Thursday, October 24, 2013

“A Face to Behold!” (Genesis 32:30)

S-1387-22SAP/C 10/20/2013 Hymns: (O) #350; (S) #341; (C) #50

Texts: Genesis 32:22-30; 2 Timothy 3:14-4:5; Luke 18:1-8

Theme: “A Face to Behold!” (Genesis 32:30)

Question: “What face do you like to look at?” Armour, SD

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! The text is from the O. T. lesson: “So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, ‘For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered’” (Genesis 32:30).


Most precious people of God, just recently I was reading through the Scripture in a year and I was in the book of Ester. The narrator tells of the plight of the Jewish people who were about to be destroyed by Haman the Persian. Haman was a high ranking official in the King’s court. As much power he had, he wasn’t satisfied because, at the door of the palace, sat a Jewish man—Mordecai who would not bow before Haman. Haman hated Mordecai and wanted more than anything else that he would honor him and bow before him.

One day, as the king told Haman he is the most important man in the province and had given him signet ring to do as he pleases with anyone—namely has enough power to destroy the Jews. He was so happy, until he walked out the palace and saw Mordecai and he was beside himself. That is what happens when you hate someone, you can’t stand to look at their face.

Jacob, the grandson of father Abraham and the son of Isaac knows all too well what it means not to look at your enemy face to face—his brother Esau. Perhaps you remember what Jacob had done to his brother. Jacob had stolen his brother’s birthright. He had walked away with the big time blessing of his father that had been intended for Esau. But that was then, and this is now.

It had been twenty years since they last saw one another. At that time Esau was livid with his brother. Last time he saw Esau was a bad news kind of day. But now, Jacob was going to be seeing his twin brother in less than 12 hours. He was nervous! He was afraid! And He was in a dilemma!

Being afraid was nothing unusual for this patriarch. What was different was that Jacob was different. After being dealt with shrewdly by his Uncle Laban, Jacob had learned his lesson. Jacob would rely on God and not himself. So he divides his family and herds and sent them ahead of him and sent a big gift to his brother. And he stayed behind for a time of prayer and reflection about seeing the man he has been running away from for the last 20 years. PAUSE.

Alone in the darkness of night, Jacob paced, pondered, pleaded and prayed. Judgment day was upon him. He needed Divine help. Then something strange took place. Out of nowhere a mysterious Man, utterly unlike anyone he ever met, appeared. Likely he remembered how the Lord appeared to his grandpa Abraham, mysteriously, out of nowhere, prophesying the miracle birth of his father—Isaac.

It would be a pattern. It would be how He appeared to Moses, Joshua, Gideon, and others—out of nowhere. It would be how He appeared to the disciples post Easter—out of nowhere. But this visit was no social call. It would be a night of struggle. This Man started to wrestle with Jacob.

This wrestling match would be the most unusual wrestling match in the history of mankind. The two men wrestled throughout the night in even-steven fashion. This, in itself was a miracle. Anyone who has done serious wrestling knows that after 8 minutes a person enters into a physical state of feeling like a wet noodle, even if you are in excellent shape. But Jacob and the mystery Man keep on wrestling.

Agony, fatigue, sweat, blood, almost like the Garden of Gethsemane ensue as the two men rolled in the dust in the most symmetrical chaotic match one could imagine. The mystery Man wrestling Jacob could not get the upper hand of Esau’s brother, even though in reality He was upholding the universe at the same time in the palm of His hands.

Binding Himself to the same rules of mortals, the Stranger from outside of time and space had humbled himself to wrestle with the rascal called Jacob. Holiness was wrestling with unholiness. This mystery Man would one day come into the world as a baby. In a most unusual way, He enters our world, putting on flesh and blood. Oh how strange that the Divine would take on humanity.

He who would come into the world in the fullness of time, likely during seasons when lambs were born, dying likely in the season when lambs die, on a Passover Friday as the Passover Lamb, willing to die at the exact second the high priest sacrificed the Passover Lamb in the holy of holies.

The point is: He has things in full control even when it does not seem so, down to the exact second. This Man touched the socket of Jacob’s hip. Jacob screamed. Jacob felt like he needed a hip replacement that very moment. Worse yet, by grace, despite the pain, he realized this was no mere mortal with whom he wrestled. Something cosmic was going on. The Man who bound Himself to the rules of men and mortals said, “Let go of Me; because the darkness is lifting.”

Jacob said something akin to what Peter would say 1800 years later, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus would respond and say, “Blessed are you son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you.” Jacob cried out, “I will not let you go until you bless me.” Until you bless me. PAUSE.

The mystery Man blesses Jacob in spite of the all night wrestling match. This Man’s face is masked in the darkness. But as the darkness is lifted Jacob sees the face, and couldn’t take his eyes off Him and shouts aloud, ‘For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.” Wrestling that intimately, he couldn’t help but see the Masked Man, the Mystery Man as none-other, than the Pre-incarnate Christ.

Like Jacob, you and I wrestle with God daily. We wrestle with sin, pain, and anguish and question God. We want Him to bless us but on our terms. We don’t realize that Jesus is in total control of our lives. Even in our trials and pain He reminds us that everything will work out for our good. And so we pray, Lord, when I forget and turn from your face bring me back to see the radiant glory.

Today, in this place, you, too, see the Masked Man face to face. You see Him bloodied and bruised. You see Him in His full glory. You see Him as One who has wrestled with the evil forces and won the victory for all the son’s of Adam and the daughter’s of Eve.

Here is this place once again He delivers the sweet truth that the devil will not win the battle. In His mercy, He will lift the darkness of death, gravity of the grave and the stench of sin. All this is gone from us again this day because of this Not-so-mystery God-Man Jesus!

This Jesus we see is the One who wrestled on yet another occasion on our behalf. In the midday darkness of a Friday we call Good, the same God-Man wrestled on the cross of Calvary and won. We behold in the face of Christ a glory that pierces the darkness of Good Friday so that we can see Him today face to face. And like Jacob, we live! We live in the blessings He has in store for us. We live in Him eternally. We live with Him both now and in eternity!

Oh, that we would by the power of the Holy Spirit, continue to behold the face of God and live. Amen and Amen.

Now the peace…


Monday, October 14, 2013

“Divine Irony!” (Ruth 1:16-17)

S-1386-21SAP/C 10/13/2013 Hymns: (O) #; (S) #; (C) #644

Texts: Ruth 1:1-19; 2 Timothy 2:1-13; Luke 17:11-19

Theme: “Divine Irony!” (Ruth 1:16-17)

Question: “Do you like Romantic stories?” Armour, SD

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! The text is from the O. T. lesson: “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you” (Ruth 1:16-17).


Most beloved family of faith, what we have before us in the book of Ruth is a story of Romance, Redemption and Restoration. But I’m getting ahead of myself in telling this story. When was the last time you read the book of Ruth? It is really one of those fascinating little books in the Old Testament. While we don’t often preach on it in the Divine Service, it makes a regular appearance in our Sunday School Curriculum. We tend to remember these kinds of stories because they connect with us and could well be made into a Hallmark movie.

The section of Ruth that serves as our Old Testament text is simply the introduction. But there is so much more to the story. In fact, if it has been a while since you have read Ruth, I would invite you to regard this as a bit of a homework assignment. Now, there won’t be any tests, but I can promise that you will indeed learn a great deal from these wonderful words that flow from the Holy Spirit through the writer, down through the ages to us. In the process of reading this you will run into people by the Hebrew name of Ruth and Naomi, Elimelech and Boaz. The story is one of tragedy and triumph, death and deliverance, hopelessness and restoration! But this is no simple movie plot. In this story we see the divine plan of Yahweh working salvation for the world in the minutest details. The drama that plays out is not just about women lost in a patriarchic society, but about humanity being lost as well. And the delivery from that lost state comes in the most ironic of ways. Ruth is really nothing more than a story of divine irony.

This story is awash in irony, that is, a contradiction of what SHOULD be happening. Even in these few verses we see the irony playing out. The story is set in the time of the Judges. This is a time of hot and cold relationship between Yahweh and His people. In fact, twice in the book of Judges we hear the phrase “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” The story highlights yet another one of those cold streaks. A famine has fallen on the land. Bethlehem, which means the House of Bread, has no bread. Elimelech, which means God is my King, moves his wife and two sons OUT of the Promised Land, to Moab because they would not trust the Lord to provide bread for them. And that is where the story goes from bad to worse. While they were there, for TEN YEARS, Elimelech dies. His two sons, who had taken wives from among the Moabites, (which was forbidden under the Law), they too die. As a result, an Israelite woman is left in a foreign land, with no man to provide for her and two daughters-in-law who themselves had no husbands. In those days these women are as good as lost! They have no help, no future, no family, no home and no hope of deliverance.

It is in the midst of this hopelessness that Naomi actually does something right. She decides to go back to where she belongs to the house of her Father—God, the Eternal King. She wants to send her foreign daughters-in-law back to their pagan homes. One, named Orpah, goes home. The other, Ruth, refuses. In this refusal we see another great irony. This pagan woman, who really had no legal claim on Messiah because she is a Gentile, makes one of the greatest statements of faith of all time: Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you. Ruth, the Moabite pledges her faithfulness to a faithless Israelite family and vows to return to a land that is not her own. She claims a God she has no right to claim. And her promise is one so solemn that she would rather die than fail to keep it. There aren’t even any promises that she would find food, family, future or a place back in Bethlehem. That House of Bread could well be an empty belly for Naomi and her. PAUSE.

The rest of the story is how this divine irony plays out. As often happens, the ones in the story who have no hope and no claim of faith are the ones who “get it” and the ones who should know better miss it all together. Through the care of a wealthy man named Boaz, the irony turns. This woman with no place and no birthright actually gets redeemed! Boaz marries this woman. Not only does she become part of Bethlehem society, Ruth becomes part of the lineage of Jesus! She bears Boaz a son. His name is Obed. Obed has a son named Jesse. Jesse has a son named David, who would be king of Israel. From lost to Great Grandmother of the Great King David, and the greatest King—Jesus—the Son of David! God saves Ruth so that Ruth’s offspring can save her, us and all people!

Boaz didn’t have to marry Ruth. As you read farther in the book you see that Boaz does some remarkable things to take Ruth as his wife. He really spends money that he doesn’t have to so that he could have this wife who would carry on the lineage of his relative Elimalech. In the process Noami is cared for as well as you and me. Hidden in the story of a once-pagan woman of faith is the story of Romance, Redemption, and Restoration which leads to salvation.

What we see in this story is something that we cling to by the work of the Holy Spirit. God did not abandon Naomi and Ruth. Naomi and Ruth’s husbands had abandoned God! They were the ones who refused to look to the Lord as the King who will provide for all of their needs. They thought they knew better. They elevated their reason above the promises of God. They did what was right in their eyes, not giving two hoots and a holler about what was right in God’s eyes. While the circumstances that these women face were hard, they were the means by which the Lord delivered them!

Often we do likewise. There are so many times that we think that Bethlehem has no bread. We go looking for something better in distant lands. Now, we may not leave our homes, but we leave our God. When we start saying things like, “I can’t believe in a God who would do that,” We are leaving the God who is revealed to us in the pages of Scripture to follow a god of our own making and choosing. When we start to think that we can do whatever is right in our own eyes we leave behind the God who calls us to faithfulness to His Word only to follow the foolishness of the world that would leave our souls starving, our bodies wasting, our hearts empty and our families broken. We choose to follow our own thoughts rather that God’s. We are just as faithless and helpless and hopeless as Elimelech and his sons were. If we stay there, our end won’t be any better than theirs either.

But, in divine irony, God does not abandon His people. The very people who live faithless lives, even those who claim to be part of the Church, find that there are still people of faith in the land like Boaz. In the most undeserved way, God puts people in our lives who are people led by the Holy Spirit to trust that God will redeem, restore and deliver. These are the people who by grace through faith cling to the cross of Jesus Christ. People like these are instruments of God that are His hands and His feet, speaking His Word of life to a hopeless and hapless world. In the greatest of divine irony, God has not abandoned His people or His world. And when you are like that He has not abandoned you either. PAUSE.

The great sign of this presence is the greatest King who ever walked dusty earth—Jesus. But He is more than just a presence. Ironically, He is the One who has come to redeem, restore and deliver those who don’t really deserve to be redeemed restored and delivered. Like Boaz did for the foreigner Ruth, Jesus pays an astronomical price for people like us. We have no claim on this salvation. We have no hope of deliverance until that redemption price is paid. And that is what happens at the cross. Great David’s greater Son Jesus the Christ offers the price of His sinless life to redeem us from sin, death and the power of the devil. The cross is the currency and the empty tomb the receipt.

With this redemption price paid, we too are part of the family of the redeemed. We, because of sin, were once not the people of God, now by grace are the people of God. We, because of sin, once had no food, family; future and King, now by grace have an eternal Promised Land reserved for us. And we won’t be scrambling for provision like Ruth and Naomi did. No, in this new Promised Land we will have a place at the table. We will feast on the greatest fare, like we will today in the Lord’s Supper. The Lamb of God, Jesus will be both host and feast; servant and Priest! We won’t be foreigners. We won’t be strangers. We will be family! This family will have the Lord as its head and King.

Most beloved family of faith, this is no Hallmark movie Script for a good story. It is the plot, not only of the book of Ruth, but of the entire Scriptures. In this story, which in reality is HIS-STORY; the story of salvation is revealed. By the grace of God, we who were strangers and foreigners have been brought back to Bethlehem and in this place, we are privileged to hear how WE are redeemed, restored and delivered. And like our adopted sister in the faith Ruth, we can utter that same statement of faith. “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.” Ruth’s story is our story. Ruth’s salvation is our salvation. This is YOUR story-in the Divine Irony. AMEN.

“You Are Witnesses” (Luke 24:44-53)

S-1385-20SAP/C (LWML Sunday) 10/06/2013 Hymns: (O) #822; (S) #823; (C) # Tune #662

Texts: Isaiah 62:1-7; Romans 10:11-7; Luke 24:44-53

Theme: “You Are Witnesses” (Luke 24:44-53)

Question: “What message do you have for the world?” Armour, SD

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! The text is from the Gospel lesson: “You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I Am sending the promise of My Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:48-49).


Saints in Christ, a few weeks ago (9/1) in the sermon titled “Be Careful in How You live” I stated, “What others see in you may well be the only Bible they ever read!” How true that is. Therefore, whether we want to acknowledge it or not we are witnesses. But witnesses of what and to whom? We are either witnesses to God or the devil.

I would be the first to declare that my life is not always a clear witness to my Savior, Jesus. I wished it was, but since I’m a sinner to the core, I know better. I have let too many things in my life get ahead of being a faithful witness to Christ. Look at your life and ask the question, “What kind of witness are you?” If you don’t know try this exercise: Review your calendar and see how much of your day or week is occupied with Jesus and His Word. Look at your checkbook and determine who gets first priority. Evaluate your time and how much of it is dedicated to Christ and His Gospel. How much time do you spend on TV watching, hunting, fishing, camping, sports, Face Book, cell phone, compare to being in the presence of the True Witness Jesus Christ.

Today, Dr. Luke speaks of Christ’s final Words of exhortations to His disciples before He returns to the place from where He came, saying: “You are My witnesses!” Notice what He doesn’t say: He doesn’t say you will be, you might be, or you should be.” No, He emphatically states, “You ARE!!!” Present active witnesses. Thus, we are witnesses at all times.

It is interesting to note that Luke the evangelist closes one book (his gospel) with the command of Jesus to be His witnesses and opens another (Acts) with the same command. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be My witnesses… end of the earth” (1:8). Therefore it is clear that the life of God’s child is one of witnessing to the grace and mercy of Christ the Savior and what He has accomplished for us.

On this LWML Sunday, Luke, challenges us, NOT only the women, but ALL of us to be witnesses of the Rabbi from Nazareth. Jesus Himself said, “You are My witnesses!” This command comes from the One whose whole life gave witness to the loving Father who sent Him into the world to buy it back by giving His life on Calvary’s cross.

To be sure, Christ is the faithful WITNESS as His life is a confession of the true faith that reveals our compassionate Father’s ever-giving heart. A witness to Christ confesses the true faith. By the power and grace of the Holy Spirit, our Lord has called us in Baptism—His witnesses. Thus we share what He has given to us so that all would know the Father’s saving love. You are My witnesses”, then, is Christ’s call to our real identity for the true confession of the faith in words and actions that inspire works of mercy in our life together. PAUSE.

There is no greater honor and privilege than for you and me who have been washed by the crimson blood of Jesus, given a new life through His death and resurrection but to hear and heed His call and share His story of redemption and salvation.

We see this great service of witnessing by women in our church body called Lutheran Women’s Missionary League who are leaven from heaven. These women have heard the call of Jesus and have faithfully since its inception in 1942 been on the front lines witnessing to one and all.

Writing about the witnessing of the LWML, Marlys Taege Moberg wrote a brief history. I share a snippet with you:

Beginning in the 1850s, women of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS, started local auxiliaries to meet the needs of people; mending clothes for seminarians, equipping hospitals, establishing schools, developing convalescent and retirement homes, assisting orphanages and residences for people with disabilities, gathering clothing, furniture and food for indigents, and funding mission endeavors at home and abroad.

Not until the 1920s, however, did members of congregational societies begin to coordinate their efforts by uniting in state and regional leagues. Oklahoma was first in 1928, but it took more than a decade before official approval was granted for a national LCMS women’s organization.

Although the U.S. was at war and travel was difficult, the founding convention, held July 7 and 8, 1942, in Chicago, was attended by over 100 women from 15 districts. The 28 delegates adopted a constitution, approved a name, chose two projects, and established a Literature Committee to publish books, a national magazine, tracts and programs. They also determined that 1/4 of the mission gifts collected in local societies would be given to the national organization and 3/4 used for district projects.

Thanks be to God for these women who in their lives gave and are giving witness to the love of Jesus and served Him with joy and gladness. Throughout the ages, LWML have been preparing literatures to assist many in knowing their relationships with Christ their Savior. Even the magazine, the Lutheran Woman’s Quarterly (LWQ) has included Bible studies that have been used by people all over the world. Through the Word, our Lord engages people for lives of witnessing. Stories of faith in those pages of the LWQ exhibit the mutual conversation and consolation of the saints that we believe, teach, and confess that Jesus is Lord and God, and we are His servants. There are the Mustard Seed devotions from the LWML left in hotel rooms, restaurants and greeting cards show how the witness of Christ continues to permeate the world. You are My witnesses,” Christ says through His servants in the LWML. PAUSE.

Even in this place, just take a look and see the labor of love in all that these daughters’ of the King have done. See the beautiful quilts stitched one blessing at a time. This didn’t just happen. They planned: they came; they cut, stitched and sewed together a quilt of love. Our LWML travel to Huron to help with the Puppet show, gather goods for Pastor Utecht to share in his ministry among the Native Americans and seek supplies to help the Alpha Center (pregnancy crisis place) for those who find themselves with child.

This IS witnessing par excellence! And to this Christ the true and faithful Witness has called all of us to be His witnesses. To be a witness takes time, patience and planning.

Just as you and I plan vacation, camping, fishing or hunting trips, likewise we should plan to be witnesses to the Savior—Jesus. Plan by getting down on your knees, pray for the person[s] you want to reach and trust that the Holy Spirit will use you in spite of you. Plan to give towards the Mission work of the Church and the spread of His Gospel. This work is not done by you alone, Christ is here leading and directing your every step.

Jesus, the faithful witness opened His hands and blessed His disciples in today’s Gospel as He sent them to be witnesses of His death and resurrection. Eventually, they would share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with countless people as day by day more were added to those who were saved.

Even today, Christ opens His nail-pierced hands in love to satisfy the desire of every living thing as He blesses us for His service in the world through our various vocations. He opens His hands to give us His life-giving Body and Blood as He opens His hands to bless us and keep us, giving us peace. Receiving the Blessed Sacraments, we have been blessed with forgiveness, life, and salvation to share the truth of His all-atoning love as His witnesses in the world.

We have seen this witnessing first hand in this house of worship. It all begins here as Christ comes to us to speak to us, lead us out, and blesses us, just as He did His disciples in today’s reading. It continues in worship as Christ speaks through us, leads through us, and blesses others through us. And it will culminate in endless worship as we look to the Day of His return when we, who have been spoken to by Christ and who have been led out by Him are blessed to be raised from the dead and in our flesh to live in the joy of being His people forever.

“You are my witnesses,” Christ our Lord says. Confessing the truth in love and serving the Lord with gladness, we rejoice that Christ speaks to us, leads us out and blesses us as He graciously entrusts us with the Gospel in our ears, eyes, hands, and mouths saying, You are My witnesses” Now and always. Amen and Amen.

Now the peace…

Soli Deo Gloria

Friday, October 4, 2013

Praise the Lord with me

“Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together!” (Psalm 34:3); “Praise the Lord! Praise the name of the Lord, give praise, O servants of the Lord” (Psalm 135:1). Yes, join me in magnifying and praising the name o the Lord. Today, is the 19th anniversary of our Dial A Prayer Ministry. It is a ministry that is available to anyone 24/7/365.

By the grace of God I know people from at least 23 different states have called to listen to this ministry. Many have called, written notes, sent e-mails and texted me saying, “Thank you Pastor, this is just what I needed to hear!”

If you so desire check it out by calling Dial A Prayer 605-724-2444

The hymn writer said it well in the great doxology: “Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow; Praise Him, all creatures here below; Praise Him above, ye heav’nly host; Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.”

Monthly sponsorship “$30.00" are available. If interested contact me at

Tuesday, October 1, 2013



“Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known” (Jeremiah 33:3).

The other day I stopped over to visit with a friend and he showed me a project he was working on. I said to him, “Why didn’t you ask me to help you?” “Never thought of it,” was the response. Last Thursday (9/26) my friend called and said, “Pastor Nour, you are going to wish that you didn’t volunteer to help me.” I responded, “If I didn’t want to help I would have never offered my services. But I really do want to help and am glad you called. I will be over later to help you.”

I was able to help my friend get his project done. We had fun and thanked the Lord for the gift of friends who are willing to help when called upon, and mean what they say when it comes to assisting others. While I was helping him, the thought for this article came to mind.

In the book of Jeremiah, “God tells us to call upon Him and He will answer us.” He says, “Call Me! I am here for you! Call Me. I will help you! Call Me! I will come to your aid! Call Me and I will show you My mighty power!”

So often however, we are reluctant to call upon our Lord for help. Like my friend who said “You are going to wish you didn’t volunteer”, we treat God in the same way. We think we should go to Him only when things are completely out of our control.

But this is not what God says. “He states, “Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.” I call this verse God’s phone number. The good news about this verse is that God is willing and able to hear our needs 24/7/365. You will never get a busy signal. You will never need the assistance of an operator. You will never need to push 1 for English. You will never need to go through someone to get to Him. He simply says, “Call Me and I will be here for you.”

In 1967 Marvin Gaye sang this song “There Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” that made it to the top 20 on the Billboard pop charts and went on to be number 3 in the R&B charts. Here is a portion of that lyric:

Listen, baby
Ain’t no mountain high
Ain’t no valley low
Ain’t no river wide enough, baby

If you need me, call me
No matter where you are
No matter how far
Just call my name
I'll be there in a hurry
You don’ have to worry.

Indeed, that is wishful thinking. Though the song is sweet and has great lines, in truth no one is always able to help another. Call me, but I am in Israel and won’t be back for another month. It is difficult to come to the aid of another human, though we want to.

But not our Awesome, Amazing and Almighty God! The Lord of the Universe who loves us wants us to come to Him and ask Him as little children ask their father for help. He is waiting and ready to assist in any situation, be it a blessing or a burden. He is the One who is always available in time and space to come to our aid. He even goes further, teaching us of His desire for our lives, saying: Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear” (Isaiah 65:24).

In one of the most beloved hymns of our time, “What A Friend We have in Jesus” written by Joseph Scriven in 1855, is a message that far outshines Marvin Gaye’s message;

What a friend we have in Jesus,
all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear,
all because we do not carry
everything to God in prayer.

Yes, it is true; we don’t call upon the Lord always. But we should since we are His beloved and redeemed children. And since we have a Savior, Jesus Christ who died and rose for us, we have the privilege and blessing of coming to the Lord through Him always. And when we do, God answers our every need for help. God either grants your request or He says, “I have something better planned for you!”

But He does answer, and in His loving and gracious way gives us what we need and not what we want.

Therefore, in the name of Christ, our ONLY Savior, I encourage you today and always to hear and heed the voice of the Eternal God, who says: “Call Me! I am here for you ALWAYS.”

In Christ’s love and in His service,

Rev. Nabil S. Nour, Pastor, Grandpa and Footwasher Phil. 1:6

“A Great Gift” (Luke 1:31-33)

This sermon was preached at the chapel of Concordia College in Seward, NE. Since the students don’t remain on campus during the Christmas Season, they were observing Christmas in the fall. Thus the text is dealing with the Christmas reading.

S-138419SAP/C 9/30/2013 Hymns: (O) #; (S) #356; (C) #

Texts: Luke 1:26-38

Theme: “A Great Gift” (Luke 1:31-33)

Question: “What is the nicest gift you have gotten?” Seward, NE

Faithful followers of the Savior, Merry Christmas to each of you! Christ The text is from the St. Luke’s Gospel: “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to Him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:31-33).


Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, it is a great honor and privilege to be among you on this Christmas in the summer celebration. I bring you greeting and God’s richest blessing from the President of our Beloved Synod, the Rev. Dr. Matthew Harrison with whom I am delighted to serve this great church body and from the saints of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Armour, SD.

It is not often that we think of buying gifts unless there is a birthday, anniversary, baby shower or upcoming wedding. The time when we begin to think of gifts is around Christmas. During that time we get stressed out looking for the perfect gift for someone you love and care for deeply. The more you love the person, the more precious gifts you want to give.

In May of 1994 when I graduated from the St. Louis Seminary, my parents came to the States to visit from Israel and help me celebrate becoming a footwasher in the service of the Lord, Jesus Christ. The term “footwasher” is my favorite word of being a pastor. As such, I get to show the love of Jesus as I wash the saints’ feet and care for all of their needs. My parents were also present at my ordination into the Office of the Holy Ministry a month later (June 26). After the Ordination my mother and father came to me and said: “Son, we are so proud of you and pray God’s blessings on your life and ministry” and placed this (show bracelet) beautiful gold bracelet on my wrist.

I wore that gift with pride. It was a priceless gift from my parents, and I’m certain they paid dearly for it. I never took my bracelet off except when I went into the Dead Sea. Shortly after I arrived into Armour to begin serving Redeemer Lutheran Church as their footwasher, I lost my bracelet. I searched for it but couldn’t find it. I wept. I put ads all over town and church. A few days later one of my parishioners called saying, “Pastor, I found your bracelet in the church basement.” I was elated and overjoyed to have the bracelet again.

Recently my bracelet broke and now is sitting on top of my drawer waiting for my next trip to the old country to have it fixed. PAUSE.

You may have received a great gift that means a lot to you. You cherish it and hold it dear. You keep it near your heart and protect it lest it be destroyed, lost or stolen.

In this country, during the Christmas season we hear about buying that perfect gift for the person who has everything. But what about the perfect gift for someone who has nothing and needs everything? That’s what God gave you and me at Christmas. This is what Luke states in the text for today: And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High” (1:31).

Learn this truth and appreciate this great gift: When God put His Son into the manger, He gave us everything. You and I needed forgiveness. He gave us His Son—the heaven-sent Savior to wash away our sins with His precious blood. We needed peace with God. He gave us the Prince of Peace, who brought back a blessed relationship with the Father. We needed power against sin. He gave us the mighty Lord, who defeated Satan in the wilderness and even more so on the cross. Satan can’t hold us captive any more, since Christ—our GREAT gift is the key that freed us. We needed comfort in life’s sorrows. He gave us the living Savior, who wipes away our tears. We needed assurance at the time of death. He gave us the risen Christ, who has already conquered death, not just for Himself but for all of us sinners. We had nothing, but with this GREAT gift—OUR Savior, God gave us everything we needed. Thanks be to God for such a GREAT gift! PAUSE.

Beloved in the Lord, my bracelet is a great gift from my parents. Now that they are no longer living on earth, but in heaven, it has even a greater meaning. I love it and cherish it though I can’t wear it any longer for a little while. This is what happens with earthly gifts. They break, they rust, they are stolen or become obsolete. But not the gift of the manger!

In love, the gift I received from my parents broke and it broke my heart. So too, Christ the Greatest gift given to man was broken on Calvary’s cross for us sinners. However, unlike my broken bracelet, Christ broke out of the tomb on the third day to give us life and salvation. By this mighty act of His resurrection, He guarantees that this gift will never be broken again, never rust, never stolen or become obsolete. This is the gift that keeps on giving for always. This is the Great gift that every sinner needs—A Savior.

Why does God lavish such a gift on us? How do we explain the love that moved God to send His Son into the manger? What language shall we borrow to praise Him for such a gift to us, His enemies? In His great love, God gave everything He had so that we might have every­thing we need. Thanks be to God for His great gift of love in a child, so that we might all become children of God forever.

Precious children of the heavenly Father, our lives are God’s gift. Eternal life is His great gift. May we therefore, by the grace of God go out into the world and share this gift with others so that they, too, may join us in praising God and saying: “We have received a GREAT GIFT IN JESUS, OUR LORD!

May you cherish such a great gift! May hold Him dear and near! May you spend time daily with this heavenly GIFT, until you are welcomed into the Eternal presence of this GIFT forever! Amen and Amen.

Now the peace…


“The Messengers Carry the Message” (Daniel 10:10-11) St. Michael and All Angels

S-1383-19SAP/C 9/29/2013 Hymns: (O) #254 vv1-5; (S) #506; L.S. #255; 257; (C) # 254 vv 6-7

Texts: Daniel 10:10-14; 12:1-3; Revelation 12:7-12; Matthew 18:1-11

Theme: “The Messengers Carry the Message” (Daniel 10:10-11) St. Michael and All Angels

Question: “What message do you have for the world?” Armour, SD

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! The text is from the O.T. lesson: And behold, a hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees. And he said to me, ‘O Daniel, man greatly loved, understand the words that I speak to you, and stand upright, for now I have been sent to you.’ And when he had spoken this word to me, I stood up trembling” (Daniel 10:10-11).


Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, I would like to say that I have not spoken to you the truth in love. As a messenger of the Gospel I have hurt you by what I have said and done. For that I pray that you would forgive me all of my sins and continue to join me in getting the true message of God’s grace to the world.

On this St. Michael and all angels day, there is only ONE message worthy of being proclaimed. It is the message that we have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb! We have been saved from our enemies—satan, sin and death! We have been marked as belonging to God through the gift of Baptism! That our sins have been forgiven through the brutal event of the cross and the empty tomb! This message has been proclaimed throughout generations by angels, prophets, apostles and evangelists. The message is the same, but the messengers change from age to age. The messengers’ concern is only with the message. It is the message that is important. By the grace of God we too, have heard the message, and are called upon to continue proclaiming this blessed message.

Throughout all of Scripture we see God’s messengers carrying this message. Moses had a message to Pharaoh, “Let my people go” (Exodus 5:1). Joshua had a message to the people of Israel, “Choose you this day whom you shall serve” (Joshua 24:15). Nathan had a message to David, “You are the man!” (2 Samuel 12:7). Isaiah had a message to the exiled, “Comfort my people says Your God” (Isaiah 40:1). The angel Michael had a message to Daniel “To stay firm” (Daniel 10:10-14). The angel Gabriel had a message to a young woman in Nazareth, “You shall conceive and bring forth a son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save the people from their sins.” (Luke 1:31). Another angel appeared to Zacharias in the temple and told him, “Your wife Elizabeth will conceive and bring forth a son,” (Luke 1:13). The 7 angels spoke the message to the seven churches in Revelation (2-3). And the Apostles and Evangelists carried the massage to every corner of the earth. PAUSE.

Certainly, there are other messengers out there. We hear of wars and rumors of wars. We hear good news someone just had a baby, your brother or sister is getting married. Your aunt is celebrating 50 years of wedded bliss. You hear the message the crops are going to be good this year. All of these are good and wonderful messages, but they don’t compare with the ONLY true message of life and salvation. There is nothing like hearing the angels who shared the message with the shepherds outside of Bethlehem, “Fear not, for we bring you Good News of Great joy, today in the city of David a Savior has been born.” (Luke 10-11). Yes indeed the Savior of mankind has come. He lived among us. He suffered for us. He died for us. But the greatest news of all, also carried on the voices of angels at the empty tomb, “He is not here. He is risen, just as He said!” This is the greatest message that needs to be proclaimed in the loudest voice from the highest rooftops and moutaintops, from every pulpit to every person in the pews and on the streets!

This message will not be broadcast across the screen from Scott Pelly, Brian Williams, or Diane Sawyer. You will not hear it on CNN or Fox news, but you will read it in God’s holy book. God’s eternal message of love, forgiveness and salvation is stated clearly in it. You will hear it as you come to God’s Holy house to nurture your soul with the heavenly manna. You will benefit from it as you gather Bible study. And you will greatly rejoice as you pick up this precious message in the palm of your hands, read, learn and inwardly digest its comforting and life-changing message.

Isaiah said it well, when he spoke, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who proclaims peace, who brings glad tidings, who proclaims salvation, who says to Zion. “Your God is Your King!” PAUSE.

Though we are called in baptism to live our lives as the messengers of Christ, yet at times we feel inadequate to share this good news with others. Satan even tells us we are NOT equipped to spread the message. Besides, you got a pastor that is his job let him do it. But brothers and sisters in Christ hear me well; the message can’t wait, it needs to be proclaimed, it needs to be shared, it needs to be uttered. How many people are dying daily without hearing the greatest message in the world? Think of the terrorists who are killing in the deceitful and evil name of Allah thinking they are doing his work. How many people are dying trying to get to heaven by their own righteous work, power and position in life? But none of these things will do, except the message of the Good News, that Jesus Christ is our ONLY savior. And He alone can open heaven’s doors for us.

Sadly, at times you and I get in the way of the message. We think, if only we can be less stringent, not teaching all of its truth, or calling sin for what it is—damming, then, we will reach others. We hear from many pulpits that sin doesn’t matter, as long as you have good intentions. Sin still kills damns and separates us from our holy God.

At other times we compromise what we stand for as Christians. We turn our faces away from the sins we are committing, or a brother is involved in. We say we don’t have to do what the Bible teaches. We don’t have to be faithful stewards of His good gifts. We don’t need to be in church or in Bible study. It is enough to give an hour in Church, but don’t you dare ask me to do anything else. I want to live my life without any restrictions.

On this Saint Michael and all angels day, you and I are indeed blessed, because God calls us to honor Him with our lives of service. Yes, the honor and privilege is for us as the redeemed of God to share the good news of our salvation.

To be sure God has called you in baptism to be a message carrier. You and I by the grace of God are the means and vehicle to share the great and most awesome news in the world with those around us. Just like a smile is contagious, so you and I ought to be carriers of this message of grace, love, hope and peace.

Unlike the dread of certain disease that can be contagious and deadly; you and I have a message to relate to others. We are simply messengers of the Message. And what is that message? That we have been saved by the mighty and precious arms of Christ from our sins. You and I have been bought back. You and I are guaranteed the eternal mansion in heaven that our Lord is preparing for us.

Yes, we are called to go out of our way and share the blessed news with all the world. Then begin by the Spirit’s power here in this place, in your home and your community and what the Lord will do through you. Don’t rely upon your own efforts to accomplish this blessed task, but look to the Savior who has equipped you in the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. As children of God we can do no less, except joyfully share this message with the rest of the world.

Think, what would have happened if the apostles and evangelists didn’t do what the Lord asked them to proclaim. Where would we be? Lost, like many others who don’t know or believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior; on our way to hell. You and I have a great and blessed opportunity of sharing a message that will change the world. A message that will comfort any troubled soul. A message that will give hope to the hurting; help to the lost.


Indeed, brothers and sisters in Christ. There is only ONE MESSAGE to be shared, spoken and proclaimed. It is the message that Jesus Christ is the Only Savior from sin, death and the power of the devil. The angels of God could not wait to proclaim that a Savior was born to save mankind. And neither can we! I have a message for you today from God who said, “I have given my Son for you because I love you so much!” Jesus has a message for you, “I love you with every ounce of blood in me!” He loved you so much that He was willing to go to hell for you, rather than go to heaven without you. He loved you so much that (open arms) He died on the cross telling you, that He will not spare anything to have you with Him in heaven. What a wonderful Good News we have today. A Message of hope and peace! Calvary’s message is this: “Son, be of Good sheer, your sins are forgiven you!” Wow! What a message God gives us. Go home empowered by the Spirit’s power to be “messengers who carry the message.” What a message. A message that opened heavens doors for us. A message that has blotted all our sins from the Holy God of Israel. A message that tells us Satan has no power over us. To Him alone be all glory for now and throughout all eternity. AMEN.

Now the peace…