to drink His life-giving and precious blood.

Indeed, He is the One who has done what God has sent Him to do. Therefore, in this place, look to Him who satisfies Your hunger and quenches your thirst. Come to Him and taste how sweet He is, Drink from His cup, for it alone refreshes, rejuvenates and restores YOU to a peace with God. Today, You come, hungry for the Word of Life, hungry for the meal that always satisfies, for the Shepherd who gathers and does not scatter. Beloved, in your need, He is here... for you. Drink deeply of the Cup of Blessing...Even so, Amen!

Now the peace...


Sunday, July 8, 2012

“Sent to Speak the Truth!” (Ezekiel 2:3-4)

S-1326 6SAP/3B 7/08/12 Hymns: (O) #3; (S) #506; L.S. #307; #376; #199 (C) #508

Text: Ezekiel 2:1-5; 2 Corinthians 12:1-10; Mark 6:1-13

Theme: “Sent to Speak the Truth!” (Ezekiel 2:3-4)

Question: “Which is easier to speak the truth or a lie?” Armour, SD.

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! The text is from the O. T. lesson: “And He said to me, ‘Son of man, I send you to the people of Israel, to nations of rebels, who have rebelled against Me. They and their fathers have transgressed against Me to this very day. The descendants also are impudent and stubborn: I send you to them, and you shall say to them,’ “Thus says the Lord God”’ (Ezekiel 2:3-4).

Beloved children of the heavenly Father, life’s experience has taught us that not all people at all times tell us the truth. We have learned that everything we read in newspapers and magazines, and everything we hear on the radio and watch on TV is not always true. We, have, on numerous occasions listened to the candidates running for the White House declaring things to be true, only to discover a sound bite that it is a lie. Even journalists’ take a statement out of context to paint the candidate in a demeaning way, but eventually the truth comes out.

Today’s text is not taken out of context or being misconstrued. Instead, God has chosen a candidate to be His messenger of truth. Ezekiel, whose name means “God is my strength”, was called by God to be His spokesperson to His people and bring the message of truth that will bring horror to their guilty hearts and peace to the their troubled hearts.

Israel, God’s “Segula,”(Hebrew for) His own precious possessions had disobeyed and dishonored His will and command. Israel had begun to serve foreign gods which are not gods at all. They disregarded His decrees and statutes and because of this SIN, Jerusalem was destroyed in 587 B.C and the people were shipped to Babylon. Ezekiel is among the thousands of inhabitants who are captured and taken back to Babylon. During this time God comes to Ezekiel and commissions him to speak both repentance and hope. He tells him to go and speak directly to the people the truth that they have sinned against God and this captivity is the consequence of their sin.

Ezekiel was sent to speak only the truth and not some kind of mushy good feeling message. He was told by God to tell it like it is—even if it hurts the hearer or don’t like what they hear. God didn’t send Him to the house of Israel to start a new evangelism program or to hold a meeting to consider what they need to do to get their lives back on the right track. NO! God told Him to go in His name, armed with the ONE thing that will change lives—His Word of truth. And furthermore, Ezekiel is not responsible for the outcome; He is only a messenger of God. The Lord said: “And whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house) they will know that a prophet has been among them.” The outcome does not matter Ezekiel – speak the Word I give you. The truth of this text is the faithful preaching and proclamation of God’s mighty, powerful and eternal Word. PAUSE.

And so it is today. We, who have been called into the fellowship of the Gospel-whether pastor or people have one message to the world—speak the truth in love. This church for over 71 years has been teaching the whole of Scripture. For over 71 years many pastors have stood before you and proclaimed salvation is found ONLY in Jesus Christ and Him crucified. For years to come, others will follow and they will occupy this pulpit and they will speak the truth to you that you are a poor miserable sinner in need of a Savior and that you have a Savior, His name is Jesus.

One of the sad things that I hear against LCMS Pastors is that we are condemning, accusing, uncaring and loveless men who ignore the Savior’s command to not judge and condemn. Because we strictly adhere to pure doctrine we are labeled with different names. But it is THE Word of God that we are called to preach that makes it necessary for us to call sin just what it is. We are not allowed to soft peddle sin. Because of this, we are called all sorts of names. The preaching of the truth gets us labeled old fashioned and bigots. Because we won’t bend to the ideas of the world, we are called loveless.

Like the prophet Ezekiel of old, the prophets of today, have been called by God to speak the truth in its totality. To do this is Scripture’s clearest command given to all of Christ’s servants repeatedly in God’s Word. Christ told His servants to “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is bap­tized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be con­demned” (Mark 16:15-16). Again, in the Gospel lesson for today from Mark 6 Jesus sends the Apostles to carry the Word of repentance into the surrounding towns. And He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in their belts— but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics. And He said to them, ‘Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you depart from there. And if any place will not receive you and they will not listen to you, when you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them’ (7-11). They were not sent to be popular or successful. They were only sent to be faithful and proclaim the TRUTH of God’s Word!

This applies not only to preachers but also to you the laity. You, too, my brothers and sisters in Christ should confidently reject and condemn false doc­trine and all godless life and practice. The Lord Himself says to all Christians, Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s cloth­ing but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (Matthew 7:15). How could the hearers beware of false prophets if they are not per­mitted to judge, reject, and condemn their false doctrine? Even more, Christ says that the members of the congrega­tion should regard as heathens and tax collectors those who despise all their admonitions of His truth. Indeed, we can’t be silent when it comes to speaking the truth that God has told us to share with others. Saint Paul, also wrote, “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them” (Ephesians 5:11). We are not called to be living only to ourselves and ignoring the truth, but must with joy and patience teach God’s eternal truth even when we are disliked or looked down upon. PAUSE.

Precious saints in Christ, our Lord and Savior Jesus, the prophets and apostles, and the early Christians provide us with examples to imitate. Christ many times pro­nounced woes upon the Pharisees and Scribes, those false teachers and even the city of Jerusalem! Throughout all of Scripture we are told again and again the truth that Christ is the heaven-sent Savior. We are told that in Him there is life and salvation and apart from Him there is only death and damnation.

Today by the power of the Holy Spirit, we have been brought into this house, to hear the truth and learn the truth. Jesus Himself on numerous occasions has taught the truth to all who would listen. He even stated, “I Am the TRUTH” {emphasis mine} John 14:6). He doesn’t say look there for the truth, but look to Me for I Am this Truth. He is the truth that leads to eternal life. He is the truth that forgives our sins. He is the truth that opens the kingdom of heaven to all believers. He is the truth that will guide our footsteps into the paradise of heaven.

We dare not change a syllable of God’s message. It is eternal and forever true. Paul, that great preacher and missionary to the Gentiles put it this way: “If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:9). Paul, is saying there is only one message—Christ is the gift of heaven, by His sacrificial death on Calvary’s cross we have been redeemed, forgiven and adopted into His family of faith.

Today, this truth has been taught among you—That God in mercy has a way to make us right with Him (Romans 3:21). How vital that we embrace this truth. God’s highest dream is not to make us rich, not to make us successful, popular or famous. God’s dream is to make us right with Him through His Son’s bloodshed on Calvary’s cross. And for this reason this house of worship exists for the proclamation of the truth, and nothing but the whole truth.

Today, you will know the truth of being made God’s children in the waters of Baptism. Today, you will taste this truth offered in His body and blood on this altar. And today, the Holy Spirit equips you with the words of truth to speak to the world about Your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

As Ezekiel was faithful in His mission and ministry in proclaiming the truth of God’s Word; we pray likewise, that we would be sent in His name to speak only the TRUTH found in Holy Scripture—for the benefit of our neighbor and the glory of God. Amen.

Now the peace…


Sunday, July 1, 2012

“The God Who CARES!” (Lamentations 3:22-26).

S-1325 5SAP/3B 7/01/12 Hymns: (O) #592 vv. 1-3; (S) #809; (C) #592 vv. 4-5

Text: Lamentations 3:22-33; 2 Corinthians 8:1-9, 13-15; Mark 5:21-43

Theme: “The God Who CARES!” (Lamentations 3:22-26).

Question: “Are you a Caring Person?” Armour, SD.

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! The text is from the O. T. lesson: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in Him’ (Lamentations 3:22-24)

Beloved in the Lord, a long time ago I read this saying: “People DON’T care how much you know, until they know that you CARE!” That is so true and we don’t appreciate it until we are in need.

One of the great and underappreciated professions is doctors and nurses. We don’t often think of them, until one of our loved ones are in need. These men and women work in all types of conditions, 24/7/365 days a year. They work all shifts of nights and days, on weekend, holidays, during storms and when it is sunny. But when the ones we love are in need of care, they are there, administering love, care and medicine.

Isn’t that they way it is with our God? How often we go through our daily routine not giving a thought to the God who holds us in the palms of His hands. How often do we thank Him for giving us the sun, wind and rain? How often do we praise Him just for giving us another day to live?

Most of the time God is underappreciated until we are in need. Now people are asking the question doesn’t God care? If He cares, why doesn’t he send rain? Doesn’t He see that the crops are burning up? In Colorado as the fires continues to rage, people say, “Where is this God who cares? Can’t He help us out by sending rain? And the people in Florida are crying out, “Lord, that is enough water, we are drowning. Don’t you care?”

The truth of the matter is our God is a Caring God. He cares about us even when we don’t think He does. He cares for us more than we can even imagine. He Cares for us because that is who He is—the Caring God. In today’s text, Jeremiah whose name means “God will be exalted” speaks of this caring God with these tender words: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in Him.’PAUSE.

Jeremiah, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, offered comfort to the O.T. believers when they groaned in heavy captivity following the fall of Jerusalem. The city and its temple lay in ruins. But the prophet reminded the people that the mercy of the Lord is new every morning, and there can be no greater, richer, more precious comfort for the sinner. And this proves again and again that this God is One who is involved in the lives of His people and cares for them deeply.

“His mercies ... are new every morning.” On earth, as long as a new morning follows the evening, those mercies never cease. Although God has shown mercy to the whole sin­ful human race for centuries, and although He follows each individual with mercy for many years, that mercy does not end. As human beings, we have a small amount of mercy, we have a small amount of care, and our patience in dealing with people runs out quickly. We may show care and concern to someone, but when they don’t return that same feeling, we give up on our fellow sinners. If we have already demonstrated mercy toward someone several times, we deem that to be enough. If the one to whom we have shown mercy is ungrateful, if he uses that mercy against us, the fountains of our mercy and care towards him easily and quickly dry up forever.

However, the fountains of divine mercy, love, care and compassion, flow continually and even the basest ingrati­tude and the most reckless misuse cannot stop them. This is a bottomless sea of love and it can never be exhausted.

God’s care for you dear loved ones is always fresh and new. God’s mercy flows over us in full streams from the first day of our life, and on every following evening until the end of our days.

Pick up your Bibles beloved saints, and study it and see the care and concern God has for you the sinner. In the great Sermon on the Mt. Jesus tells us not to worry about tomorrow because if God can take care of the birds of air which are worthless, don’t you think He will take care of you? (Mt. 6:24-33). And Saint Peter, tells us to “Cast all your cares on Him, because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). And David, in Psalm 8 says: “What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” (v. 4).

Don’t for a moment think that God doesn’t care for you. Don’t let Satan rob you of the peace and joy that fills your hearts in knowing that He truly cares for you. Even the disciples who walked with Him for three years doubted that He cared about them. On one occasion, they were in the boat crossing the Sea of Galilee and a tremendous storm arose, and Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, don’t You care if we drown? (Mark 4:38). PAUSE.

Did you hear it? The Disciples asked, “Teacher, don’t You care?” The truth of the matter He cares deeply and profoundly for you all. I encourage you to look to the Savior, who walked this dusty earth and in love and mercy demonstrated His care for the sick and hurting. You have read of the miracles Jesus performed. He touched and healed the lepers, the blind; the woman with the blood issue, feeding multitudes and raising the dead. His Care was evident to all who came in contact Him.

The greatest and grandest care that God demonstrated is found in the cross of His Son, Jesus Christ. The cross is the ultimate expression that God cares for the human race. For on that cross, the Savior touched even the thief by giving Him a dose of God’s care, in saying “Today, you will be with Me in Paradise.” Luke 23:42

And those who have become followers of Jesus show the same care to those in need. We see it in the story of the Good Samaritan who helped a wounded person. We see it in the lives of congregations who helped others during famine. We see it in the lives of many who were martyred for the cause of spreading Christianity to the ends of the earth.

Did you know brothers and sisters, that almost all hospitals, clinics, schools and colleges were started by Christians? We even have a nursing home named after a man from the Bible—the Good Samaritan.

Today, you saw this care demonstrated as Cameron and Ashley brought their daughter Tia to be baptized. That is a wonderful way to show that you care. But that is not enough. Make sure you bring her to God’s house. Through word and deed, demonstrate in your life your dependence on God—by being in His house to feed on His Word and receive His forgiveness. Don’t neglect that care to which you just vowed to be faithful. Be the kind, caring and loving parents that God has called you to be.

I know of many of you who have demonstrated care to others in times of need. Just recently a man from our church body paid $40.000.00 school loans to one of our newest pastors who will serve in this BELOVED District, so that this new pastor can care for his flock without worrying about paying this debt. Continue to do so that those who see your good works may praise Your heavenly Father.

O, you who are loved by the God who cares. I pray that today, you have come to understand by the power of the Holy Spirit that Your God is a CARING God. And I further pray that the cross would shine through your eyes so that you may be blessed and be a blessing. Amen.

Now the peace…