Sunday, October 21, 2012

“Celebrating the Sabbath” (Hebrews 4:1-13)

S-1341 21SAP/3B 10/21/12 Hymns: (O) #827; (S) #850; (C) #832 LSB

Text: Ecclesiastes 5:10-20; Hebrews 4:1-13; Mark 10:23-31

Theme: “Celebrating the Sabbath” (Hebrews 4:1-13)

Question: “Have you encouraged anyone this week?” Mission Sunday for Mt. Calvary Huron

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! The text for our Meditation is from the Epistle lesson: “Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. For the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 3:13).

Precious ones, when I was growing up in Israel, we had many big celebrations—baptisms, engagements, weddings etc. We would get together, eat, fellowship and dance late into the night. Often mother would come and get me out of my chair and I would dance with her. My heart danced, my body danced and so did my soul. We were having fun and celebrating. But the time came when mother was getting older and no longer able to dance, so I danced with others. Eventually mother was called to her eternal rest, and I’m unable to dance or celebrate with her anymore this side of heaven.

In today’s text the author to the Hebrews speaks of the rest that we all need to enter. And as we enter it, we celebrate the rest God has given us. God gave us the Sabbath (Hebrew: Shabbat) as a day of rest and rejuvenation, a day to enjoy His creation and focus on Him. Shabbat means “to rest”. How many times in our busy lives we don’t take time for needed rest! The pace of life today is much faster than it has ever been. Today’s families seem to never have enough time to spend together. Celebrating the Sabbath provides time to unwind, be with family and refocus on the Author of Life—our loving and gracious God.

Unfortunately, the celebration of the Sabbath is a tradition that has been lost to many Christians. We have lost the desire to be with God and in His presence. There are many things that tug at us and keep us away from God’s holy house and the peace He offers us. There are games to attend, fishing, hunting, golfing, camping and a host of things that keep us away. We no longer have the hunger or the desire to get the proper rest of both body and soul.

Sadly we have lost focus and no longer cry out like David: I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord!’” (Psalm 122:1). Neither do we heed the Word of Jesus’ teaching: Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Mt. 11:28). And above all, we have forgotten what God has instructed us “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord Your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy” (Ex. 20:8-11). And we can’t forget what Luther stated regarding this Commandment: What does this mean? We should fear and love God that we may not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.”

For this reason, the celebration of the Sabbath is an excellent teaching tool about God and His plans for humanity, and a wonderful “family time” as well. The Sabbath was the first festival to be outlined by God to Moses in the book of Leviticus. It was the first festival observed by God Himself in the book of Genesis, as well as being the first to be observed by man, even before the revelation at Mount Sinai when the other festivals were commanded. The Sabbath is a time of rest and is a Picture of the Bride (God’s people) resting with the Bridegroom, Yeshua (Jesus). It is very symbolic of the ultimate fulfillment of the eternal Sabbath with Him in paradise. PAUSE.

Because of this we are encouraged by the author of our book in another chapter saying “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (10:24-25). Oh how blessed we are when we do, and how tragic and sad when we don’t come to rest in His arms and celebrate what He gives us.

But like our fallen parents, ever since the fall in the Garden, we have continued to run away from Him. Rather than coming to Him seeking His blessings and proper rest of our bodies and souls; we seek pleasures and contentment in other things. Rather than resting and celebrating with Him we vainly try to find rest in the things that wear us out and worse these things KILL us.

Because of our disobedience Christ needed to come to earth. And while here, He obeyed the will of God perfectly. He always found time to be in the Lord’s house. He who is both God and Man needed the proper rest because of the demand put on Him and He always sought God and the rest He offers. But He did more than that. He went to the gallows of the cross to pay the penalty of our disobedience and to earn for us the proper rest—eternal rest with Him and in His presence. PAUSE.

The other day, I saw a street sign saying “Inactive Catholics come home.” That is a great slogan. But a sign on the street is not enough, we need to be involved in the lives of our brothers and sisters in Christ and invite all to come back not because they are inactive but because they are in desperate need to rest in Christ’s bosom and celebrate the forgiveness He offers them through His Word and Sacrament.

And when we are in His presence with other fellow believers, we rejoice and celebrate daily the salvation He has granted us by His love and death on Calvary’s cross and the empty tomb. Every time we are gathered by the Lord here in this place for the Divine Service, we celebrate the party of His presence. It even comes with the present of the forgiveness of sin! Here we find the rest we need. And when the worship Service is over, we, too, can depart in peace—whether it be from the celebration of worship into the day ahead or whether it be from our days on earth to the celebration that doesn’t end.

May, He, who made the Sabbath cause us to hunger and thirst for Him as we celebrate our rest today and always. Amen.

Now the peace…


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

“Encourage One Another” (Hebrews 3:13)

S-1340 20SAP/3B 10/14/12 Hymns: (O) #827; (S) #850; (C) #832 LSB

Text: Amos 5:6-7, 10-15; Hebrews 3:12-19; Mark 10:17-22

Theme: “Encourage One Another” (Hebrews 3:13)

Question: “Have you encouraged anyone this week?” Mission Sunday for Mt. Calvary Huron

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! The text for our Mission Fest is from the Epistle lesson: “But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13).

My beloved and His beloved, I remember the day vividly as it if t was yesterday. The year was 1997 and I was attempting my first Bike For Life (BFL) ride—a ride that is over 100 miles long from Armour to Sioux Falls, to save babies.

Before the BFL event, I sent out a message to all of the congregations of our Beloved District asking for people to pray, give financially and riders to join me. That year only one rider answered the call (David Olsen) from Our Redeemer, SF. David drove out the morning of the ride. Please remember I had never attempted anything like this before. We started out and he began to tell me what I needed to do, how to pace myself, what to eat on the road and encouraged me all along. When we got to the 70s miles, I was hurting; pain was taking its toll I wanted to quit. But David wouldn’t let me. He kept encouraging me. The pain got more intense and my bottom began to hurt even more. With each crack in the road, I would get off my seat. By the time we got to the 90s miles, tears began to roll down my cheeks and I said to David, “I just can’t go on. I am hurting; my bottom can’t take it anymore.” David was my Barnabas that day. He said, “Pastor, let’s just rest for sometimes and see what happens.” I laid flat on my back, ate two more bananas and after 45 minutes, I was ready to go. I rode the final 16 miles refreshed and rejuvenated. Completed the task and was elated! 15 years later, we are still riding with more than 40 riders to save babies and by the grace of God raised over $18.000 dollars last year and this year we are approaching $10.000. SDG.

In today’s text the author to the Hebrews writes: “But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today.” Another word, encourage one another today and not tomorrow. Use the time to change someone’s life for the better and introduce them to Jesus the Savior of the world. We need more people like David to be encouragers on the journey of life. God has put us on this earth for a reason—to make His name known to the world. To give hope to the hopeless, light to those in darkness, and life to those dead in sin and trespasses!

On this Mission Sunday I challenge each and every one of you to look at the opportunities the Savior has given you to share with others. I exhort you in the name of Christ to look for ways to be part of expanding His kingdom, edifying your family of faith and exalting Him. I implore you to be the man, woman, boy and girl for God desires for you.

You who are blood-bought and heaven-bound, I want you to join me to be an encourager for Christ. When a person is working for God we should encourage them to continue on. As the Baptized children of the heavenly Father, we want to help Christians keep going – keep on – and do their best to be a light and salt to those around them. We want Christians to become bolder and braver disciples. We want Christians to stand taller. We want Christians in Humility and by the power of the Holy Spirit to give their best effort. We want them to be the voice of Jesus in this dark world—to be an encourager. PAUSE.

Please remember, we can’t do it alone, but we have someone who will walk with us along the way—an encourager.

The word for “exhortation” in the Greek is Parakaleite that is to say someone who walks right along the road with you. It is the same root word for the Holy Spirit promised to walk with us (John 15:26). paráklētos, that can signify “one who consoles or comforts, one who encourages or uplifts; hence refreshes, and/or one who intercedes on our behalf as an advocate in court”. Although we won’t know the human writer to the Hebrews until all is revealed, yet by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit He has encouraged us to be faithful to Him in teaching others the truth of the salvation that our Savior has earned for us on Calvary’s cross.

Encouragement includes the giving of courage, hope, confidence, support and help. The apostle Paul ties the act of encouragement to the process of building up one another: “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing” (1 Thess. 5:11).

This is what the Savior of the world wants of us—to be an encourager, an exhorter for His cause and ministry. Because life with Christ matters, it brings hope and help, it brings life and love, and it brings joy and happiness.

Once again in the name of Christ Your Savior and Lord I challenge you to be an encourager to someone else. Everybody can be a servant of the Most High God. You don't have to have a college degree to be an encourager. What you need is have the vision of Christ to expand His kingdom, a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love and a hand stretched out in mercy. I encourage you to be an encourager with this story:

Mark was walking home from school one day when he noticed the boy ahead of him had tripped and dropped all of the books he was carrying, along with two sweaters, a baseball hat, a glove and a small tape recorder. Mark knelt down and helped the boy pick up the scattered articles. Since they were going the same way, he helped to carry part of the burden. As they walked Mark discovered the boy’s name was Bill, he loved video games, baseball and history that he was having lots of trouble with his other subjects and that he had just broken up with his girlfriend.

They arrived at Bill’s home first and Mark was invited in for a Coke and to watch some television. The afternoon passed pleasantly with a few laughs and some shared small talk, then Mark went home. They continued to see each other around school, had lunch together once or twice, then both graduated from junior high school. They ended up in the same high school where they had brief contacts over the years. Finally the long awaited senior year came, and three weeks before graduation, Bill asked Mark if they could talk.

Bill reminded him of the day years ago when they had first met. “Do you ever wonder why I was carrying so many things home that day?” asked Bill. “You see, I cleaned out my locker because I didn’t want to leave a mess for anyone else. I had stored away some of my mother’s sleeping pills and I was going home to commit suicide. But after we spent some time together talking and laughing, I realized that if I had killed myself, I would have missed that time and so many others that might follow. So you see, Mark, when you picked up my books that day, you did a lot more. You saved my life.”

You, who are precious in His sight, we have an Encourager now and every day. He walks with us and talks with us along life’s narrow way. He is the One who guides and guards our hearts and minds to know Him as our Lord and God. He is the One who gives us His Word, assures us of our future with Him and helps us to see that there is more to life than just living on this earth—but that He prepared for us a home in heaven. For this reason, we want to be “The Barnabas” to the world” Barnabas is the Son of an encourager. In the book of proverbs we read: “As iron sharpens iron so does a man sharpen the countenance of his friend” (Pro. 27:17). Sharpen your friends to know Jesus as Lord and God.

Saints in Christ remember what President Ronald Reagan said: “No matter where we live, we have a promise that can make all the difference. A promise for Jesus to sooth our sorrows heal our hearts and drive away our fears. He promised there will never be a dark night that doesn’t end. Our weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning. He promised to love us always without exceptions. And by dying for us Jesus shows how much our love should be ready to go—all the way to help others who do not know the One who was sent by God. 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 3:16).

I pray that the Holy Spirit the One promised to walk with us would use us to be an instrument to encourage others. What a great blessing as we are able to encourage and exhort one another daily, because the time is at hand as we share the Gospel in/with the Body of Christ!

Today, I give thanks for David who encouraged me to finish my ride, and I pray that you will be encouraged to live and share the love of Jesus, the One who loved you and still does even now and exhorts you to walk with Him hand in hand as you share His love with others. Amen.

Now the peace…


Sunday, October 7, 2012

“SomeONE For the Journey” (Genesis 2:18) LWML SUNDAY

S-1339 19SAP/3B 10/07/12 Hymns: (O) #20; (S) #457; (C) # 922 LSB

Text: Genesis 2:18-25; Hebrews 2:1-13; Mark 10:2-16

Theme: “SomeONE For the Journey” (Genesis 2:18) LWML SUNDAY

Question: “Who are you traveling with?” Armour, SD

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! The text for our meditation this morning is from the O.T. lesson: “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him’” (Genesis 2:18).

A story is told of an event that occurred in the Garden of Eden: Adam was walking around the Garden feeling very lonely, so God asked him, “What is wrong with you, why are you downcast?” Adam said, “Father of grace and compassion, You have given me a beautiful place to live. It is gorgeous and serene here, the flowers and trees are out of this world; and all the animals around me are lovely and beautiful. But, I don’t have anyone to talk to.”

God said “that He was going to make Adam a companion and that it would be a woman. He said, ‘This person will gather food for you, cook for you, when you discover clothing, she’ll wash them for you. She will always agree with every decision you make. She will bear your children and never ask you to get up in the middle of the night to take care of them. She will not nag you to death, and will always be the first to admit she was wrong when you’ve had a disagreement. She will never have a headache, and will freely give you love and passion whenever you need it.’”

Adam paused for a moment and asked God, “What will a woman like this cost?” God replied, “An arm and a leg.” Then Adam asked, “What can I get for a rib?” PAUSE.

Beloved in Christ, we may laugh at this story but the humor only covers a stark reality: we live in a broken and fallen world. Yet, the truth of the matter is that we need people. God has created us for relationships based on love, respect, mutual understanding and service.

Today, on this LWML Sunday, we give thanks to the many women who have served and are serving now in this Mission organization. I’m certain that you noticed in the name of their organization that it is not one “woman” but “WOMEN”. All along the journey there are women serving others—older women serving younger ones. Women who have gone through tragedies are ministering to women who are going through the same. Women working together making quilts, gathering mites, putting on programs that will benefit the whole body of Christ.

These women are not alone; they work with other women to expand the mission field so that everyone will get to know the greatest Servant of ALL—Jesus Christ. These women pray, plan and propose new programs each year so that their ministries can benefit many. These women work within Zones, Districts, and Synod so that others might receive the blessings of God. These women keep their eyes focused on Christ and His Bride—the Church.

For this reason, the text shows and demonstrates God’s love towards Adam in creating a help meet—someone for the journey of life. Because when you have someone journeying with you the journey is so much better and sweeter. When you have someone working with you, the work load is lighter, when someone is carrying the burdens with you, then life gets a little bit easier.

This is true if we are talking about husband and wife, the LWML, congregational families, colleagues or friends. When you have someone journeying with you it is more blessed indeed. PAUSE.

The text is clear. By the inspiration of the Holy Spirit Moses wrote, “God will make him [Adam] a helper fit for him.” This help meet is the One who will assist him in all walks and needs of life.

But if you study life and history, you realize and must admit that even a blessed couple can’t always meet each other’s needs. The LWML can’t always meet the needs of all their mission projects, congregations don’t and can’t always meet the needs of all its members; and even pastors can’t meet the needs of all who have been entrusted to their care. This is because sin looms large in our lives and hearts. Sin always takes center stage in our thinking and doing. No matter how hard we try to honor God with our service we fall short.

It is for this reason that God promised to give us a Helper that meets our needs. This Helper will be flesh of our flesh and bone of our bones. This Helper will be born in the same way you and I were born after 9 months of gestation. This Helper will live among us yet without sin.

This Helper will be able to meet the entire world’s needs—including every couple, family, The LWML, congregations and pastors. This Helper will be able to meet the needs of every soul, past, present and future—this Helper is the Incarnate Son of God—Jesus Christ ordained to be born before the foundation of the world.

The Incarnate Son of God did meet every person’s need when He walked this earth. He helped the sick and sorrowful, the blind and burdened, the leper and the lame, the downtrodden and downcast, the troubled and tormented. But He did more than just help relieve them from their ailments and afflictions. He helped them by serving them not only in giving an arm a leg, but His all on the cruel and torturous instrument of the cross. He served them by forgiving them their sins. He helped them by opening the gates of heaven and reconciled them back to God. He helped them by promising to be available to anyone at any time because He is able to provide all that we need; and His hands are NEVER too short to meet and exceed what we need.

The Apostle Paul reminds us of this truth in his letter to the church at Ephesus: “Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (3:19-20). Yes, indeed, Christ has served us and met our every need.

This is even made sure in the words of our sermon hymn: “Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere? We should never be discouraged—Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful, Who will all our sorrows share? Jesus knows our every weakness; Take it to the Lord in prayer
” (What a Friend We Have in Jesus vs. 2).

Beloved in Christ, you have the greatest SERVANT of all times—He has come to walk with you on the journey of life and leads you to the Promised Land—heaven.

What a privilege to be here today not only to observe and give thanks to the Lord for the labor of love of the LWML, but for our privilege to serve along with them all who journey along the path of life. What an honor to be the humble and helpful servants to anyone who is traveling in this wilderness and point them to the One who is always with us even to the very end of the age as He promised (Mt. 28:20).

To the One who walks and talks with us along life’s narrow way—Jesus Christ, be glory and honor, now and forever. Amen.

Now the peace…