Tuesday, December 31, 2013

“A New Beginning!” (2 Corinthians 5:17-19)

S-1405 NE/3A 12/31/2013 Hymns: (O) SOD #32; (S) #123; LS #416; #54; (C) LSB,#917

Texts: Exodus 12:1-6; 2 Corinthians 5:16-21; John 1:1-5

Theme: “A New Beginning!” (2 Corinthians 5:17-19)

Question: “Are you working on a new project?” Armour, SD

Happy New to you faithful followers of the Savior, the text is from the Epistle lesson: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.” (2 Corinthians 5:17-19).


Most precious people of God, some of you know that I enjoy watching Western movies. Recently I was watching The Cowboys starring John Wayne as Wil Andersen. Wil finds himself with a herd of cattle which he has to drive 400 miles to the Belle Fourche market before the winter sets in, but he has no men to help him. He turns to a group of young school boys as his last hope to get the job done. There is no better training for these boys than hands-on as they don’t know what they are in for. They set out as schoolboys but return as Cowboys.

Wil’s cook is Jebediah Nightlinger. On the drive late one night they were visiting about family. Wil tells Jebediah that he has lost two sons. He doesn’t know how, but he wasn’t a very good and caring father. He didn’t know how to teach his children the value of family and life. Jebediah says to him: “You might have another chance to make the wrong right with these young boys!” Soon after, Wil began to speak in a different tone with these young boys and he made a difference in their lives.

This evening as we close the year, you might be just like Wil Andersen dealing with regrets of past sins and acknowledging that you may have fallen short of what God has asked you to be. You may not have loved your family to the best of your ability, your neighbor and even God. You may have lived to please yourself instead of Jesus Christ.

If you are like Wil, and if we are honest, at many times in our lives we are just like Wil, therefore, you are in the right place. The Holy Spirit has brought you here. In this place you will receive the medicine that heals broken hearts, cleanses guilty consciences and removes regrets. Listen to a preacher who has his best interest for you: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” Paul states that if you are in Christ then you have become a new person with a new beginning. In Christ the old is removed and the new is brought forth. In Christ that which was done yesterday is over, you have another beginning. On account of Christ the regrets are removed and reception into the family of faith is granted.

Please also notice that Paul doesn’t say “if” as in conditional statement meaning it depends on you. No! Salvation is not conditional. To be sure, there is nothing “iffy” about the way of salvation. The Gospel of Christ doesn’t have an “if” clause.” It is a simple and beautiful declaration. “Christ died for our sins!” Paul confessed it this way: “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them…” We have been reconciled. We have been redeemed. We have been washed and made new.

The reason we can stand in the presence of God as New creatures because Christ reconciled us to Himself by not counting our sins against us. Because our sins have been forgiven the past is covered by the blood of the Lamb and the New has come forth. The old has been destroyed and placed into the cold tomb of Christ and the New has risen out of the tomb. This is not a remodel job. It is completely new construction! You and I have a New beginning on account of Christ who is the in the business of reconciling us to God the loving and gracious Father. PAUSE.

Tonight in this hospital room know that Christ has made you a new creature with a new beginning. Don’t look back and wish you could have done better! Instead look up to Jesus the Redeemer and the Reconciler of your heart and life. Here in this household of faith which is also a banquet hall, don’t let the devil rob you of the joy of being forgiven, neither should you attempt to win God’s favor by doing the best you can be. The best you can be is not good enough—only the goodness of Christ is good enough to cover every sin and makes us NEW. Only in Christ every sin is covered, every regret is abandoned and every event of past history is forgotten in Him who has reconciled us to God.

Regrets can drag us down and drown us in sorrow. I don’t have enough time tonight to tell you of my many regrets. I can barely scratch the surface in admitting to you how often I have dishonored and disgraced, shamed and violated God and His Word.

But that is why I came tonight on this final opportunity I have to be in this hospital and banquet hall in 2013. Here I will by the power of the Holy Spirit hear again the sweet message of Pastor Paul who tells me and you, “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them…” Indeed, we have been FORGIVEN, RECONCILED AND REDEEMED! And we even get to dine at His table.

Beloved children of God don’t let the world determine how you live for Christ! Don’t fall into the trap of making resolutions that you can’t keep. Every one of us has made these resolutions: I want to be a better husband and father, wife and mother, stop drinking, smoking, using fowl language, attend church more, show kindness and provide for my family better. And the best—I will go on a diet and lose weight. All of this is good, but not for your salvation. Instead rely on Your Redeemer and Lord Jesus Christ who has won your freedom and forgiven you ever sin you have every committed and will commit. PAUSE.

Remember, I said, I enjoy Western? The Rifleman was a great western TV show about Lucas Macain, a man raising his son Mark after the death of the boy’s mother.

Each episode contains a moral lesson about what is right and wrong. One, in particular, involves Lucas telling Mark how his mother died. It was a terrible wintery day. Lucas’ wife had given birth but was ill and needed medicine. She asked her husband to send her father—Mr. Gibbs—to retrieve the medicine. Lucas reluctantly agreed, gave his father-in-law money for the medicine, and sent him on his way in howling wind and blowing snow.

But Mr. Gibbs was an alcoholic, and the biting weather wore him down. He entered a bar thinking one drink would give him the energy to keep going. One drink wasn’t enough, and by the time Mr. Gibbs returned with the medicine, his daughter was dead. Mr. Gibbs left and never spoke with Lucas, who blamed his father-in-law for his wife’s death.

Twelve years later, Mark has learned to hate his grandfather for what happened to his mother. But in this episode, Mr. Gibbs is back and asking for forgiveness. Mark isn’t interested, yelling, “You killed my mother and I grew up without her. I will never, every forgive you!” Surprisingly, Lucas tells his son to let go of the past and to forgive Mr. Gibbs. Slowly Mark walks over to his grandfather and utters in a low voice, “Mr. Gibbs, I forgive you!” He then walks a little closer to the old man, looks up at him and says, “Grandpa, I forgive you!” Gibbs responds, with a huge smile, That is just fine, boy. That is just fine!

Today, as we stand on the portal of the New Year, the Holy Spirit helps us hear the voice of the Second person of the Trinity—Jesus the Christ saying to you and to me, “I forgive you for all of your sins. For all of your past disobeDIEnce. For every time you dishonored Me, shamed Me, denied Me and defiled My NAME. You are new in Me and have a wonderful life ahead because of My Sacrifice on the cross in your place!”

Unlike Lucas Macain who had to teach his son Mark how to let go of the past and forgive, God is different. He sent His Son to forgive us our sins and give us a new beginning through His death and resurrection.

We are not a new beginning because of “if”. We are not saved “if.” We are saved because—because God in His immeasurable mercy sent His Son into the world to die for your sins and mine. Our salvation is completed. Christ died, He rose again. We can believe this message. Not “if” but because our Lord has said so. And Since He has said so—we have a New beginning with Him now and always. HAPPY NEW YEAR! Amen.

Now the peace…


Monday, December 30, 2013

“Count Your Blessings!” (Isaiah 63:7-9)

S-1404 1SAC/3A 12/29/2013 Hymns: LSB, (O) #94; (S) #36; LS #377; #92; #308; (C) #567

Texts: Isaiah 63:7-14; Galatians 4:4-7; Luke 2:13-23

Theme: “Count Your Blessings!” (Isaiah 63:7-9)

Question: “How Blest Are You? Armour, SD

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! The text for the first Sunday after Christmas is from the O. T. lesson: “I will recount the steadfast love of the Lord, the praises of the Lord, according to all that the Lord has granted us, and the great goodness to the house of Israel that He has granted them according to His compassion, according to the abundance of His steadfast love For He said, ‘Surely they are My people, children who will not deal falsely.’ And He became their Savior. In all their affliction He was afflicted, and the angel of His presence saved them; in His love and in His pity He redeemed them; He lifted them up and carried them all the days of old’” (Isaiah 63:7-9).


Most precious people of God, a high school class mate of mine posted this on FB on 12/5/13. Listen to Diane (Furman) speak: “I just got back from Wal-mart, had to pick up my meds. While I was waiting in line to check out, the guy ahead of me was having the lady ring up his items one-by-one. He was making sure he had enough money to pay for his Roman-noodles and cans of vegetables. He ended up having to put one can of corn back. All I could think of was how I have never had to wonder where my next meal was coming from, or having to eat Roman-noodles. I was too slow to pay for his groceries so when he was done giving the cashier his $17.53 I handed him a $20.00 bill and said Merry Christmas! I cried all the way to the car. We must all count our blessings!”

As I was reading the post, I wept. I even wept again when I wrote the sermon. I sent a message to Diane asking permission to use her story and this is Diane speaking again. “You most certainly may use my experience in your sermon, Nabil! The Lord works in mysterious ways; I feel I was given an opportunity to put some joy in that man’s heart, but at the end of the day...I was the one Blessed!”

Diane stated it well. “At the end of the day...I was the one Blessed!”I wonder how many of us truly know how blessed we are. How many of us here truly count our blessings daily. I wonder how many of us lift our eyes heavenward and say, “Thank you, Jesus for being my Savior, Redeemer and Lord!PAUSE.

By now most of you have opened up your gifts and some have even exchanged them for something that you like better. But today, in God’s holy house, there will be no returns or exchanges. Today, instead we want to lift our voices to heaven and once more thank the Lord for blessing us with every spiritual blessing.

Today, hear how the Holy Spirit uses the Prophet Isaiah to lead us to “count our blessings”: “I will recount the steadfast love of the Lord, the praises of the Lord, according to all that the Lord Has granted us, and the great goodness to the house of Israel that He Has granted them according to His compassion, according to the abundance of His steadfast love.”

The counting of our blessings can’t be limited to one or two days out of the year like Thanksgiving and Christmas. It can’t be limited to these because every day our Lord visits us as His very own people. He is faithful in making and keeping every promise. Nowhere do we see that promise making and keeping more clearly than what we just saw as we once again traveled to Bethlehem to behold the great Gift of Heaven to man. PAUSE.

On this 29th of December, now that Christmas has been celebrated and we turn our thoughts to a new year, it would be a great time for counting blessings! As we look back on the year past, we might well see it as a good year. But others because of heartache and hurt are eagerly wishing 2013 over. In the process it would be very easy for us to look at the past as “the good old days” and see the future as uncertain. Or we might see the past hurts and see the future as limitless joy and potential. But either way we are overlooking one very important thing: the participation of God in our world and in our lives. But today Isaiah calls us to consider both our past and our future not in the light of our current setting in history, but in relationship to the kindness and mercy of God!

Just as it was in the time of ancient Israel, so it is for us today. Our lives cannot be measured or analyzed without considering God. Isaiah began by praising God. “I will recount the steadfast love of the Lord, the praises of the Lord, according to all that the Lord has granted us, and the great goodness to the house of Israel that He has granted them according to His compassion, according to the abundance of His steadfast love.” It is interesting to note that Isaiah actually is setting out to pray for his people, and ask God to rescue and help them, but he begins his prayer by remembering their relationship with God. And that relationship is marked by the kindness of God’s steadfastness.

Just what does this steadfastness look like so that we can count it properly? First and foremost, it consists of God’s gracious choice of Israel to be His people! Isaiah says, “So He became their Savior. In all their affliction He was afflicted, and the angel of His presence saved them; in His love and in His pity He redeemed them; He lifted them up and carried them all the days of old”. The steadfastness of God is in His gracious choice of His people, which always results in God taking their side and being their Savior. Notice how much like the Gospel the description of God’s relationship with Old Testament Israel sounds; In all their affliction He was afflicted, And the angel of His presence saved them; In His love and in His mercy He redeemed them. God was present among them. He suffered with them and for them. He redeemed them by sending His Son, the Babe of Bethlehem—to be their Savior and make them His very own. PAUSE.

Today, as we have been brought to the Lord’s house, we have a joyful opportunity to remember how God works in the lives of His people and us. King Solomon had plenty of wealth and could buy anything he wanted including plenty of wine. Instead, I ask you today to recall the miracle at Cana where we behold Solomon’s greater Offspring produced wine in abundance by His creating will. He is, indeed, the Divine One who can provide for us even what Solomon’s gold could not buy.

Every day, is a good occasion for us as God’s beloved, chosen and redeemed people, to count our many blessings and then take into account this realization: Only Jesus can give us something that is far more nutritious than what sits on our tables, far more warming than what is placed on our shoulders, far more powerful than what sits in our driveways and far more valuable than any of our wealth. That tremendous and invaluable gift is what He delivers by His humble birth in a stable, His perfect life, His bitter suffering; His undeserved death on the cross and by the glory of His resurrection. It is none other than the forgiveness of sins and eternal life!

King Solomon had to leave all of his wealth behind. Jesus, on the other hand has gained for you and me a royal legacy that lies ahead. In some ways we are even more prosperous in physical things than Solomon ever had. We are no more deserving; therefore, we have ample reasons to acknowledge with thanks the things that make this passing life more pleasant. But they are trifles compared to what God’s Son has gained for us.

Enjoying plenty now or doing with less, in a family circle or all alone, today we reassess Paul’s reminder: “You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). And it is this richness that helps us count our blessings. But at time, we stand in line, not at Wal-Mart, but in the presence of the God Almighty and we count our good works to get a pass at life. But no matter how hard we try to buy our way into the Kingdom we fall short like the young man in our opening story. Into the line steps Jesus. He takes His pierced hands and feet, His bruised face and punctured side and says: ‘FATHER, THIS IS MY PAYMENT FOR THIS CHILD AND EVERY CHILF OF ADAM AND EVE! THE PAYMENT IS MADE IN FULL!” Thus we get a pass into the glories of heaven.

Indeed, we are rich and ought to be counting our blessings. Because of Him who became poor so that we can become rich we have been made part of the family of God. Through the splash of water on our heads, we get the privilege to dine with our Savior around His table often add to that; cases of expensive forgiveness, a wardrobe of pure righteousness fitted for rejoicing in the presence of the Designer and the Deliverer of the Universe, a crown of golden godliness—all ours to take with us.

Thanks be to God now and always as we recount our many blessings. Amen.

Now the peace of God…


“Coming in Haste, Leaving With Praise” (Luke 2:15-20)

S-1403 CD/3A 12/25/2013 Hymns: LSB, (O) #87; #94; 102; (S) #109; 76; 85; (C) #647

Texts: Isaiah 62:10-12; Galatians 4:4-7; Luke 2:1-20

Theme: “Coming in Haste, Leaving With Praise” (Luke 2:15-20)

Question: “Are you in a hurry to get someplace? Armour, SD

Faithful followers of the Savior, Merry Christmas to you! The text for our Christmas celebration is from the Gospel of St. Luke: “When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.’ And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child’” (Luke 2:15-17).


Merry Christmas! Christmas morning is always a wonderful time for those of us who know and love the Lord who was and is God in the Flesh—Immanuel! It is so special to us that we often reach out to those we know and love and share with them the Christmas joy we have because of the Baby Jesus!

The Christmas season is like that for us. Receiving great gifts make us want to share it with others. We often get so excited about a gift we received that we communicate it with the world. Texts, email, and Facebook are full of Christmas blessings and Christmas thanksgiving. They speak of the perfect gift—the engagement ring, the job promotion, or the newly announced expectation of a child or grandchild. We get good news and good gifts; and we want to share it by any and every means necessary.

The same is true today of the greatest gift we have ever received! We get the news from Dr. Luke in his Christmas account. There he tells us of the great news the shepherds in the Bethlehem’s field received so long ago from an unexpected visitors. Luke tells it this way: “And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord’ (Luke 2:8-11).

God in His divine mercy has kept His promise of sending a Savior. He sent His messengers to earth to inform the world that the Savior has been born. The shepherds heard the wonderful angelic news. The long-awaited Messiah was born at last! So many generations of shepherds and carpenters, priests and peasants, kings and queens had waited for this moment in history. Now it had arrived. This greatest of news warranted the greatest of delivery services. The Angel announced this wonder and then the entire choir of angels joined in! Can you imagine the scene and the sound above Bethlehem’s field? Wouldn’t you want to have been there to receive the announcement? I sure would want to! PAUSE.

Moved by this amazing and profound news, these lowly and despised shepherds knew what they had to do! You don’t get earth-shattering news and then go back to watching your sleepy flock! Oh no! There is something to do. Thus the Spirit stirred their hearts and feet and they made haste! They beat tracks! There wasn’t anything or anyone that could keep them from this sight that the Lord made known to them. No mountain, no hill, no valley and not even the coyotes, lions or tigers would keep them away. They were moving with haste. They were not walking, they were running. So excited! After all these years the greatest news the Jewish people had been waiting for—has come—The Savior promised of old is here and He will bring about redemption and salvation. No wonder they went in haste.

When they finally reached their destination, what joy filled their hearts! What they saw, while announced by the angels, was completely unexpected. They saw a young, nervous father, a younger, caring and loving mother and a baby wrapped in swaddling cloth. There was no crown! There was no Scepter! There was no palace! Just a baby like all other babies born into the world, lying on a bed of straw. But this was no ordinary baby. What they saw with their eyes, was Baby Jesus—and with their eyes of faith; God in the flesh. Only God could do Messiah this way.

Having seen the Gift of heaven with their eyes, they danced with joy because of God’s kindness in keeping His promise to deliver mankind. And what they did next was such a blessing to many including you and me today. What these simple men of faith saw the Holy Spirit led them to do something different. They were forever changed. The flocks and herds, hills and valleys and yes even the shepherds would never be the same. The echo of the angels’ song still wafts over creation. Luke records their actions this way: “And when they saw it [Baby], they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child” (Luke 2:17).

Today as we gather in the fields of Armour, SD we join our voices with the eternal choir praising the Lord who would save us in such a wondrous and simple way. Today, we lift our voices heaven ward saying:

“Joy to the world! The Lord is come Let earth receive her King! Let every heart prepare Him room And heaven and nature sing And heaven and nature sing And heaven, and heaven and nature sing Joy to the world! the Savior reigns Let men their songs employ While fields and floods Rocks, hills and plains Repeat the sounding joy Repeat the sounding joy Repeat, repeat the sound in joy” (TLH 87 vs. 1-2). PAUSE.

This praise is so much more than just a couple choruses of “Joy to the World.” If our praise is fleeing like this, it betrays the reality that we have been forever changed. By the grace of God, like the shepherds we have knelt at the manger and with eyes of faith have seen the Baby born to Mary. We have read and heard of the mighty deeds He has done to save many. We have stood with our eyes fixed upon Him hanging on the cross, as the blood dripped from His side, skull, hands and feet. We have heard the voice shatter the silence, “Father, forgive them!” and we have stood with the women by the empty tomb and heard another angel announce another glorious news, “He is not here, He is Risen as He said!

Having been brought here today by the Spirit, we have once more been privileged to see the salvation that God has promised us. However, we see it in more than just swaddling cloth. Our salvation grew to be a man who would bear our sins in the body that was once that swaddled infant to keep Him warm, now is naked to be mocked by all. That same body, whose hands were once so tiny, small and perfect, would receive the nails that would forever mar them. God’s perfect Lamb, born to Mary would be our salvation on the cross of Calvary. This He is FOR US!

Because the Lord has shown us this salvation, not only at the manger, but at the cross and empty tomb, like the shepherds we too are forever changed. The Holy Spirit uses our lives and voices are added to the eternal chorus that praises our Lord who has given us this spectacular gift. So changed, we are sent into the world living lives of praise that point others to the same manger and cross. We use all the gifts that God gives us to make known what we have seen and heard.

Having come here in haste, we leave with praise on our hearts and lips forever and ever. Amen.

Now the peace of God…


“Never Judge a Gift by its Wrapping” (Luke 2:5-6)

S-1402 CE/3A 12/24/2013 Hymns: (O) #87; #92; #95; (S) #102; #647; (C) #646

Texts: Isaiah 9:2-7; Luke 2:1-20

Theme: “Never Judge a Gift by its Wrapping” (Luke 2:5-6)

Question: “What is important the wrapping or the gift?” Armour, SD

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! The text for our meditation is from the O.T. lesson: “And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn” (Luke 2:5-6).


{In the center of the chancel is a table with a large box wrapped in shiny paper and an old paper bag. The large box is filled with old newspaper, non-winning lottery tickets and the like. The old paper bag has in it a 50+ year old copy of the Scriptures. I will invite one child selected at random to choose one of the gifts.}

Which gift would you choose; the big box with shiny paper and bows or the crumpled bag? Most people are distracted by the shiny paper and would choose the box. I don’t know many who would choose the crumpled paper bag. And when they see what’s inside, I am not sure they would regard either of them as real gifts. After all, in the bag is nothing but a worn out old Bible. There are many here tonight that would say, “That’s it? I came for Christmas and all I got was this old, falling apart Bible?”

This illustrates something that happened in 1934. A Lutheran pastor attended a convention of clergy in Frankenmuth, Michigan. During this convention, the pastor was offered lodging in the home of his cousin, who was an area farmer. During conversation, the farmer showed his cousin a family heirloom, an old Bible that had apparently come from Germany, since it was written in German. When the pastor examined the book, he recognized that it was centuries old. Then, as he opened the cover and viewed the title page of the Bible, he gasped. In the lower right-hand corner, handwritten in ink, was the date 1733. Above the date was a signature: “J. S. Bach.” This Bible had originally been the personal copy of the great composer Johann Sebastian Bach!

For centuries, this book had been regarded by its own­ers as just an old dusty tome. For almost two hundred years, no one had recognized its origin or its value. It had been packed away in the attic and long forgotten. But no longer. Now this “Bach Bible” is housed in the rare book collection at the Concordia Seminary library and is valued as that library’s most prized possession.

The lesson learned from this story is clear—never judge a book by its cover. To the farmer, this was just another ancient, out-of-date, unimportant book. In real­ity, however, it was a priceless treasure. This reminds us also of the advice given to us by our parents, who said: “Never judge a gift by its wrapping.” The most valuable treasure can be wrapped in modest packaging.

This nearly 50+ year old Bible in my hands could be regarded as modest packaging. But it has recorded in its pages the greatest gift that any human being has ever received. {Read the Christmas Story from Luke 2 again to highlight the treasure.} PAUSE.

Tonight, on this Christmas Eve, we are reminded of a sim­ilar lesson about not judging a gift by its wrapping. Indeed, the message of Christmas is that the greatest gift of all—the gift of God’s own Son—was deliv­ered in modest, unassuming wrapping. Christ was literally born in a barn, wrapped in rags, and laid in a feed trough for livestock.

This most precious GIFT of all—God Himself!—was packaged in the flesh of a vulnerable infant. He was born of peasant parents and wrapped in swaddling cloths— ordinary strips of fabric. And He was laid in a manger, which would normally hold fodder for the animals. All this happened because there was no place for them. This child was welcomed not by kings and princes, not by dignitaries and the elite of society. Instead, on that night, He was greeted by shepherds, who were regarded by most as lowly and unclean, even as outcasts from society.

So it was an angel who was sent to unwrap the identity of this child and to reveal the true nature of the gift. In brilliant light the glorious news of the birth of Messiah explodes over the darkened creation. The deafening, yet sweet melody of the Gloria in Excelsis was impossible for these unlearned and simple men to ignore the announcement of this gift. They HAD to go to Bethlehem. They may have gone in faith. They may have gone in curiosity. But not going was not an option for what they had heard and seen from the angels.

Can you imagine their reaction when they arrived on the scene? With the angelic announcement one would expect something more. They found Messiah alright! But if it had not been for the angels, there is no way they would have believed what they saw. The great Redeemer of the Universe was a baby. The hand that was barely big enough to wrap around Mary’s finger was the same hand that fashioned the very creation He has come to save. The One who spoke everything into existence with His all powerful word is now left a communication that is simply cooing and crying. The only way that these men could believe this baby, as cute as He was, was Messiah was to believe the message that the Lord sent through the angel. Had it been left to them, they would have seen the wrapping of the infant flesh in the swaddling rags and simply passed on this great treasure. PAUSE.

How often do we, even today, get all wrapped up in the packaging and marketing of the moment to the point where we miss out on the true gift? This is what we see in the box with the shiny paper tonight. In this box is all of the bad news of the world today. There are the empty promises of drugs and alcohol. There is the fool’s gold of instant wealth of winning the Lottery—that last week as the lottery grew in size we were told, every hour 11 million tickets were purchased. There are even the false promises of academic and professional achievements. These gifts are glitzy and glamorous. But soon their luster fades. The wrapping paper is trashed. The news continues to be bad. The bottle empties and the headaches and heartaches follow. And those lottery numbers never seem to come in for us. Our achievements also fade with time and are overshadowed by those who follow after us. This is the gift that life in a sinful world offers, produces and seduces. These gifts are empty, worthless, and just plain sad.

And yet, this is the gift we choose so often. We choose to follow after the world rather than sit and hear the Word of God. We seek to make our best life now, all the while rejecting the very gift that would make not only the best now, but also the best eternity for us. We work and we strive. We tear others down because we don’t know any other way to communicate the pain within our sinfully broken lives. We dig deeper in the box that is the world’s gift and we find more meaninglessness. We choose this for ourselves! We can’t blame God. This is all on us!

It is on us because all the while that we were oogling and ah-ing the world’s gift, the plain brown wrapper of God’s gift is present. It looks so boring. It looks so plain. It is just a book. But don’t judge that gift by its wrapping! When you take a closer look this gift is so much more. This is why here at Redeemer Lutheran Church we hand out Bibles in 3rd grade to stress the importance and the value of this gift. Not to be placed on a shelf but to be used daily for our faith to grow.

This is the gift that brings the angel’s message to you. It breaks through the sin and death of our lives and points us to a new life. It shows us God in the flesh, God on the cross, God in the tomb and God bursting forth from death. It is this gift that promises and delivers. It promises a Savior and it delivers at Christmas. It promises a Suffering Servant and it delivers at the cross. It promises a Resurrection and it delivers at the empty tomb. It promises forgiveness and salvation and it delivers at the Baptismal font, the altar and the pulpit.

And this gift never breaks, goes out of style or fails to fit. Big or small, short or tall, young or old, this gift is for YOU. It is for you this night whether you have known it all your life, knew it once but walked away, or if this is the first time you are hearing it. This is God’s gift to you. It comes wrapped in basic wrapping: a baby and a Bible. It doesn’t look like much, but I promise you by the power of the Holy Spirit it is the most incredible gift you will ever receive from anyone!

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. Don’t judge this gift by the wrapping! Don’t judge this gift by what the world says about it either. Judge this gift by what it is and does. This gift remains. It remains because it is timeless. For 2000+ years we have been hearing and receiving this gift. The Holy Spirit leads us to look past the wrapping and see the heart of this precious gift. And what we see there is the very heart of God who was willing to do everything for you!

The Holy Spirit will lead you to look past the wrapping and receive the gift. He will open your eyes of faith and you will see yet again that the treasure wrapped in this musty, dusty book of a wrapping, is the only GIFT that will gleam forever. And it is all for YOU in Jesus. Rejoice at this gift. Merry Christmas! AMEN!

Now the peace…


“Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:13-14)

S-1401 4SIA/A 12/22/2013 Hymns: LSB, (O) #592; (S) #357; L.S. 594; 618; 636; (C) #349

Texts: Isaiah 7:10-17; Romans 1:1-7; Matthew 1:18-25

Theme: “Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:13-14)

Question: “Why is it important for the family to be home for Christmas?” Armour, SD

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! The text for our meditation is from the O.T. lesson: “…Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name IMMANUEL (Isaiah 7:13-14).


Most precious people of God, someone has said that if you could convince a man that there is no hope, he would curse the day that he was born. Hope for all human beings-is an indispensable quality of life.

Years ago an S4 submarine was rammed by another ship and quickly sank to the bottom of the ocean. The entire crew was trapped within that vessel. Various ships that were in the ocean at that time rushed to the scene of the disaster, but no one really knew what that crew went through on those few hours underneath the water. Men bravely clung to all the oxygen that they could get until, slowly, it gave out. One diver who came to the rescue placed his ear to the side of the vessel and listened, and there were various tapping noises that were heard-someone was tapping in Morse code. The question being asked from that dark vessel was this: “Is there any hope?”

That is indeed the cry of all humanity from the time of the Fall! Throughout various circumstances, and in various situations, those cries can be heard: “Is there any hope?” The voice of the prophet Isaiah resonate with the message of hope in a hopeless situation as King Ahaz of Judah was being attacked by the kings of Syria and Israel.

God sent His prophet of old to bring comfort and hope to what seemed as an impossible situation saying; “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name IMMANUEL. Most certainly, there is hope only for those who know this Immanuel personally and intimately. This hope comes not because we know Him, but rather because He comes to be with us and among us. The words of John Wesley capture this hope when on his deathbed he was able to confess: “The best of all is this: God is with us”’. He could have said various things, but he said that the best of all is this: God is with us. When God is with you, then hope is a living thing. It is not a wishful thing, but something that encourages you to look beyond the situation and circumstance to the One who holds everything in the palm of His hands including you. PAUSE.

How does this hope become ours? Isaiah states that Immanuel will be with us. Those words spoken to King Ahaz, the people of Judah, then, and now to us; is what gives us hope! What that means then, the Child born of the Virgin is God with us. That is, God comes to dwell in the Child born in Bethlehem who would be our Savior and Lord.

In this Immanuel our hope is fulfilled and revealed. It was the answer to a troubled king and his nation and it is the same answer to our troubled hearts also. This hope hidden in the Child of Christmas who many deny as the Savior and Lord of all humanity, but to us, who are in the darkness of sin this is our Morse code—God comes to be with and among us. It was also given to Mary and hidden in her womb and the lowly manger of Bethlehem; and given to us in Word and hidden in the bread and wine.

What a beautiful name for our Savior, Immanuel—God with us. In it are wrapped two comforting, consoling and encouraging truths. The first is that Jesus is totally without any dispute God. Eliminate that truth and what would that baby mean to us? He’d be just another baby, cute, no doubt, like all of them. And what would that figure on the cross 33 years later mean to us? He’d be just another innocent victim nailed there by some miscarriage of justice. No, He must be God, or else He can’t be our Savior. If He is not God, then He could only give us temporary hope. If He is not God, then His blood could hardly purify us from all sin.

The second truth in His name Immanuel is this: He’s “God with us.” What a comforting thought. God’s not far off, distant in the heavens, glancing at us from across the miles. He is with us in our flesh, on our globe, under our sin. He is with us in our sin, not to cause them or share in them but to save us from them and the punishment they bring to us—death. He knows what they are like. He has already paid for every one of them. He is with us in our sorrows and sadness, in our trials and troubles, in our agony and affliction. He is with us every step of our lives from the first breath we took. PAUSE.

Likewise, today, Immanuel is here. He is here in the simple water sprinkled upon Miliana Jo Montoya to make her His forever. He is here today to give her hope and future and guide her in her walk of faith. He is here today, as He offers us His body and blood on the altar to give not temporary hope but an eternal one.

Our Immanuel is here today in His Word. Through that Word spoken and administered in the Sacrament we have hope forever. Our Immanuel knows our weakness our failures and our sins. Yet, this Baby of Bethlehem, the Baby the prophet Isaiah spoke about in the text, chose to go the way of the cross and suffer for our sins so that we may know that in Him there is life and salvation. Because of what He endured for you and me, we can rejoice realizing the payment has been paid in full.

Our Immanuel is here today as we offer Him our services. Though we often get weary and seem to take three steps forward then five steps backward in our efforts, yet, He is here to take our hands and guide us to be faithful in our service. What a glorious name, Immanuel, Our Savior-God has, one that deserves our praise all the days of our lives!

It is such a blessing, a privilege and joy to know that no matter where we are in life, our Immanuel is with us—whether we are in the deepest valleys or the highest mountains. Whether our hearts are filled with hopelessness or filled with hope our Immanuel is with us. Whether we are lying on an operating table or lounging on a bed in the Bahamas our Immanuel is with us. That is our comfort and hope.

That wasn’t the case for the S4 that went down in 1928. As night fell over America, many prayed for their safety, rescue and freedom from the dark entombment. But, as the hours passed, so did the more optimistic call Is there any hope?” asked S4 pathetically. “There is hope,” said S8. “Everything possible is being done.” 102 hours after the disaster, a stream of fresh air hissed into the forward compartment of the submarine. But the struggle had been in vain for the 40 men below. By 11 a.m., Thursday, December 22nd, air had been pumped into the compartment continuously for 13 hours, but still no further sound was heard. Death had come to claim the last of the crew of S4.

But unlike the efforts of man in saving man, though they tried their best, Baby Jesus, Our Immanuel saved us from a worth death-eternal death—through His entombment for three days and rising to a new life—He guarantees salvation to all who trust in Him as Lord and God.

“Is there any hope” is the question? And the answer is yes! POSITIVELY YES! Immanuel has come, and He is here even now for you. On this 22nd of December 2013, 85 years after that tragic accident of the S4, our SI—Savior, Immanuel has the done the impossible—to rescue and free us to live with Him forever. Because He is God with us, for today, tomorrow and forever!

Lord, thank you for coming to the manger and the cross to be my only Savior My Immanuel. Amen.

Now the peace of God…


“The Advent Time!” (Galatians 4:4-5)

S-1400 3MIA/A 12/18/2013 Hymns: (O) #15; (S) #99; (C) #92

Texts: Psalm 31:14-20; Genesis 18:9-15; Galatians 4:1-7; Matthew 11:25-30

Theme: “The Advent Time!” (Galatians 4:4-5)

Question: “How do you fill your time?” Armour, SD 3rd in sermon series on: “The Three T’s of Advent”

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! The text for our 3rd Midweek is from the Epistle lesson: “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4-5).


Precious and beloved children of God time is a precious commodity. Yet, as precious as this gift from God is, our reaction to it never seems to be neutral. We either love it or hate it. We either think it is going too fast or too slow. There are moments when time seems to drag by like molasses in January and at other moments; it flies by like a supersonic jet plane! It seems we are never satisfied with time. But God ordained time to give us proper means by which we can rest, worship, work, study and play.

Leonardo da Vinci, one of the greatest geniuses and painters of the Middle Ages, would often just stand and stare for a long time at the canvas, before he would pick up his brush to paint a scene. He was waiting for the right time for the image to be formed in his mind before he transformed it on the canvas.

In a similar way, the Almighty God, the Author of Time, created in the same way. At just the right moment, our Lord spoke everything into existence. After our first parents corrupted that perfect creation, our Lord did not cease to work “at just the right time.” Staring at the timeline of history, our Lord chose just the right time to make and keep His promise to Adam and Eve and every one of their descendants. At just the right time, the Lord of Hosts fulfilled a promise originally made to a fallen couple who lived without hope and without a future.

The message of God through Paul is this. “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”God was saying “It’s Advent Time! It’s time to remove the burden of the Law. It’s Time to carry out the plans God shared with father Abraham to bless all the nations of the world through his son. It’s Time to fulfill the promise of sending a Redeemer to buy humanity back. It was time to save mankind from sin, and death; and from the punishment of hell and the jaws of the devil.” PAUSE.

From the day God made the promise of long ago to send a REDEEMER, people in every age waited with great anticipation for God’s timing to be carried out. They waited for hope in their hopeless condition; they waited for help in their helpless state. And many thought that God had forgotten about them. Even, David the Psalter, whose heart was after God and put his trust in God alone, cried out saying: How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me? Consider and answer me, O Lord my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death, lest my enemy say, ‘I have prevailed over him,’ lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken” (Psalm 13:1-4).

People have cried for God to deliver them. Many thought He abandoned them. It may appear that way, however, Peter, the disciple’s spokesperson put it this way: “But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8). God’s timing is not like our time. He doesn’t function by the clock but by love. As this is the case, is it any wonder that we struggle with God’s timing in our lives? Yet, we do find great comfort in the fact that at just the right time, God acted.

Therefore, when the clock of salvation struck noon, God in mercy sent His only begotten Son, to redeem, save, cheer, comfort and remove the burden of the law from their hearts. God’s love carried out this mission in a most unique and blessed way. He placed His eternal Son into a Virgin’s womb and dressed him with human cells, blood and skin. He did this so that His holy, innocent and perfect Heaven’s messenger could be under the law’s requirements and sin’s burdens. What sinful man couldn’t and wouldn’t do, God did in the sending of His Son to accomplish our redemption and salvation.

With His perfect life, the Babe of Bethlehem, the heaven-sent Savior—fulfilled every one of God’s commandments. With His innocent death, Jesus the Holy Lamb of God, paid for every sin of every human being. With His great love for you, Jesus the eternal God who came in time into our sin-infected and sin-infested world has covered our filthy lives with His holiness and purity.

Because Christ entered our world at the proper Advent Time, He shouts the shout of victory saying, I have completed the work God gave me to do. At the proper time Christ, liberated us from the burden of the law and all of its requirements. By His grace alone, He declares us holy and innocent to stand in the presence of God forever and ever as His sons and daughters. PAUSE.

But at times we don’t feel we are truly God’s children. We don’t feel that God even cares. We don’t trust that all of our sins have been forgiven. And just like David we cry out to God. O God how long before You look upon me—the sinner, help me, answer me and deliver me. O God, why not come to my aid and rescue me NOW!?

If you are one of those people who is asking this and other questions like it, then let the Apostle Paul by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit speak to your hearts tonight. Hear him as he taught the Galatians and us saying, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law…” and know that the work of Christ on your behalf has been completed.

In the fullness of time, God entered our time for the sake of the world. This world, the cosmos, is the world apart from God, and that world was founded when Adam and Eve sinned. When sin entered into God’s creation, given God’s purpose for mankind to be made into His image, it was necessary that there be a method of reconciliation between man and God. This reconciliation was only possible through the perfect sacrifice of Christ on the cross of Calvary for you and for me. PAUSE.

Children of the heavenly Father, on November 30, 1835, Mark Twain was born in Florida, Missouri. If you were to visit that little town, you will find in a park close to a two-room shack where he was born and a marker saying: “In this village Mark Twain was born. He cheered and comforted a tired world.”

Christ was born to do more than to bring cheer and comfort to a tired world. Christ in Advent Time brought about salvation, forgiveness of sins and life eternal. And because of His gracious work, we can know the joy of being comforted in God’s Christmas gift of His Son to a broken and sin-filled world. For in that perfect time we have a blessed consolation that knows no end because God sent a Redeemer to redeem me and give me hope in my hopelessness, help in my helplessness and peace forever in my sorrow. He does this on HIS time. That is why we call it HIS-story. The story of His time becoming our eternity!

Today, we give thanks to God for coming into our world, and someday, we will be going into His eternal world. In the name of our Advent King and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Now the peace of God…


“A God on A Mission!” (Isaiah 35:3-4)

S-1399 3SIA/A 12/15/2013 Hymns: (O) #66; (S) #352; (C) #68

Texts: Isaiah 35:1-10; James 5:7-11; Matthew 11:2-15

Theme: “A God on A Mission!” (Isaiah 35:3-4)

Question: “What’s your mission in Life?” Armour, SD

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! The text for our meditation is from the O.T. lesson: “Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who have an anxious heart, ‘Be strong; fear not! Behold, Your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you’” (Isaiah 35:3-4).


Beloved in the Lord, today as the third candle is lit on the Advent wreath; we are reminded again that Advent has us on a mission. Our mission, as directed by the calendar is taking us toward a renewed celebration of Advent, both first and second. We are ready to mark the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ even as we eagerly anticipate His return in glory at the end of time to bring to conclusion everything that He has done for us. This is a time of great excitement as we mark once again the earthly beginning of God’s Rescue Mission for Mankind!

But it is also vital that amid the excitement we need to recall just why it is that God has been on this mission to save us. We see in the earliest pages of the Bible how quickly and completely man’s fall was after God granted him stewardship of His perfect creation. From the Fall in Genesis 3 it quickly escalates to the point where our Lord is forced to say in Genesis 6 that The heart of man is always evil” (v.5). But even here we see how God was already on a mission to save us. For even amid the earth-wide flood of Noah’s day, God was providing an Ark to save the remnant of the human race. This was to keep the line alive so that He might send a Redeemer who would buy back the ENTIRE human race!

It is important for us to note that God’s mission is not just a New Testament thing. Dr. Reed Lessing, in his commentary on Jonah says,“…[God’s] gracious love toward humanity extends all the way back to Genesis, beginning with the first Gospel promise, and forward through Malachi, then through Revelation” (CPH, p. 151). In fact the entire Bible is about this God on a mission to save humanity! PAUSE.

Today we hear one of the most distinct and prominent voices in that chorus of Old Testament missionaries. Today we hear Isaiah’s voice echo across the centuries to tell us about what God is going to do. Isaiah announces that God is on a mission to save His people from the punishment of sin that will come in the form of death and hell. Isaiah’s sweet voice of promise rings out Be strong; fear not! Behold, Your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you!

This is God’s mission! He is coming to save fallen humanity, including you! This has always been God’s mission. But this is more than just throwing you a life line or plucking you from danger. No, this salvation is so much more. In the Hebrew language, Isaiah uses a word for “save” that can literally be translated, “to make alive.” The salvation that Isaiah announces is one that will bring humanity, including YOU, back from death to life, & from darkness to light!

We desperately need this! Every one of us here today are no different than the people of Genesis 6. Our hearts are always and only evil. Sure we try and mask it with good deeds and right living. All of us here today, sitting in the pews and counting the days until Christmas, still battle this evil inside. It comes out in the form of gossip and envy, slander and deceit. Sure we dress up our evil in good suits and make-up, we claim that we are right and the person that we are sinning against deserves it, but under the perfume it is still the stench of sin and death.

Yet, in spite of all of this sin and death that we continually amass, even after our call to faith in the waters of Holy Baptism, the Mission of God to save humanity goes forward! For this reason, Isaiah’s words are not just for then but to us also today! On this Third Sunday in Advent, the prophet reminds you that God is on a mission! That mission, spelled out by the great prophet is this: He will come to save! Yes, save YOU!” We still need saving because of our sin.

And that mission of Salvation goes forward! Through the ages there was the search for the Savior. The prophet Ezekiel relates this search by God among us, “And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge and stand in the gap before Me for the land, that I should not destroy it; But I found none” (Ezek 22:23-31). No mere human being could do this saving! It would take a special rescuer.

This special rescuer is none other than Jesus! Advent reminds us that this Mission, planned for the ages, began by His entry into the world through Mary’s Virgin womb. This God on a Mission would be the One who would do all of the clear signs of Messiah that served as the answer to John the Baptizer’s question to Jesus of “are you the one?” (Mt. 11:2-3). Jesus pointed to the reality that the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. Jesus was then and still is now that God on a Mission! PAUSE.

God once saved humanity from a flood by the work of faithful Noah. This godly man spent 120 years building the Ark to save his family and some animals before the destructive deluge that God was sending upon the whole-wide world. For 120 years Noah gathered wood and worked on building the Ark. All along people mocked him, laughed at him and called him a fool for building a huge ship on a dry ground without any body of water near it.

By the grace of God, Noah continued to build the Ark and saved 8 souls and animals and repopulated the earth again. But even after this saving, mankind sinned again. And so it was for every rescue mission through the ages. We hear of characters like Abraham and Isaac, Jacob and David and others. The rescue they would bring to God’s people would be fleeting. That is because no mere man could rescue an entire creation!

So God sent another carpenter on a mission to save humanity—His Only Son, Jesus. For 3 ½ years this Carpenter worked, taught and showed the world His mission to save them. Much of it was done in the backwaters of Galilee. Amidst authoritative teaching and miraculous works He faithfully labored on this Mission on which the Father had sent Him. This mission was viewed with some faith, some skepticism and a growing rejection by those He came to save. But it was on a Friday afternoon that His mission that began so sweetly in the stable of Bethlehem was fully, completely and beautifully carried out. Upon the wooden beam of the cross Jesus was humiliated, laughed at and mocked but He remained obedient to the will of God. And upon that cross He gave up His life for you.

This is where the mission of rescue was different that Noah’s and Abraham’s and Moses’ and David’s. These were used by God for a time, but the work of their mission was undone by the continued sin of the people. But not this rescue mission of Jesus! On the third day He rose again. Through His Incarnation, death and resurrection, this obedient missionary saved not only 8 souls, but all who would believe in Him.

What an awesome God we have! He is never willing to walk away from the people He has promised to save! That is why He is still a God who is concerned about you! He is the One calling you to repentance and new life. He brings you again today into His presence to have the eyes of your eyes of faith restored. He brings you here again to make whole lives that are crippled by sin so that you might walk along with what Isaiah calls the Way of Holiness; in your life. He brings you here again and again so that your hearts burdened by guilt might leap like the deer. He brings you here so that you may once again feast on life in His Son, our Savior Jesus, the very God who has come on a Mission to save you!

Today, by the grace of God you and I are recipients of His grace and privileged to tell the world what this great Missionary has done for us—save us. Our Lord has been and continues to be on this mission in order for you to spend an eternity with Him. So as another candle is lit and our Advent preparation continues, by the Grace of God once again behold this God who comes for you! He comes to undo your sin and shame. He comes to crush your sin and death. He is on this mission FOR YOU! And because of this Mission our Advent anticipation can already know the joy promised by Isaiah: the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away. It will. It already has! Amen!

Now the peace Of God…


“The Advent Tree!” (Matthew 1:1, 16-17)

S-1398 2MIA/A 12/11/2013 Hymns: (O) #272; (S) #370 LSB; (C) #338 LSB

Texts: Daniel 7:13-14; 2 Peter 1:16-21; Matthew 1:1-17

Theme: “The Advent Tree!” (Matthew 1:1, 16-17)

Question: “Do you know your family tree?” Armour, SD 2nd in sermon series on: “The Three T’s of Advent”

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! The text for our 2nd Midweek is from the Gospel lesson: “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham…and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ. So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations” (Matthew 1:1, 16-17).


Beloved in the Lord, I share with you tonight a true and shocking story that happened at Zion Lutheran Church in Cleveland Ohio on Christmas Eve, 1851. I don’t know if it is proper to share this story during the joyous Advent season, but they did something so scandalous at that church that evening that it was reported in the local newspapers. What they did was called, “a nonsensical, asinine, moronic absurdity” in one local paper. What did the good people of Zion do that it drew such a negative public response? Their pastor, Henry Schwan, had placed a candlelit tree in the church, topped with a silver star he had brought from Germany. His parishioners loved it and the beautiful memories it brought back to them of the “old country.” But they were ridiculed for “worshipping a tree” and “groveling before a shrub.” The businesses of some members even suffered because others in the community wouldn’t trade with people who would engage in such “heathenish and idolatrous” practices in their church. Can you believe this happened only 162 years ago?

But, but, Pastor Schwan didn’t stop there. At the urging of his good wife, Emma, he continued the practice. He researched the history of the Christmas tree and was confirmed in his belief that it wasn’t a sacrilege but a good Christian custom that celebrated the joy of Christ’s birth. After writing many letters and receiving many replies, he again put up a Christmas tree on Christmas Eve in 1852. The difference was that decorated trees began to appear all over town, and within five years, Christmas trees began to appear in homes and churches all over America. Today a historical marker in Cleveland still marks the spot where what was once considered a scandalous action became a commonly accepted Christmas tradition in America. PAUSE.

The “scandal” of the first Christmas tree used in a church in our country is nothing compared to the scandals mentioned in the family tree of the heaven-sent Savior—Jesus as recorded in the gospels of Matthew and Luke. These two gospel writers give us a different perspective of the genealogies—Matthew traces the line back from Joseph, the “legal father” of Jesus to Abraham and Luke traces it back from Mary’s line; all the way back to Adam and Eve. Thus we see the family tree from both father and mother and a double descendant of King David.

However, if you study the list of Christ’s family Tree you will be shocked at what you discover. Abraham is highly revered as the “father of all believers” and we like to sing songs about “Father Abraham” having many sons, “and I am one of them, and so are you.” Yet, the father of the faithful in fear for his life, lied about his wife Sarah and almost brought shame on her by saying to Pharaoh and Abimelech that she was his sister. Thankfully, God intervened and a worse scandal of dishonoring her was averted.

Things continue to deteriorate. Judah, the great-grandson of Abraham, slept with his daughter-in-law—Tamar and fathered a child through her. The son born of Judah and Tamar is in the family Tree of Christ. You may read this story in Genesis chapter 38.

Up and down Christ’s family Tree there are suspicious characters! Rahab, a prostitute; Ruth a Moabite; and even, Bathsheba that entered into the line because of the infidelity of King David. Solomon took hundreds of wives and concubines. Names like Rehaboam, Abijah and Manassah litter the branches of this family Tree of our Savior. One might well think that this Tree should have been cut down and thrown in the fire long before Jesus was born!

But our Lord was not seeking a perfect tree. No, He grafted perfection into an imperfect tree. In doing this He shows that Christ’s family Tree is no different than ours! All of us have secrets in our family tree and some of the information is very scandalous indeed. But what this also shows is that in Christ’s State of humiliation, He takes upon Himself the whole human race to be like us, yet without sin. In the family Tree of Christ we see the famous and the infamous. Jesus is not that aloof. He stoops low enough to be among the human race. Even Luther once said, “Christ is the kind of person who is not ashamed of sinners-in fact He even puts them in His family tree. If the Lord does that here, so ought we to despise no one… but put ourselves in the middle of the fight for sinners and help them.” PAUSE.

His family Tree demonstrates to us that Christ is not ashamed to call us His very own or be numbered among sinners like us. In Luke chapter 15, the Pharisees and Scribes accused Him of eating and spending time with sinners (15:1-2). How right they were! Jesus did come for the purpose of spending time with sinners so that He may forgive them their sins and make them saints.

In His perfect obedience to the will of the Father Christ lived the perfect life in our stead. Yet, there were those who mocked His family Tree saying, “Is not this the carpenter’s son?” (Mt. 13:54) and in the Gospel of John the Pharisees mock Jesus after healing a blind man saying, “…We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where He comes from (John 9:29-31). These Jewish leaders were mocking Him and questioning His authority and His family Tree.

Though these Synagogue leaders claimed they didn’t know where Jesus comes from, yet the Author to the Hebrews stated: “Since the children have flesh and blood, He too shared in their humanity so that by His death He might destroy Him who holds the power of death-that is, the devil-and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. For surely it is not angels He helps, but Abraham’s descendants. For this reason He had to be made like His brothers in every way to become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that He might make atonement for the people. Because He Himself suffered when He was tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted” (2:14-18). If Jesus had only perfect people and no sinners in His family Tree, there would have been no reason to come to earth to rescue us from our sins. If Jesus had not come to suffer like us, we wouldn’t believe Him when He invites us to come to Him when we are weak and heavy laden with problems. Certainly, Jesus knows what we need and He fulfilled that need by dying in our place and rising again on the third day to give us life eternal with Him.

But Jesus did more than just that. Christ’s work at the cross and empty tomb makes HIS family Tree OUR family tree. We were adopted in the waters of Holy Baptism. In that watery work, we were grafted into Christ’s family Tree. We become part of Him and He part of us. Our line is forever linked by grace! He is among us so that we will always be with Him: in life, in death and for eternity!

When we trace Christ’s Tree, it is not some exercise in futility. It is tracing OUR tree. He makes the tree and us, despite our shame and scandal, holy and acceptable in the Father’s sight! This is our Tree. It is a Tree that beams with light. And it is catching on, not unlike Pastor Schwann’s tree! The scandal of that tree died down. The scandal of the Tree of the cross never will because it is that very scandal that gives us life! Father, make this Tree our tree! Amen

Now the peace of God…


Monday, December 9, 2013

“A Christmas Tree In Bethlehem” (Isaiah 11:1)

S-1397 2SIA/A 12/08/2013 Hymns: (O) #63; (S) #645; L.S. 73; 307; 74; (C) #70?

Texts: Isaiah 11:1-10; Romans 15:4-13; Matthew 3:1-12

Theme: “A Christmas Tree In Bethlehem” (Isaiah 11:1)

Question: “Have you put up your Christmas” Armour, SD

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! The text for our meditation is from the O.T. lesson: “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from His roots shall bear fruit” (Isaiah 11:1).


Most precious people of God, a story is told of an Englishman who purchased a 35 foot Christmas tree. Cut it in 3 pieces and put two sections on the first and second floor inside his house and the third he placed on the roof. He made it look like the tree was coming out of the roof. (an illusion)

Isaiah, that voice of the O.T. Gospel rings new in our ears today, with the glorious message of hope, restoration and renewal. The message is this: Out of the midst of cut off tree; a stump will grow and bear fruit. In chapter (10), this prophet tells us that God “will cut off the trees of Assyrian and Israel.” Yet, out of cut off tree “will” (notice that) will there is a promise here, come forth a shoot that will be unlike any other tree. For this reason I have titled the sermon: A Christmas Tree In Bethlehem”

If you have been to Israel, especially in the Garden of Gethsemane, you would have seen new shoots coming out of old olive tree stumps. These shoots do bear fruit. Even this past summer, in front of the parsonage, after the big tree was cut off, shoots sprouted from the ground. This is what God promises in this text. And anyone who is around that Shoot will have peace for the present, hope for the future, and joy forever.

Isaiah goes on to say, upon this Shoot lands Seven (7) spirits—that is the perfect number given by God. In and through this Shoot every prophecy will be fulfilled and ultimately leads to the salvation of mankind. In this text Isaiah declares that God will do something special - in the devastation left behind after the destruction of Assyria and Israel. A branch would grow out of the stump of Jesse. A branch would be grafted into the tree that had been cut down and destroyed.

In this magnificent painting, Isaiah reveals what God will do through this branch—it will bud with fruit that is evident to all. Therefore, we must ask who was/is this branch? The answer is clear—it was/is the long expected Messiah—the promised One to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. It Is Jesus-the heaven-sent Savior. The prophecies about the coming Messiah started right after the devil seduced the first couple to disobey God by eating from the tree of good and evil. In Isaiah 7, more is revealed about this promised One stating, that a virgin would conceive and give birth to a son and we would call His name Immanuel. A couple chapters later (9), God spoke of this Child who would minister in Galilee and would be a great ruler and leader of His people. This Messiah would be a light to those walking in the shadow of death.

In the text Isaiah tells us this Messiah would be like a great tree growing out of the stump of Jesse. God was going to plant a Christmas Tree in Bethlehem. And just like the tree in that Englishman’s home, God’s Tree is a huge tree. Though the Jewish Tree was cut off, driven into exile, and almost wiped out, and even the offspring of David was about to die in the Bethlehem’s massacre, yet God intervened! And out of the stump came forth a Shoot who has changed the world—His name is Jesus. When Jesus had fulfilled His mission – when He came to die for the sins of the world and rise again on the third day from the dead - He ended up having huge influence. More influence than anyone has ever had or ever will. PAUSE.

One person described Him this way: “He was born in an obscure village. The child of a peasant woman. He worked in a carpenter shop until He was thirty. And then became an itinerant preacher. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family or owned a house. He didn’t go to college. He never traveled 200 miles from the place where He was born. He never did one of the things that usually accompany greatness.”

Another person observed: Socrates taught for 40 years, Plato for 50, Aristotle for 40 BUT Jesus for only 3 1/2 years. Yet His influence infinitely transcends the impact left by the combined years of the teachings from all the world’s greatest philosophers.

Jesus painted no pictures yet some of the finest paintings of Raphael, Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci obtained their inspiration from Him. Jesus wrote no poetry, but Dante, Milton and scores of the greatest poets were inspired by Him. Jesus composed no music. Still Hadyn, Handel, Beethoven, Bach and Mendelssohn reached their highest perfection of melody in the music they composed in His praise. Twenty centuries have come and gone, and today He is the central figure of the human race. All the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed, all the parliaments that ever sat, and the kings that ever reigned have not affected the life of man on this earth as much as that One Solitary Life.

That One Solitary Life –that single Shoot that had been grafted into the Stump of Jesse - grew to such a large tree that He has changed nations, tribes, culture, history, and the world. But most importantly He changed our lives—yours and mine.

The Tree God planted in Bethlehem (Jesus) became a BIG tree. But this tree was not a new planting. The old tree, crooked and gnarled by sin and death, was cut off. But this cutting off was not to kill it. It was to make it blossom and grow again as it had originally been intended in creation. So the Master of Creation’s Garden, The Father Himself grafts this shoot on to the blessed “Stump” of Jesse…and this stump is no illusion as the story of the Englishman. He is as real today as when God made that promise. And that promise was for you and for your children Peter tells us in his Acts sermon.

Today, that Shoot and Branch is the largest tree in the world. It is larger than this year’s Christmas tree in Rio De Janeiro which stands at 278 feet tall. This tree is not that tall in size, perhaps 5 ½ - 6’. But its height reaches into the heavens. Beneath it shades people find comfort and peace. From its leaves we are given fruit that keeps us alive forever. And the benefit of that tree is eternal.

The Christmas tree that stands in Rio De Janeiro will die, be cut up for wood, and burned. But the Christmas Tree in Bethlehem was dead, but is alive forever. And from its Shoot people receive forgiveness of sins, pardon from hell and everlasting life.

No wonder Isaiah shares with us the glorious news of what this Tree will do. Bring about harmony between God and man, man and man and even animal and man. As Isaiah tells us:The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the cobra’s den, and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Is. 11:6-9).

From His abundant fruit we shall receive the richest of fares and drink from the eternal juices that fill us with the greatest satisfaction. That is why this Tree brings us such tremendous joy—because this Tree came to restore life to us in the midst of death and suffering. Through the death of that Tree and it sprouting to life again on the third day, He has conquered death and gives us life unending.

Today, we thank God for the Christmas Tree in Bethlehem, for this Tree is eternal, it will never dry up, it will never be cut down, it will never die, and it ALWAYS has green leaves to gather the nations beneath it and give them joy eternal, and peace everlasting. Amen.

Now the peace…


Sunday, December 1, 2013

“Come Let Us Go!” (Isaiah 2:2-3)

S-1395 1SIA/A 12/01/2013 Hymns: (O) #55; (S) #239; (C) #82

Texts: Isaiah 2:1-5; Romans 13:11-14; Matthew 21:1-11

Theme: “Come Let Us Go!” (Isaiah 2:2-3)

Question: “Have You Been Invited to go Some Place Lately?” Armour, SD

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! The text for our First Sunday in Advent is from O.T: “It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it, and many peoples shall come, and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that He may teach us His ways and that we may walk in his paths.’ For out of Zion shall go the law, and the Word of the Lord from Jerusalem’” (Isaiah 2:2-3).


Children of the Light, I like to be the first to wish you Happy New Year! Yes, you heard me right. I greet you like this because today marks the beginning of a new Church Year with the season of Advent. Once again, our journey will lead us from expectation to fulfillment, from darkness into light, from manger’s cradle to Calvary’s cross and the empty tomb.

Advent is a blessed season that helps us look backward and forward. We look back to the Nativity of our Lord Jesus as we hear the familiar words of prophesy about a Virgin and a Baby King and a sleepy little village turned the center of the Universe and we know that Christmas is on its way!

But Advent is so much more than just pre-Christmas! While the rest of the world is consumed with the high feast of retail gluttony, Advent, by the grace of God and the working of the Holy Spirit, compels us to look forward to the glorious Second and Final Advent. For the same Lord who entered our created world in humility as an infant King has also promised to return. But this Second return will not be so meek and mild. This Second Advent will be one that finalizes the changes that were set in motion by Christ’s first Advent.

Thus, Advent is really a season of invitation. That is exactly what the Prophet Isaiah is doing in the words that serve as our sermon text. Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that He may teach us His ways and that we may walk in His paths.” Isaiah, bids the people of Israel and us to come to the mountain. It isn’t just any mountain—but the Lord’s mountain where God Himself will intervene in human history and change the world forever. The mountain of the Lord is Mount Zion or better known as Jerusalem. And this trip to Jerusalem is not some tourist destination. Even though some 3.5 million people visit the Holy Land each year, the prophet is talking about so much more—God’s promises fulfilled!

But why Jerusalem? Jerusalem isn’t that great a city. It has never been seen the center of culture like Paris, or the center of commerce like New York; or viewed as cosmopolitan as London or Rome. Jerusalem has never been that special or prominent until King David established it as his headquarters. It never was a special city. So why does the Prophet invite us to come to Jerusalem?

The answer is clear. Because this is where God determined to make Himself known and present. The Prophet tells us It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills. This lifting up will not be because of some geological phenomenon. The hill on which Jerusalem sits will not suddenly shift higher in the sky than the peak of Mt. Everest. But a day is coming when Jerusalem, the Holy City set atop of God’s holy mountain will be made the most important of the cities! It is important because this is where the Lord promises to do His work!

The Old Testament faithful viewed Jerusalem, the site of the Temple as the place where heaven and earth intersect and where sinners meet their Holy God. While God promises to be ever-present in His creation, He does make the promise that there will be a place where He guarantees to be found. It was there that generations of the faithful brought their lambs and rams, bulls and birds in the foreshadowing sacrifice of Temple worship. And it was in Jerusalem that Yahweh Himself made the ultimate sacrifice. Jerusalem was the setting for the Gospel lesson for today. On the very same day that the lambs were brought into Jerusalem for the Passover sacrifice, Jesus entered the Holy City as both King and Lamb. It was on Golgotha, just outside the Holy City where our Lord Jesus Christ, the Babe of Bethlehem and Lamb of God, was crucified as the once and final sacrifice for all sin of all humanity. His blood which freely flowed from His battered body was the judgment of God on all mankind. Jesus the Holy Child of Bethlehem takes our place and willingly receives all of the judgment and death that our sins deserve! The hostility and division that existed between Creation and its Creator, humanity and their Lord was forever undone! That’s why the Lord invites us to come and go with Him this Advent!

The Lord tells us, “Come let us go” to Jerusalem, not only on this First weekend of Advent, but every day. For in that city, we behold the mighty works of God that changes history and our lives forever! For the Word of the Lord that goes out from Jerusalem declaring that our sins are forgiven not only once, but over and over again.

This daily return to the mountain of the Lord is critical because while we look back to what Advent has already achieved, we know that there is still more to be done. We know that Christ’s Second Advent will come and usher the very PEACE that Isaiah proclaims. He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. We know full well that as we speak there is more than one nation on our planet that isn’t beating its swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks. We know that all over the globe nations are not only learning war, they are getting everything in place to make it happen!

And it isn’t just the nations that behave like this. We do the very same things individually. Even among those of us who make this annual Advent trip, seeing the wonder of the Christ Child and following Him all the way to the Cross and empty tomb, are slow to put down our swords and spears. We keep our armaments handy so that we can do battle with the very people that our Lord has called us to be at peace with! We engage in the hand to hand combat of vengeance and refusal to be reconciled to one another. We cheapen the sacrifice of Christ by withholding the peace of forgiveness from one another. We are quick to bite and devour. While we come here to sing of Advent peace, in our hearts we beat the sinful drums of war against God and one another. Be honest! You do this! I DO THIS! All sinful human beings do!

That is why Isaiah invites us to go to the mountain. Advent helps us see the Lord’s work among us and in us. As the days of Advent pass by, the darkness seems to deepen. Yet the more the darkness deepens, the more the light shines. It seems as though the darkness of our world and of our own hearts gets deeper and deeper. This darkness can be scary. In fact, it can be downright terrifying when we are reminded where the darkness of sin ends! But the Lord calls us back to Jerusalem today and every day to see the Light of the Lord. In our baptism we have been delivered from the domain of darkness and placed in the marvelous saving light of Jesus Christ! It is there that we are made part of the house of Jacob. The house of Jacob of all time and all places draws its light from what our Lord does for us! At the cross He once for all judged between nations and settled disputes with many peoples. In Christ, outside the walls of Jerusalem the judgment was done! This light sets us on the new path that the Psalmist talks about in Psalm 119:105 “Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” That is precisely what Isaiah invites to. Come let us go to the mountain. From the mountain flows the Word of God Incarnate. From the mountain flows the Eternal Light that will never be extinguished.

This light, flowing from Jesus and His holy Mountain guides us each and every day as the darkness of our present age deepens. The light of the Lord leads us in ways that seem out of step with our world and it is. His Word teaches us that this world is not our final destination. He teaches us the truth that in Him there is life, light and eternal love. The ambition and angst of this era will give way to a much more beautiful eternity that will know no more sin and war and death. The Light of the Lord’s Word will lead us.

And that day, while it is coming, is already here now. For the Lord once again teaches us His way today. His way is His Word. This Word kills us in our sin and makes us alive because of the Word made Flesh Jesus! Until that final day, we are called to walk, not in darkness but in the Light of the Lord. Filled with the Word as it is preached and fed to us in the Holy Supper, that Light of the Lord washes over us.

Today, Isaiah the prophet invites us saying “Come let us go!” not to Starbuck to have a cup of coffee, but to His Holy Mountain, where we can spend time with the One who chose to enter our created world and to create in us a new heart that lives in the Light of His grace. And Jesus, whose name in Hebrew is Isaiah, says to us also, “Come let us go to My Mountain. For on that Mountain I have won Your eternal salvation, forgiven you your sins and made you mine forever.”

Therefore, as children of the Light, walking on the journey of Advent, and listening to Isaiah anew, we hear him saying: Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,” and by the grace of God, and His Spirit, we begin the climb up to the mountain. AMEN.

Now the peace of God…


Thursday, November 28, 2013

“Giving Thanks to God” (Psalm 100)

S-1394 TD/C 11/28/2013 Hymns: (O) #568; (S) #36; L.S. #313; #572(C) #577

Texts: Deuteronomy 8:1-8; Philippians 4:6-20; Luke 17:11-19

Theme: “Giving Thanks to God” (Psalm 100)

Question: “Why Should You be Thankful?” Armour, SD

Blessed Thanksgiving Day to each and every one of you faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! The text for this Thanksgiving Day is from Psalm 100: “Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into His presence with singing! Know that the Lord, He is God! It is He who made us, and we are His; we are His people, and the sheep of His pasture. Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise! Give thanks to Him; bless His name! For the Lord is good; His steadfast love endures forever, and His faithfulness to all generations” (Psalm 100).


Most precious people of the Resurrection this past Sunday we were in Sioux Falls having supper at our oldest son’s (Tony) house. At the table my oldest grandson’s wanted me to sit by them, so I sat between them. As the food was dished, Myles asks his mother to help him cut the lasagna. I said, “Grandpa will cut it for you.” After I cut it Myles said, “Thank you grandpa!” I was impressed. He then wanted to have some Mozzarella cheese sprinkled on it. Again, I said, “Grandpa will help you.” He, again said, “Thanks grandpa!” I said to him, “Myles that is so nice of you to say thank you. You are so sweet! Then his mother (Jody) said, “At the daycare, they have been learning about manners. So Myles wanted to make a ‘politeness plan’ where we made a chart that listed manners and nice things to do, and then a chore or a consequence for not doing it.”

It is indeed beautiful to hear a young child who wants to have a politeness plan in place to learn the art of saying thank you and please. Out of the mouth of children the truth is told. Even from the mouth of a child, we are reminded that we need a plan to be polite towards God. And to help us with this plan, the author of the Psalm has the perfect plan in the words of the text for our celebration of Thanksgiving Day.

Did you know that in the Hebrew Scripture the title of this Psalm is “A Psalm of Thanksgiving”? In this Psalm, we truly have the perfect politeness plan. In the opening words we are exhorted and encouraged to: “Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into His presence with singing!” But why should we? Why does it matter? Because it is fitting for us who have been touched by the saving hands of God Almighty to thank Him, serve Him and sing His praises daily. PAUSE.

In a book titled Reading the Psalms with Luther, Luther states this regarding this Psalm: The 100th psalm is a prophecy of Christ. It calls on the entire world to be joyful, to praise, and to give thanks, that is, to worship God and come to His throne and His courts, and to call on Him with all confidence. For His grace is an eternal kingdom, which truly remains forever and ever. Yes, indeed it is about our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ. The whole wide world is called to be thankful for the mercy He gives undeservedly, for the love He pours unconditionally, the forgiveness He offers freely and the promised eternal life and salvation that is ours because of His Hesed—His grace..

We are taught and exhorted in the words of this Psalm to say thank You Lord for Your mercies which are new every morning. Every day we have opportunities and privileges to say thank You Lord for Your goodness to me a sinner who deserves nothing but wrath and punishment. Because of Your faithfulness towards me I have the blessings of knowing You intimately and bask in Your saving grace.

The Psalmist goes on to say: Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise! Give thanks to Him; bless His name! That is part of the politeness plan to worship, pray and praise the Lord God Almighty. We are to make it a habit to enter His place of worship and give thanks to Him daily and praise Him for His goodness and faithfulness. For in this place we are constantly reminded of our need for a Savior and how the mercies of that Savior are delivered to us. In this place we are immersed with His goodness, faithfulness and love. In this place we get to dine not on turkey and stuffing, but on the precious Word and Life-Giving Sacrament. PAUSE.

But tragically, because of our sinful human nature we don’t worship our Savior often or give Him thanks always. We need to be taught as my grandson Myles was to be polite and say thank you. But that is not in our sinful and self-centered nature. We often think we are the ones who have it made. We think that by our own might and power, we make our own future plans and our dreams come true; but that is not the case. It is always a gift from the Lord Himself.

We are reminded of this truth in the Gospel lesson for Thanksgiving. One out of Ten lepers came back to say thank you to Jesus for being healed. But why was he the only one who said, “Thank you Lord!”? Because he knew what he needed and what was at stake for him without it. He needed the healing touch of the Savior to make him whole and let him live among his family and family of faith. This leper understood that before, he was head­ing for hell; afterward, he was readied for heaven. No wonder he knelt before Jesus with his humble thank you.

Why do we so often forget to say our thank-yous? Why do we have to be reminded to say thank you, just like we do for the little children? Could it be that, unlike that leper, we forget what we deserve and how much we’ve received? Thanksgiving is a time to remember that the only thing we deserve from God is damnation in hell. We don’t deserve the Savior He has sent or a bit of the forgiveness of sins He brings. Neither do we have the rights to the lesser gifts in life. We have a slice of bread to butter, a stitch of clothing to wear, fresh air to inhale, a loved one to enjoy, only because He is our merci­ful Father. Gratitude begins with remembering our unworthiness and His abundant HESED—His GRACE and mercy.

Genuine gratitude colors not only this Thanksgiving Day, but each day of our lives. The Psalmist reminds us of that with the words of the text. And even the Apostle Paul said it this way, Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (Col. 3:17).

Therefore, by the power of the Holy Spirit let us develop and execute today and everyday a politeness plan. In this plan let us review the blessings the Savior gives us daily. Let us sing, praise, pray and worship Him for being so faithful to us sinners. By the Spirit’s power as we are gathered in His house to hear His Word and receive His precious Sacrament, we know what precious gifts He gives us and are moved in humility and joy to say THANK YOU JESUS FOR LOVING ME A SINNER.

On this Thanksgiving Day, it is fitting for us, to say with Luther as he teaches us in the explanation of the First Article of the Creed saying: “for all which is my duty to thank and praise him, this is most certainly true!” Therefore, we boldly confess and say: “Thanks be to God for every blessed gift He bestows on us.” Amen.

Now the peace…


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

“FOREVER Abiding” (John 15:4-5)

S-RUTH 26SAP/C 11/22/2013 Hymns: (O) #32 SOD; #457 (S) ##552; (C) #533

Texts: Isaiah 41:8-10; Rev. 21:1-7; John 11:

Theme: “FOREVER Abiding” (John 15:4-5)

Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed Alleluia! The text for the celebration of the new life promised to our departed sister Ruth is her confirmation verses Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I Am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in Me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing (John 15:4-5).


To you most precious children of the resurrection, let this day be of great comfort and joy though you are in the midst of sorrow and pain. Let it be a day of light and not of darkness. Let it be a day of blessing rather than a burden. Why? Why? Because, today, by the power of the Resurrected Christ we celebrate life not death! Today we rejoice in God keeping His promises to His beloved daughter in the faith—Ruth! Today we thank the Lord that your mother, mother-in-law, grandmother and great-great-grandmother is in the arms of the crucified and risen Christ. Today we declare to the world that Ruth is FOREVER abiding with Her faithful Good Shepherd Jesus.

I say this with great confidence because these are not my words, but the Words of the Author of Life—Jesus Christ our ONLY Lord and Savior. The sermon hymns we just sang “Abide With Me Fast Falls the Eventide” was written by Henry Lyte in 1847. Lyte was in­spired to write this hymn as he was dy­ing of tu­ber­cu­lo­sis; he fin­ished it the Sun­day he gave his fare­well ser­mon in the par­ish he served so ma­ny years. Here are some of his farewell words to his beloved congregation: “O breth­ren, I stand here among you to­day, as alive from the dead, if I may hope to im­press it upon you, and in­duce you to pre­pare for that sol­emn hour which must come to all, by a time­ly ac­quaint­ance with the death of Christ.” With these last words spoken by this preacher, he gave his congregation and us joy that fills our hearts.

The opening stanza of the hymn is this: Abide with me; fast falls the eventide; The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide. When other helpers fail and comforts flee, Help of the helpless, O abide with me. What is the goal of this hymn? To abide forever with Jesus. For this reason I have titled the sermon FOREVER abiding. I can say for certainty that our departed sister Ruth even now is abiding FOREVER in the presence of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

When she was only 27 days old (Baptized Feb. 29, 1920) her parents brought her to the font at St. Peter’s Lutheran church and the minister of the Gospel spoke these precious words over her, “Ruth, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” That day, by that majestic water connected to the Word she was grafted into the eternal Vine, Jesus Christ.

Thirteen years later on her confirmation day June 4, 1933 she was given these verses from the Gospel of St. John Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I Am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in Me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. These words were of great comfort and strength for her in her earthly pilgrimage. By the grace of God she remained connected to the Vine not by her own works, but only by the grace of God her Savior.

She remained connected to the Vine as she gathered often in His house to hear His Word and dine at His table. She bore fruit of repentance and joy as she confessed her sins and received absolution. Even when she was unable to be in the Lord’s house, the Lord went to see her and give her His precious body and blood often.

Even until her final days the Holy Spirit used her to bear fruits of faith, love, compassion and kindness to others. As I visited with many of you—family members and friends you would say: “Mom loved people. Treated me like her own daughter from the day I was married into the family. She helped many who were in need. She is a great aunt. Not only by name, but truly a GREAT AUNT!

But there is more, not sure how many of you know this. Ruth paid out of her own pocket for the oil to keep the Eternity Light burning in this house of worship. I don’t share this because by these acts she earned points in the sight of God to let her into heaven. No, I share these thoughts with you because she lived the life of one who knows that to abide in Christ is to live for Christ; to declare His praises and shout to the world that I am marked forever to be His own as His very little lamb. PAUSE.

Remember that her name RUTH means “friendship” And she was a friend to many. And now she has unending friendship, only now she beholds face to face her dearest FRIEND of whom we sang “What A Friend We Have in Jesus”. I will use her name as an acrostic

R = Remained called by gospel, she was fed and led by W & S. She cherished the time she got to spend around His Word growing and maturing in that Word. She never cut herself off that vine, but was forever abiding in Him.

U = Unending existence in paradise that began when she left this world.    She is part of the unending Alleluia Chorus of the saints who are by the throne of Grace in heaven who shout saying: Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen (Rev. 7:10b-12).

T = Trusting Jesus she was not disappointed. She knew that this Jesus has kept every promise ever made. He defeated satan, destroyed death and done away with the punishment of sin. Sin has no hold on us. The grave can’t keep us and the devil can’t accuse us. Jesus has paid the payment of our redemption.

H = Hope, her hope, now realized is our hope to which we look forward too, and which often I read to her from 1 Peter “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead”, (1:3-9). Hope is faith looking towards the future based on Jesus perfect keeping promises in the past. How do we remain in Him? “To obtain such faith, God instituted the Office of the Ministry, that is provide by the Gospel and Sacraments.” In this Jesus gives us a BIG promises.       

In the Gospel of St. John 15 the word “Abide or “Remain” is mentioned nine times. Jesus uses this word for a reason to assure us that He is the Vine and we are the branches without Him we can’t do anything.     

Abide with Me and I will abide with you.” Jesus said. He has done that to our departed sister Ruth. As we heard in our Gospel reading today from John: “I Am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world” (John 11:25-26).

Ruth by the power of the Holy Spirit has believed this and therefore is FOREVER ABIDING with her Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ.

My prayers for you as well are these: that you too, would remain and abide in Him. Amen.

Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!

Now the peace of God…