Tuesday, November 25, 2014

“The Seeking Shepherd” (Ezekiel 34:11-12)

S-1456 LSOCY/3A 11/23/2014 Hymns: (O) #436; (S) #368; L.S. #314; 311; (C) # 628

Texts: Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24; 1 Corinthians 15:20-28; Matthew 25:31-46

Theme: “The Seeking Shepherd” (Ezekiel 34:11-12)

Question: “Have you ever lost something important?”

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia. The text for our meditation this morning is from the O.T. Lesson: “For thus says the Lord God: Behold, I, I myself will search for My sheep and will seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out My sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness” (Ezekiel 34:11-12).

Beloved in the Lord, I share with you a heartwarming true story of a couple who were separated after 3 days of their wedding night. Anna Koslov kissed her husband Boris goodbye. A soldier in Russia’s Red Army, he was set to rejoin his military unit. However, when Boris returned home from his military expedition, he found the house cold and empty. When he called his wife’s name, there was only the echo of his own voice. Anna was gone. Under the brutal regime of Joseph Stalin, Anna and her family had been declared enemies of the state. Boris’ new bride was sent into exile in the vast plains of Siberia, with no chance to contact her husband. He didn’t even know if she was still alive. Boris spent years searching for his lost love, but never found a trace of her.

Over the years, both Boris and Anna remarried other people, and had children. But they never forgot about one another: After Boris became a writer, he dedicated a book to Anna, the woman he had loved and lived with for a mere three nights. As time went by, Boris and Anna’s respective spouses passed away. In 2007, Anna, a lonely widow, went back to visit the old house where she and Boris had spent those precious few nights.

In a remarkable twist of fate, another visitor–an 80-year-old man stopped in the town to lay flowers on his parents’ gravestone. But when he caught sight of the woman across the road, he knew it was his beloved Anna. After 60 years they were reconnected with one another. This is indeed a remarkable story of love and searching.

I have another love story—the story of our loving, caring and Seeking Shepherd. Through the prophet Ezekiel, he tells us of God’s heart and what He desires to do for His scattered, spread, stretched and suffering sheep—the people of Israel of old and the people of Israel today—you and me. PAUSE.

On this Last Sunday of the Church Year, the Word of God that engages us today comes on the heels of God’s anger over the unfaithful shepherds who have ignored their responsibilities and destroyed and drove their sheep away.

To that end, God steps upon the scene and reveals His heart’s desire as He wears it on His sleeves. This is what God says: He Himself will search for His sheep. What a comfort! God is not going to leave it up to us to find our way, or to some fallible human agent to find us. He is going to do it Himself! We know that faith comes only by the power of the Holy Spirit working through the Word of God preached and proclaimed. God seeks out each of His people by the proclamation of His Word, calling them sweetly by the gospel of forgiveness and of the free gift of eternal life. He washes over and enters them with His power in the waters of Baptism and creates faith, and teaches them how to hear, believe and equip them to live for God in holiness.

Through His care and mercy God promises to gather His scattered people from every corner of the world. To the people of Ezekiel’s day, this promise was to bring about deliverance from the Babylonian Captivity. To us—His new Israel we hear the promise given to the Church, in which we are called together out of the world and fed on the rich pasture of His eternal Word.

The promise of this seeking Shepherd has not changed today. This is the promise of the Good Shepherd to bring His people together to hear His Word clearly and purely proclaimed and to give to them lives which will please Him in holiness. He speaks of lying in good pasture and grazing on the mountain heights of Israel. This is a life of abundance and purity—but the abundance is in God’s Word, and the purity is in the doctrine heard by and lived out by the people of God. The mountain heights of Israel are figuratively as close as you can get to God in this world—and you can get no closer than where you hear the Word of God taught clearly, taught plainly, and taught honestly - and when you eat of His Holy meal in which He Himself actually comes to you in, with, and under the bread and the wine. PAUSE

In the midst of our hurt and pain, we see the hand of God stretching out to us and lifting us up from the midst of the storms of life. We see a great picture of this in the Gospel of Luke chapter 15. In these familiar words we hear of a lost coin, lost shepherd and lost sons. Yet in all these stories we see the face of God as the Seeking Shepherd. The One who removes every obstacle, turns every stone, opens every door, crosses every ocean and walks every mile searching for us—His lost sheep. The great and faithful Seeking Shepherd goes on the hunt for every lost sheep to bring him/her back to the fold—to feed and nurture them.

But this is not the only thing that the Seeking Shepherd will do. He will bring terror and destruction upon those who are unfaithful, uninvolved and unbelievers. He will pour upon them His wrath and eternal judgment. He will spew them out of His presence and send them on their way to hell. And that judgment starts with the shepherds…the pastors!

Don’t think that this is only about those people who lived then, but this applies to us and our day. The Seeking Shepherded is not referring to any kind of people, but He is talking about us who bear His name on our foreheads and hearts. We have every advantage. We have the Word of God, clear and plain and in abundance. We enjoy the rich blessings of the earth in such super-abundance that the world has never seen before! We are fat and lazy spiritually. And we are what the Bible refers to so often as the “strong”. We are the ones who are so wealthy and so comfortable that we feel no need and fear no evil.

Perhaps, not all of us are in this position and perhaps not at this time with so many uncertainties and the unknown—we don’t lift our voice to God seeking His directions and favor because we are strong and rely on ourselves rather than on Him. The strong don’t need help - so they don’t pray much. The strong don’t need any more power or knowledge - so they don’t study much. The strong are wise and capable - so they don’t let God’s Word or their faith interfere with their thinking or decision making. The strong have no compassion - so they take care of themselves first - and last, if the truth be known. Spiritual pride and spiritual apathy mark the fat and the strong. Many of us are marked by Spiritual Pride and Spiritual Apathy. How sad and how terrifying that we don’t care to reach out to others and be faithful in our lives and actions to let the Gospel of Christ permeate in our lives.

Look into your lives ask this question: Are we the fat and strong ones—those who don’t care or want to make any effort to be in the presence of God. The strong who don’t spend time in His house, around His Word, and at His table to receive His favor and blessings. The strong who are not concerned about their brothers and sisters; who avoid this place, or reach out to them in love. The strong who care less about evangelism, mission or support the ministry of the Gospel with their offerings and service. The strong who are don’t encourage one another, visit the sick and the hurting, and reach out in the name of Christ with an arm of love and compassion. And I am just as guilty as you are in this manner.

By the Spirit’s power and in the name of Christ let us reach out to others. May we hear and take to heart the Words of Jesus who said: “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17). May we reach out to our brothers and sisters in Christ, who are sick, who have hurts, who have sinned and fear the coming judgment God has a promise. He has forgiven us in Jesus, paid for our sins by His death on the cross, and announced His love and His will to save us by the Easter resurrection of Jesus. Those He will feed and lead to His eternal rest.

Unlike the story of Anna and Boris who found each other by fate after 60 years, the Seeking Shepherd’s story is not a story of fate but by the faithful promise He made and has kept from the beginning of the world.

Through the prophet Ezekiel whose name means (God will strengthen him) we see the seeking Shepherd reaching out and doing the unthinkable and unimaginable—He feeds and He heals, He finds and He strengthens, He gives them forgiveness and eternal life. But He also culls the flock. Those who do not want Him, do not love Him or do not need Him any longer - the fat and the strong - He will destroy. These are two sides, both real views of the same seeking Shepherd. By the power of the Holy Spirit, which you received in the majestic of Baptism, come, hear, and feed. Come, let Him guide and lead you and give you rest. Let the seeking Shepherd bind up your wounds, and comfort your sorrows. Come to the seeking Shepherd in Word and Sacrament regularly and become strong in His service. Amen.

Now the peace of God…


“God Prepares” (Zephaniah 1:7-8)

S-1455 23SAP/3A 11/16/2014 Hymns: (O) #459 (S) #307; (C) #53

Texts: Zephaniah 1: 7-16; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11; Matthew 25:14-30

Theme: “God Prepares” (Zephaniah 1:7-8)

Question: “Are you prepared for Christ’s return?”

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia. The text for our meditation this morning is from the O.T. Lesson: Be silent before the Lord God! For the day of the Lord is near; the Lord has prepared a sacrifice and consecrated His guests. And on the day of the Lord’s sacrifice—‘I will punish the officials and the king’s sons and all who array themselves in foreign attire’” (Zephaniah 1:7-8).

Beloved in the Lord, last Tuesday (11/11/14) we observed and celebrated Veterans Day. However, many people don’t think of or appreciate the sacrifice of our Veterans. They only think of the day as another day off from work. How tragic and how sad!

Because of these Veterans and the sacrifices they have procured—some even giving up their lives, you and I are able to enjoy freedom of religion, speech, travel and democracy. May we always honor and give thanks to the Lord for the sacrifice of these brave men and women and their families.

Listen to a story of one such Veteran—Robert O’Neil. Robert was part of Seal Team Six that was sent on a mission to kill Osama Bin Laden. On May 2, 2011 Seal Team Six landed in the compound that housed Osama in Pakistan. They went to work quickly and within 15 minutes Robert found himself standing within two feet from Osama. Having recognized him, he shot him 3 times before he collapsed to the floor and died.

I saw a special this past week on Fox News about the “Man who killed Osama Bin Laden.” What I appreciated about this humble man and his service to this great Nation, were these words: “The mission was not about me. It was about killing the one who has brought havoc to thousands who lost their lives and others whose lives were changed forever.” Robert went on to say: “…They (Seal Team Six) felt that the mission would be worth sacrificing their own lives. ‘We are going to die eventually, this is a good way to go and it’s worth it to kill him!’ He said they thought. ‘He's going to die with us!’ Think about it. These men were willing to sacrifice their lives for the success of the mission.

On a far grander scale, with these living, breathing, and active Words; the prophet Zephaniah tells us of the greatest mission the world has ever seen—to bring about the deliverance of God’s people from someone who is far worse than Osama Bin Laden—SIN and its consequences—death and hell. Our heavenly Father sends His Son, on a mission to be the Savior of mankind, and redeem us from God’s justice.

Through the inspired Word of this prophet of God, we are told that God Himself will prepare a sacrifice. He Himself will consecrate His people. He is the Agent behind the scene bringing about deliverance and redemption to those whose lives have been tormented and tortured by the devil and his cohorts ever since the fall of man. God promised our parents in the Garden of Eden (The first Gospel) these words: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel” (Gen. 3:15). PAUSE.

Beloved in the Lord, let it be known among us that it is not our service that causes Him to rejoice over us. It is not our self-denial that moves Him to delight in us and it is not our sacrifice that pleases God. If that was the case, we would do all of these things, but all of these activities are NOT the key to our salvation and redemption.

Listen to how David painted it for us: “For You will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; You will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise” (Psalm 51:16-17).

Again listen to the voice of God through the pen of David: “Hear, O My people, and I will speak; O Israel, I will testify against you I Am God, Your God. Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you; your burnt offerings are continually before Me. I will not accept a bull from your house or goats from your folds. For every beast of the forest is Mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. I know all the birds of the hills, and all that moves in the field is Mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world and its fullness are Mine. Do I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goats? Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and perform your vows to the Most High, and call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me’” (Psalm 50:7-15). Here is the promise—God will deliver US.

Through all of this we see that it is God who prepares the sacrifice. We behold this so clearly in the story of God telling Abraham to take his son, his only son Isaac and sacrifice him. Along the way “…Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.”(Genesis 22:7-8a). PAUSE.

Indeed God provides the sacrifice. We heard this clear teaching from Jesus’ own lips, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him” (John 3:16-17). And John the Baptizer points to this sacrifice with these words: The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).

The sacrifice that God has prepared—is His—the Lamb that was slain on the Altar of the cross. This Lamb is the sacrifice for the sins of the world—and your sins. So that when the end of the world comes; and the judge eternal is seated on His throne you will not be damned, but delivered. You will not be sent to hell, but ushered into the glories of heaven. You will not taste death but live with Him forever and ever.

Oh, the blessings of this greatest sacrifice that has been prepared for us. In this place God offers this sacrifice to us at His table. This is His work and His gift to us. From the table of the Lord, we get to eat and drink for our benefits and the strengthening of our faith. From this sacrifice we receive grace and mercy that are eternal.

Our sermon hymn captures this thought well with these words: “Draw night and take the body of the Lord, and drink the holy blood for you out-poured. Offered was He for greatest and for least, Himself the Victim and Himself the Priest” (TLH 307 v1).

Indeed, here is the greatest sacrifice prepared by God for us sinners. This is the Lamb that was put to death on the cross for us. The Angel of death HAS passed us by! This is the victory that He prepared and won for us! And He covers us with the proper garments of His righteousness. May we continue to cherish this blessed sacrifice offered, prepared and given by God to us sinners today and always. Amen and Amen.

Now the peace…


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

“True Blessedness” (Luke 11:28)

S-1454 19SAP/3A 11/12/2014 Hymns: (O) #59 (S) #32; (C) #18 SOD

Texts: Psalm 23; Romans 8:28-39; John 14:1-7

Theme: “True Blessedness” (Luke 11:28)

Celebration of life for Loren Gene Horsley (passed away on 11/1/2014. He was cremated.

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia. The text for our the celebration of the new life promised to our departed brother by His Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ is his confirmation verse: “…But He [Jesus] said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the Word of God and keep it!” (Luke 11:28).

Beloved in the Lord, especially you Delores, Kevin, family and friends, we have gathered in the Lord’s house today to celebrate the new life given to you dear husband, father, grandfather and friend. By the Holy Spirit’s power, we have been gathered in God’s house to hear His Word, find comfort and consolation in His promises that those who die in Him shall live with Him forever.

For this reason today, we will listen with attentive ears to hear the message from God’s own lips that truly comforts us in the hour of sorrow and give us hope as we walk in the valley of the shadow of death as you are doing today.

However, all of us here have a problem with hearing. No, I’m not talking about the inability to hear that you are in need of a hearing aid. But rather, it is the absolute fact that we don’t want to hear what is being said to us; least of all from God. Instead we want to talk and be heard. In our fallen nature that is just the way it is. But that is not what God designed us for. If you paid close attention to your face, you realize you have two ears and one mouth. That is to say listen more and talk less.

The text of Loren’s confirmation is indeed a true blessing because in it the Lord states: “Blessed rather are those who hear the Word of God and keep it! But to help us understand this text we need to know the context.

Jesus was casting out demons. What He did made people marvel. The people who saw Him do it knew, instinctively and by religious training that what was happening could only happen if God were present and at work through the man, at the very least. It simply was so good that it touched the people who witnessed it, and so, those who were Jesus’ adversaries were troubled by it, and they tried to ‘spin’ what Jesus did negatively. They suggested boldly that Jesus was in league with the devil. After all, who had ever seen anything like this before?

Then Jesus describes the Jews with another parable. That the Jewish leader were misleading the people of God from hearing the truth. He is speaking of Israel when He describes the man from whom the unclean spirit is driven out. Then those who reject Jesus are the unclean spirit that finds the house all cleansed and put in order, and goes out and find seven spirits more foul than itself. It is Israel that Jesus is describing; when He says that the last state is worse than the first. He is picturing Israel as a man (which God does throughout the Old Testament), and He is saying that when His cleansing is done, they - the Jewish leaders - will wreak havoc and ruin on Israel by rejecting their own Messiah. Which to this day still deny that Jesus is the Messiah. They are still waiting for the Messiah to come.

“And it came about while He said these things, one of the women in the crowd raised her voice, and said to Him, ‘Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts at which You nursed.’” These words are true enough, But Jesus responds in this manner. 'On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the Word of God, and keep it.’”

Let this truth sink in your ears. Jesus is certainly worthy of all that praise - and we also praise Him with our whole heart. But Jesus meant to turn the attention of that woman, and everyone in the crowd, and us, too, who read the account centuries later, to where true blessedness is to be found, and what it is comprised of. His odd-sounding response to this wonderful saying of this woman in the crowd is, ‘Go to the Word, and pay attention to that Word.’ Jesus tells us to ignore everything but the Word of God, and to pay close attention to that, and let every decision be made solely on the Word of God that endures forever.

This is the true blessedness that we SHOULD hear the Word of God and keep it. For this reason when the Creator Father, Son and Holy Spirit made man in His image He gave him two ears and one mouth to hear that Word.

Yet it is so hard for us to keep quiet. As I shared before we would rather talk than listen. We want to be heard rather than hear. But thankfully, the Holy Spirit teaches us the truth that true blessedness comes from hearing the Word and keeping it.

Our beloved and departed brother Loren knew this Word intimately. He heard the Word spoken over him in the waters of Baptism on April 12th, 1936. He continued to hear that Word as his parents brought Him to the Lord’s house. The Spirit continued to teach him the truth as he attended Sunday school, VBS, Confirmation classes and private devotions. He heard the Word because that Word took root in his heart, head and home.

He continued to hear the Word as he came often to the Lord’s house. Here in this place He received the true blessings from God as he heard the Word of forgiveness spoken to his guilty conscience, and filthy heart. He received the true blessings from God as he listened to the sermons. He received the true blessings from God as he received on his sinful tongue the life giving body and blood of the Lord.

Even into his old age he continued to hear the Word, because that Word was special to him. He loved hearing the Word. However, as often the case with age, he was unable to come to the Lord’s house as he desired, but the Word of the Lord came to him as I visited him, prayed with him, read scripture and broke bread with him. He loved seeing me, because he knew he would be hearing the Good News again-receive forgiveness and dine with His Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ—the Lamb made flesh.

Few days before, I left on my Holy Land Nour Tour (Thursday 10/16) I visited him at the nursing home in Mitchell. There he, Delores and I heard the Word of God and gave him the Sacrament of the Altar for the last time. Then God called him home (11/01) to be in His presence forever and ever.

Beloved in the Lord, true blessedness comes in hearing the Word and keeping it. By the Spirit’s power, you and I have a golden opportunity to gather in this house to hear the glorious promise of God. Therefore, I challenge you to set aside that time where you can be with Your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ and hear His Word and grow and mature until the day He calls you home to be with Him forever.

Do you want to be truly blessed? Then, hear the Words of Jesus “Blessed rather are those who hear the Word of God and keep it! By the grace and mercy of God Loren did and so can I you. Therefore with joy we look forward to the true blessings from God as we gather often in His presence to hear the Word.

True Blessedness is faith. Listen to the Word of God, as Jesus says, and do what He tells you to do. Gather, don’t scatter. Hope, don’t despair. Trust in God, don’t fear life and what is going on in the world around us. Set your values and attitudes by the Word, not by the world around you. Take and eat and drink often of His holy Supper, as Jesus tells us to do. And love one another, as Christ has loved each one of us. Listen to the Word, and observe it - keep it - believe it - do it. If you do all of this, you are living in true blessedness. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Let the people say “Amen!”

Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia!!!

“Equipped for Ministry by God” (Isaiah 45:1-7)

S-1453 19SAP/3A 10/19/2014 Hymns: (O) #5; (S) #400; (C) #52

Texts: Isaiah 45:1-7; 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10; Matthew 22:15-22

Theme: “Equipped for Ministry by God” (Isaiah 45:1-7)

Question: “How many tools do you have?”

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia. The text for our meditation is from the O.T. Lesson: “I Am the Lord, and there is no other, besides Me there is no God; I equip you, though you do not know Me, that people may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides Me; I Am the Lord, and there is no other. I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I Am the Lord, who does all these things” (Isaiah 45:1-7).

What a joy it is to be in the Lord’s house. We rejoice at the kindness of God’s grace for us sinners in giving us His Word and forgiveness and the blessings He pours upon us daily to enrich our lives. Today’s text is one of those glorious gems that show the mighty power of God in our lives by equipping us for the ministry for the sake of His Gospel and glory of His name. To help us grasp a better understanding of the words of Isaiah we call upon the Holy Spirit to empty us of ourselves, and open our ears and hearts to hear and heed His Words.

Beloved in the Lord, the next few days stop by the True Value Hardware store here in Armour. When you do, you will see a wonderful array of equipment for just about any task. If you need to drive a nail, they have a hammer. If you need to tighten a screw, they have a screwdriver. If you need to do some plumbing they have pipe wrenches. While this is not a commercial for Wilson’s True Value, the truth is the store carries just about everything and anything in the form of equipment to complete the task you have at hand.

But you don’t walk into the hardware store and pick up the one hammer that they carry. They have a vast selection. You can choose from a claw hammer or ball-peen hammer. Or you might need to choose between a finish hammer and a tack hammer. And if you have a really big job you might need a sledge hammer or an air-hammer. But even then you have to decide how big a hammer you need. So when you go to the hardware store to buy a hammer, you also need to know the task at hand and just which specific tool you need to complete the project before you.

Those hammers hanging on the racks at the hardware store have no idea about the job that you have to do. They are just there hanging out looking for the right person to come along and purchase them for the task that they were created to accomplish. The tools don’t have any input. They are only as good as the hands that they are placed in. A master carpenter will do wonders with a hammer. A novice will only get bruised and battered hands with the very same hammer. It is all about being in the right hands.  PAUSE.

Cyrus, the king of Persia, is a bit like those hammers. Cyrus was a pagan. In fact, at the time the Prophet mentions him, he isn’t even born yet. But the Lord has already planned a task for Cyrus. Cyrus doesn’t know it, but he will be the sledge hammer God uses to break the bonds of captivity for God’s faithful remnant in Babylon. This Persian sledge of a King will challenge and break down the mighty Babylonian Empire. At the time of the Lord’s choosing, when God’s people were humbled and ready to once again sit under the gracious hand of the Lord, Cyrus would be just the right tool in the hand of the Almighty! Cyrus didn’t know that! But the Lord did! The Lord reached for the right tool and accomplished His will and task.

In this text you see how God is the Agent behind the scene in bringing about Salvation as He did creation. God alone who does these acts of creation, redemption and salvation. God’s righteous rule is over three realms: nature, history, and over the hearts of people. Those who do not acknowledge Him will come under His work of doom. The Law serves the Gospel. His Left hand rule is for the sake of His Right hand Kingdom. This can only be seen through eyes of faith. His way is hidden to the world that is under the spell of the devil and ruled by his power. However, this text assures that God’s plan through His Messiah will be accomplished through His heaven-sent Son--Jesus, who now reigns and rules over the Church, Creation, and History.

Through the work of Cyrus, the unwitting yet useful tool, the Lord set His people free. But they were set free for a purpose of their own. Cyrus was the instrument that would set things in motion to return Judah back to the Holy Land just in time for the fullness of time. That fullness of time is what would take place when our Lord’s greatest equipment would come into the world, our Lord Jesus Christ! He would be the One who would accomplish a work that dwarfs all other work in creation. The flesh and blood of Jesus would be the instrument that would work the work of salvation. He would be the hammer that broke the bonds of captivity to sin and death. He would also be the tool that would rebuild God’s people into the same relationship with the Lord that was a part of the original creation. In the instrument of Jesus in the flesh, God walks and talks among us in this world so that we might walk and talk with God in eternity! All of this is done by Jesus at the cross. 

And when you are redeemed by the blood of Jesus, you too are created to be the right piece of equipment in the hand of the Lord. Now, you are not called to go to the cross bearing the sins of the world like Jesus did, but you are called to accomplish a task. The task that you are to accomplish is at the Lord’s direction and for the Lord’s purposes. What you are to bear, in a way that is specific to you, is the Gospel. You carry that Gospel in your body as you bear the cross of Holy Baptism on your forehead and upon your heart. You are a tool for the delivery of this precious message. You are that important!

As important as you are, you are also unique. While you might look like a hammer, you are not just any hammer. You are the right tool for the right task. Like Cyrus, you are placed in a unique position and place by the Lord to carry the Gospel. It might be as a parent to your family. It might be among your relations at a family meal. It might be sharing your faith in the workplace. It might even be that you are being equipped by the Lord to do a random act of mercy that leads someone to ask the question of who this Jesus is for them. PAUSE.

Saints in Christ, while at the seminary one of our professors Dr. Nagel used to say: “How humble the tool when praised for the work of the Master.”  That is what we are tools in the hands of the Master—Jesus Christ equipped by Him for ministry. But let us be clear about one thing: This text does not call on Israel or us to do anything except believe. They and we are in prison and in darkness; yet God through the great Messiah—Jesus Christ has set us free forever from the bondage not of captivity but of death and hell.

The writer to the Hebrews captured this thought beautifully with these words: “Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing His will, and may He work in us what is pleasing to Him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.” (Hebrews 13:20-21).

And the Apostle Paul wrote these gracious words to the church at Philippi: “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill His good purpose” (Phil. 2:12-13).

What a joy to know that we are been equipped to be used by God as His tools for the glory of His name and the building up of His kingdom. To Him alone who does all things well be glory now and forever. Amen.

Now the peace of God…


“Fragrant Sacrifices and Offerings” (Ephesians 5:1-2)

S-1452 17SAP/3A 10/05/2014 Hymns: (O) #39; #244; (S) #633 LSB; (C) #496

Texts: Jeremiah 26:1-15; Ephesians 5:1-9; Luke 11:14-28

Theme: “Fragrant Sacrifices and Offerings” (Ephesians 5:1-2)

Question: “What is your favorite perfume?” LWML Sunday Sermon

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia. The text for this glorious celebration and observation of the LWML Sunday is from Pastor Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus: “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:2).

Today, by the grace of God, I give thanks and praise for the servants of the Most High God—the Lutheran Women in Mission and declare God’s glorious blessings and congratulations upon these faithful servants. As we celebrate and observe this special day, we ask the Holy Spirit to be among us and strengthen us ALL in our walk of faith that is rooted and grounded in the One who Himself became the ultimate Sacrifice—Jesus the Christ; whose sacrificial death on Calvary’s cross became a sweet smelling offering in the nostrils of God both in heaven and on earth.

Jesus is the One who calls us to follow His example by being imitators of Him. He lived in perfect obedience to the Father’s will, by keeping the Law in our stead and giving His life as the Lamb of God on the Altar of the cross as a fragrant sacrifice for the human race. This He did with the greatest joy in His heart to win our salvation.

Beloved in the Lord, if you were going to buy your spouse a very special gift, what would you get her/him? If the price was high, would you still get the gift anyway? What if you can’t afford to pay for it? A slight PAUSE.

A story is told of a groom who wanted to impress his young bride by buying her some nice perfume. Walking into an upscale Nieman Marcus store, he told the salesperson that he didn’t have much money but wanted to buy some very good, cheap perfume. The salesperson stared at him in disbelief for a minute and then responded, “Cheap perfume?” Sir, theirs is no such thing here.” The young man ended up buying his bride a nice iron instead. “Who needs that expensive stuff in the tiny bottle anyway?” He said.

Isn’t that how we treat God at times? We want to serve Him and indeed do love to serve Him, but at times we feel we neither have the time, the funds, nor the desire to do so. And so we come with the same attitude as this young groom saying to God, “I want to serve You…but.”

I say this because we are all—pastor and people are guilty of this attitude. Soon you will be asked (If you haven’t already) by the nominating committee to serve the Lord and His Church on a specific board. More often than not, we say, “No” just because we don’t want to take the time. Rather than going to the throne of grace in prayer seeking His wisdom and will for our lives, we let our own desires and our own wills determine what we should do. I implore you when someone asks you to serve, prayerfully consider it as the highest honor and privilege to serve God. This service is indeed a fragrant offering and sacrifice that pleases God our Savior.

As followers of Jesus, we listen to the Apostle Paul who in the text today encourages us to live a life that reflects the sweet aroma that pleases God. What is this reflection? To be imitators of Christ as He Himself became the sweetest aroma in the nostrils of God.

We have many examples in Scriptures of men and women who sacrificed and gave a fragrant offering unto the Lord. Think of King David: At a high cost slaughtered many cattle as they brought the Arch of the Covenant to Jerusalem. Consider the sacrifice of the wise men that traveled over a 1000 miles and gave gifts that were very expensive showing their commitment to the Incarnate Child of Bethlehem—giving Him the highest respect. Mary poured out a very expensive nard on Jesus’ feet. Likewise, Paul gave His life for the sake of the Gospel and sacrificed much to get the Gospel so that Jews and Gentiles can hear that Christ is the fragrant offering of our salvation. PAUSE.

As you look around this holy house you will see many of the quilts that demonstrate the sacrifice of the ladies who spent time sewing and stitching every square cloth in love and give it to someone in need. You know of the work of many of these ladies who deliver meals on wheels, play bingo, assist during someone’s sickness and prepare meals during the celebration of the new life—all of these activities demonstrate their life of service—in imitating Christ as a fragrant sacrifice to God.

But not all of us are involved in the ministry. Many of us just sit in church without a care in the world about how we can be imitators of Christ. We only take BUT don’t give back—and if you do, it is only in reluctance when we feel guilty. It is not spurred out of a heart that is filled with gratitude to what Christ has done for us—giving His life as the Lamb slain on the altar of the cross.

This shows the reality of our fallen condition. We are at once sinners and saints. We have the terrible stain of sin upon us and at the same time have the wonderful promise of resurrection glory upon us through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. This wonderful fragrant and gracious sacrifice on our behalf is the one that God receives as a fragrant offering and sacrifice. This is the ultimate sacrificial offering but there are many others worked by our Lord Jesus in obedience to our Father. Remember?

In the beginning the Holy Spirit comes to a virgin named Mary and a Son is born to her and Joseph who is named Jesus. Prophecy proclaims the birth of this Child and angels sing the birth of this Child. The shepherds and wise men rejoice at the birth of this Child and our Father receives this miraculous birth as a fragrant sacrifice and offering. This Jesus at eight days old is dedicated back to His Father in the rite of circumcision, a fragrant offering to the Lord. There is a wedding that is running a bit short on wine. Jesus turns water into the best wine and the Father catches that scent as a fragrant offering. And there is more!

Blind people see, deaf people hear, lame people have their limbs restored, sick people are healed, lepers are cleansed, seas are calmed, demons are cast out, mute people speak, the hungry are fed, demon possessed are delivered, captives are set free, severed ears restored, and if that were not enough, resurrection and life become the new normal. Our Father receives all these acts as fragrant sacrifices and offerings. They reach to His nostrils and the Lord rejoices, the angels dance, the Holy Spirit rejoices because our Father is well pleased, the incense has been lit, the fire is burning and the perfect sacrifice, the blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel (Hebrews 12:24) is set to be shed. The perfect offering is so sweet and fragrant a sacrifice to the Father that it has the power to cover and remove the sin of all humankind for all time.

That is the plan and design of God. That Jesus Christ, the perfect fragrant sacrifice and offering, the Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world in whose book the names of all who live and die and rise by faith in Christ Jesus have been written. (Revelation 13:8) And not only are their names written in the book of the Lamb and in the heart of the Father but their works of faith, good works prepared beforehand in which they walk, rise to the throne of our Father as fragrant sacrifices and offerings.

Understand that you have been called upon to imitate the One who came to serve and not be served. Remember beloved that every act of obedience, every work of the saints of God, every act of faith, every word spoken in faith rises up to the Father as a sweet-smelling savor and sacrificial offering. We have the awesome privilege of bringing joy to the heart of our Father by not simply performing deeds of which He would approve but also in the words of Saint Paul to the Romans in the twelfth chapter, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

So, dear saints of God, let’s strive with all our Holy Ghost-inspired and Spirit-filled faith to infuse the heavens with fragrant sacrifices and offerings by not simply doing, but by BEING those sacrifices and offerings in the nostrils of our loving God and Father. Amen.

Now may the peace…


“Slaves for the sake of the Gospel” Titus 1:1-4

“Slaves for the sake of the Gospel” at the International Center 9/22/14

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen, indeed! Alleluia! The text is from Titus which was read earlier. I shall like to read verse 1 again. “Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began and at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior.” (Titus 1:1-4).

Beloved saints in Christ, this title, this description that Paul takes, actually, both titles, δοῦλος θεοῦ, ἀπόστολος δὲ Ἰησοῦ Χριστου – the bondservant or slave, and then the “sent one” the apo and stello means that he is not his own man, not the writer of his own ticket, not in control, not at all. Seeing himself as sent by another and under another’s control, even if it is God in Christ Jesus does not fit with our culture, not with our fallen human heart. Ever since Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, we have wanted to have the control and the say. Even we, who bear high-sounding titles in the Church, we have these positions as slaves, as folks who are sent, under authority of the Savior. Do we not bristle, at times? Do we not enjoy the accolades of man? Do we not want to be in control? This is what makes the start of this letter to Titus so remarkable. Surely this greatest student of the greatest Rabbi of that day, he should have had the right to think of himself highly. But he does the opposite, naming himself as one sent by Christ Jesus, an ambassador, or no, more lowly than that, a slave.

Yet, this is precisely what Pastor Paul calls himself-a doulas of God and Apostle of Jesus. He proclaims to the world that he is indeed a slave for the sake of the Gospel. A man who labored long and hard and endured all sorts of difficulties so that many others might know the One who has come to serve us—Jesus the Christ. His sending and serving was to reflect the One whom the Father sent, from eternity, into our flesh, the One sent not to be served but to serve and to give His life as the full ransom for many. Paul finds his identity in the wounds of Christ, there and nowhere else. For those of us here in this grand place, the highest and best title we can bear is that of “Shepherd Under Christ” or better yet, as Paul so thankfully and humbly saw himself, one who is sent by Jesus, a slave of His Redeemer God! Yes, we love because Jesus first loved us. Yes, we serve because He has first and always serves us through the Cross. PAUSE.

Precious children of the heavenly Father, many of you perhaps have heard of this story during the slave era were slaves were sold and bought for a price, but it bears repeating.

A young 17-18 year old slave girl was brought by her master to be sold at the auction block. When it was her turn to be sold, people came over to inspect her. Some gawked at her, and inspected her by touching her here and there and opened her mouth. Then the bidding started. The prices kept going higher and higher. One man in particular would not stop the bidding. Every time someone bid, he would be bid higher.

Eventually he got the slave girl for a very high price. When he went to pay for the girl, she followed him. He paid the bill and received the sale slip stamped “Paid in full.” He turned around to the young slave girl, handed her the papers and said to her. “You are now free to go! You are no longer a slave!” Upon hearing these words, she got down on her knees and said: “Sir, I will serve you for the rest of my life.” And she did!

Pastor Paul knows all about being shackled. He knows all too well the demands of the Law. He lived by the Law and attempted to force others to obey this Law. But on the road to Damascus, he met Jesus Christ in person, so that the former persecutor and prosecutor of the Cross was freed from the slavery of living under the Law. Though he was freed, yet he became a slave for the sake of the Gospel. He served the cause of the Gospel preaching and teaching everywhere so that others might know of the eternal freedom Jesus offers them through His death and glorious resurrection. PAUSE.

Yet this slave girl in the story, and Paul, and even you and I, find our freedom precisely because Jesus became the greatest slave (maximus famulus) to set us, ALL free. Yet He was never a slave to sin. Philippians 2 tells us that He became the foremost slave to set hearts free—free to love, free to forgive, free to serve.

In one section of the Missouri State Capitol—the hall of fame section where the busts of 42 famous Missouri citizens have been sculptured—Walt Disney, General John Pershing, Harry Truman, Laura Wilder and others. Each bust of these famous citizens cost $10,000 a piece. The inscription in the ceiling that arches over this hall of fame is: We are called to serve not be served.

Jesus paid the highest price for us to win our freedom from sin, death and hell by His innocent blood, suffering on Calvary’s cross and the empty tomb. Like the slave girl, we too, were once slaves on the auction block. Our cruel master was death. We were sold into this slavery by sin. But Jesus, the heaven-sent Savior, would not let this stand—He gave His all—He paid the price that we couldn’t pay—His life for ours and in baptism we have the inscription—paid in full.

Like the slave girl we will serve Him, not because we have to, but because we are freed slaves—slaves for the sake of the Gospel; slaves for the Kingdom’s benefit; slaves to share the greatest story of our freedom and salvation which Jesus won for us. Yes, we are—pastor and people alike are slaves to proclaim the Word of the Living God to all people so that they too, may know the freedom and the blessings they have in Christ Jesus.

With this freedom comes the joy, privilege and honor the Lord of the Church gives us—as His slaves for the sake of the Gospel. We are free slaves on account of the Word made flesh. By the mighty power of the Holy Spirit, the sweet faithfulness to the Word does indeed make us slaves of this Gospel. We are freed slaves to preach faithfully Christ and Him crucified for us sinners. We are freed slaves whose privilege is to teach the Word of God to young and old so that they may know (God’s Hessed) His grace. We are freed slaves to be a light to the world that is still in darkness.

Most precious children of the heavenly Father, Francis of Assisi said, “Preach the gospel at all times; when necessary, use words.” Yes, as servants/slaves for the Sake of the Gospel, preach it in season and out of season, because we have been created to serve; and by the power of the Holy Spirit have been created to love and share the glorious gospel now and forever. This is our freedom and this is our joy, because He who created all by the power of His Word, and that alone, submitted to what should have been our cross. He has given us His life, and it is eternal. He has given us His peace through the brokenness of the Cross. What a high calling, to be the douloi tou Theou, the sent ones of the Savior, all to share the hope of eternal life, the sure promise of God. Amen.

Now the peace of God…


Sunday, September 14, 2014

“Forgiveness Needed” (Genesis 50:15-17)

S-1450 14SAP/3A 9/14/2014 Hymns: (O) #5; (S) #32; LS #312; #315; (C) #416

Texts: Genesis 50:15-20; Romans 14:1-12; Matthew 18:21-35

Theme: “Forgiveness Needed” (Genesis 50:15-17)

Question: “How badly do you need forgiveness?”

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen, indeed! Alleluia! The text is from the O. T. lesson: “When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, ‘It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil that we did to him.’ So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, ‘Your father gave this command before he died: Say to Joseph, “Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you” And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when they spoke to him” (Genesis 50:15-17).

Precious children of the heavenly Father, it often happens between siblings—fights break out, evil things are done and harsh words are spoken. These evil things and harsh words break up relationships and wound hearts and sometimes forever. However, when the Holy Spirit convicts us of this sin, and we come to our senses; acknowledging our wrong doing, seeking peace, crawl back and ask for forgiveness, we find that forgiveness is waiting there for us in an inexhaustible supply! Forgiveness is a gift we all need. Yet sometimes we don’t think we deserve or can be forgiven because of how bad we have been and the evil we have done.

A week ago Saturday, I attended (in Huron, SD) my 40th high school class reunion. After greeting many of my classmates and catching up with some of them, I settled down and sat across one of my classmates (Roger) who I wasn’t really close to in high school.

As the evening progressed I visited with him about what he has been doing. He introduced me to his wife who happened to be sitting right next to me. I then asked, “Roger, how long have you been married?” He answered, “Since last November.” I followed with another question. “Is this your first marriage?”No!” was his response. I asked, “What happened, do you care to share?” He then proceeded to tell me “of the many mistakes he has done. How terrible he was and how sorry he was to do what he has done to himself and her. He took ownership of sins and mistakes.” I reached out to him and said, “You know Roger, there is forgiveness with the Lord for ALL sins!”

At that moment Roger started to weep—tears were running down his cheeks. He said, “You know Nabil, the hardest thing to do is to forgive yourself of the stupidity and foolishness of living to please yourself.” At that moment, I held his hands and said, “Roger, listen to me carefully, with Jesus there is no limit to His forgiveness and His grace; with Jesus you can go to Him anytime and seek His touch of forgiveness.” I went on saying, “Roger, when you get home, I would like you to do this for me: take a piece of paper (I took a napkin at this time) and write on it every sin you have ever committed. Then take a couple of pieces of 2 X 4’s and make a cross out of them (as I have done here. The cross is sitting in the center of the sanctuary) then take a hammer and nail the piece of paper to the cross (as I will do during my preaching) and walk away knowing full well that Jesus’ death has removed every stain of sin from you and you are redeemed, restored, and forgiven.

John the beloved disciple of Jesus wrote this for our benefit: If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). At that moment Roger said while still weeping, “Nabil, you got me with this one.” I said, “No Roger, I don’t have you, but Jesus has you in His loving and pierced hands!” PAUSE.

Saints in Christ, “forgiveness” is the gift my friend Roger needed and that is the gift the brothers’ of Joseph needed—for they too had done many evil things to him. They tore his special coat of many colors, put him in a well, desired to kill him, sold him into slavery for 20 pieces of silver (Gen. 37:28) and lied about it to their father! From there on his life went down the drain. He was purchased by Potiphar, accused by Potiphar’s wife of rape, which landed him in prison for many years. But the God of His fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob didn’t forget him, but redeemed and restored him for the purpose of saving many lives.

Now the conscience of the brothers’ is troubling them. Though they have seen the kindness of Joseph in providing for them and their families, yet they weren’t sure if this is real or not. Add to this, their father Jacob has been called home and they are terrified that Joseph will take vengeance on them since their father is no longer alive.

So they sent a messenger telling Joseph that their father (another lie) had asked that he would forgive them the evil they had done to him. These troubled brothers needed a gift—the GIFT of forgiveness and they found it in the man they had done wrong too. Joseph was a gracious and loving brother. He wept when he heard them ask for his forgiveness and he offered them the assurance and confidence that he holds no grudges against them with these words: “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Genesis 50:19-20).

With these words Joseph was giving them a message of hope and help. You are forgiven. You and your families are loved. What you did to me, you did to harm me, but God used your wickedness and evil to save many people. This again demonstrates the awesome power of at using everything for our good. PAUSE.

Precious children of the heavenly Father, it is not only Roger and Joseph’s brothers’ that need this gift, but so do WE. For we have done many evil and wicked things in life. We have done evil and hurtful things to others, but more importantly to Christ Himself. We have denied Him, we have forsaken Him, and we have lived to please ourselves.

But take heart, I have good news for you. For there is another who was sold into the hands of the Jewish leaders for 30 pieces of silver (Mt. 26:14-16), so that He might be put to death. Like Joseph, Jesus was betrayed and sold by one of His closest companions—Judas. Judas being greedy sold Jesus for the price of a slave. Jesus was put into prison overnight, stripped of all of His clothing, whipped, beaten, flogged, His beard plucked and eventually drove nails into His hands and feet and hung Him on a cross like a common criminal to die.

On a far grander scale than Joseph, Jesus uttered these words before anyone asked for forgiveness saying: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). From the parched lips of Jesus we receive the most blessed gift that we need—forgiveness of sins. This is the greatest gift we sinners need to hear and receive from the gracious Savior who died and rose for all of our sins.

Mankind meant evil by the cross, but God used this instrument of torture and death to bring about the saving of the human race from spending an eternity in hell. Only through the cross there is redemption. Only through the cross there is restoration. Only through the cross does the Lord deliver His peace, mercy, love and FORGIVENESS.

Know this, precious children, with God there is no limit to His forgiveness, mercy, love and grace! Jesus takes all of our sins to the cross. He invites us to bring all of our hideous, evil deeds, wicked things and sins we have ever committed and give it to Him. And He with His shed blood removes that sin away from you and me.

By the grace of God we have received the gift that we need—His forgiveness. If you doubt that you are worthy to be forgiven, or don’t think that you can forgive yourself, I encourage you to do the same as I told Roger, take a piece of paper and write on it all of your sins, and come up here (you can do it now or when no one is here) and nail it to the cross and know for a fact that all of your sins have been washed by the Holy innocent blood of the Lamb—Jesus Christ who takes away the sin of the world—YOURS.

Today, you have received a marvelous gift from Christ Himself—the gift of forgiveness. But He is not done blessing you—through this gift; comes many other gifts—His love, peace, joy and eternal life. On top of that, He has prepared a table for you to dine with Him as Your host and servant to remind you He holds no grudges against you, but loves you and wants you to know you are indeed, Redeemed, Restored and Forgiven.

Thanks be to Jesus for His GIFT of forgiveness now and forever. Amen.

Now the peace…


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

“Love the Children!” (Matthew 18:1-4)

S-1449 13SAP/3A 9/07/2014 Hymns: (O) #593; (S) #594; (C) #744 LSB

Texts: Ezekiel 33:7-9; Romans 13:1-10; Matthew 18:1-20

Theme: “Love the Children!” (Matthew 18:1-4)

Question: “How do you show love to children?”

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen, indeed! Alleluia! The text is from the Gospel lesson: At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?And calling to Him a child, He put him in the midst of them and said, Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven’” (Matthew 18:1-4).

Precious children of the heavenly Father, a long time ago I heard this statement: “Children are to be seen but not heard.” How sad that statement is. This is not what Jesus said and taught in the text before us. On the contrary, He emphasizes the fact that we can be taught by children’s examples to be humble and trusting of our heavenly Father.  He teaches us to have the heart of a child and to know how much children are valued and loved by Him. Therefore, as we welcome a little child, as we show love to a child, we are indeed welcoming the One who loves the little children—all of them, Jesus Himself. 

In this text, the disciples ask a very important question. “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” That question is still being asked today: “Who is the greatest basketball, football, baseball, soccer player in the world. Who is the greatest golfer, Tennis player, car racer, swimmer or sharp shooter in the world? This is what the world is concerned with—looking to themselves for glory and power.

But again, this is not what this text is about. This text digs deeper than what you see on the surface. It demonstrates through the teaching example of Jesus taking a child into His bosom, how much children trust those who love them and care for their needs. This text shows us how highly the Lord God Almighty cherishes children and loves them. By taking the child into His bosom, He foretells His heart’s desire to hold in His loving and pierced arms every son of Adam and every daughter of Eve.

Oh, that we would learn to love the children and care for them as Jesus cared for His children and still does. Oh, that we would pour into their hearts the love that will carry them as they travel through this journey we call life. PAUSE.

Saints in Christ, in ancient days children were not valued as Christians value them today. In many cultures they were sacrificed to the make-believe gods of pagans. We think of the god in the OT called Molech. Jesus commanded Moses to tell God’s people to have nothing to do with this false god.

In the days of Jesus often children, especially if they were baby girls were thrown into the streets to die. In Rome this was a common practice where sons were esteemed but women were considered property. It is the same today in the Arab world and these girls are sold to the highest bidder.

Today, all across this land and the world, children are sold into sexual slavery or their parts are harvested by wicked people who have lost all sense of right and wrong. Add to that the many children who are being sacrificed on the altar of the pagan god of choice through abortion.

Even though we may not do these wicked and horrific things, or sacrifice our children through abortion or sell them into slavery; in our own way, we don’t love them like we should. Don’t misunderstand me. I am not saying that you don’t love your child[ren] but we don’t love them in the right away and we don’t teach them of the love of Jesus and His everlasting truth that leads to eternal life.

I know we do love our children. I have seen you show love to your children. But loving children is not sitting them in front of the TV, giving them a video game, cash, or letting them loose. Loving the children is so much more than what the world offers. To love the children is to be a godly parent to them. It is NOT only protecting them from harm, providing shelter or giving them food to eat or closing to wear; it is feeding their souls with the heavenly manna as they sit at the feet of Jesus to hear His Word and receive His blessings daily, weekly and yearly.

To love the children is to be a responsible parent who will in word and deed show them the way to church—to spend time in His Word, on your knees and in His presence. To love the children is teaching them that Jesus is their Lord and Savior.

The biggest damage we do for children is when we lie about our relationship to and with God. We often stand here as these folks have done this morning around the baptismal font and promise to bring them up in the fear and admonition of God. But as soon as the service is over, many children don’t enter His house and they grow up without any spiritual food and they are dying on the inside. How tragic that is. Someday all of us parents will have to stand before the judge eternal and will have to answer to our negligence. PAUSE.

Today, by the grace of God you have come to His house to hear His Word. Today, through the Spirit working through the Word you have heard of the Love of Jesus who picks up a child and puts Him in His bosom to show in what manner He loves them to the end.

After all, is this not why Jesus became a little child that He might be not just an example but in fact the Savior of the world? So that all who place their trust in Him might be saved. Jesus died for all the children of the world—all of them—including you and me. Jesus the once child of Bethlehem gives to infants a miracle—Holy Baptism whereby our all powerful, all loving Lord, grants great gospel gifts. God so loved the world—implies that He has a way to save little children. And He does it through the majestic gift of Baptism as you witnessed today not only one miracle—but three—Anna Sue, Rylee Grace and Audrey Marie became children of Him who loves the children—Jesus the Christ.

Beloved in the Lord, we are all God’s children whether we are 10 days old or a hundred years old. It doesn’t make any difference. In the sight of God we all become His children and receive His Amazing Grace and Love. Know this truth and hold it dear, God has no grandchildren—only children (here point out to the congregation). PAUSE.

Saints in Christ, “During the terrible days of the Blitz, a father, holding his small son by the hand, ran from a building that had been struck by a bomb.  In the front yard, was a shell hole.  Seeking shelter as soon as possible, the father jumped into the hole and held up his arms for his son to follow.

Terrified, yet hearing his father’s voice telling him to jump, the boy replied; “I can’t see you!” The father, looking up against the sky, tinted red by the burning buildings, called to the silhouette of his son; “But, I can see you…Jump!”

The boy jumped, because he trusted his father. Likewise, the Christian faith enables you to face life, or meet death; not because you can see—but with the certainty of knowing you are seen by the One who made the eye and looks after us in all situations. The prophet Isaiah wrote “Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and my song, and He has become my salvation” (Isaiah 12:2).

In Jesus Christ, fear is out, and His peace is in….Jesus saidPeace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (John 14:27). Because of the love and kindness of Jesus—demonstrated on the hewn tree of the cross, we all have become His children. As such we enjoy all of the riches of God’s Kingdom—pardon for sins, peace with God, promise of eternal life and faith to make us strong.

In the world’s eyes children are nothing, but in God’s eyes we are part and parcel of His Kingdom—that has no end. Our God in His grace through the Child Jesus our Savior has made us His beloved and precious children forever. Now that is loving the children. Thanks be to God for His love to us—His CHILDREN. Amen and Amen.

Now the peace…


“Forever in the LORD’s House!” (Psalm 23:6b)

S-1448 12SAP/3A 8/31/2014 Hymns: (O) 740; (S) 618 TLH; LS 680; 675; (C) #725 LSB

Texts: Jeremiah 15:15-21; Romans 12:9-21; Matthew 16:21-28

Theme: “Forever in the LORD’s House!” (Psalm 23:6b)

Question: “Do you know of any earthly thing that lasts forever?” 9th in sermon series on Psalm 23

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen, indeed! Alleluia! The text is from the 23 Psalm: and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever”” (Psalm 23:6a).

Precious little lambs let me ask you a question: “What is your house address?” I am sure most of you know it by heart and hopefully the young children have learned their house address in case they get lost. But I am asking a deeper question here. Think again please. “What is your house address?” PAUSE.

It is indeed amazing how we live in this world—we plant deep foundations and deep roots thinking that this house is mine. We think this body is mine, this car is mine and everything we have is MINE. But truth be told, none of it is ours. The homes we live in now someday will be vacant, destroyed and ruined. The body we have now will begin to deteriorate if it hasn’t yet. You know the changes that has taken over your body—arthritis, pain in the joint, hearing loss, eye sight dimed, cancer and a multitude of other ailments. We see and feel the grip of death approaching. We experience its claws digging deep into this clay body and we can’t stop it or accept it. And yet, we don’t get it that we are simply passing through this world and nothing lasts forever. This is not our permanent resident, but a temporary one—a broken up shack that is filled with aches and pains.

The Apostle Paul put it this way: “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like His glorious body, by the power that enables Him even to subject all things to Himself” (Phil. 3:20). You see this is not our home. This is the life we are living until we enter the home built not by human hands, but by the hands of Him who died and rose again—Jesus the Christ. For Christ Himself said:In My Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to Myself, that where I Am you may be also” (John 14:6).

Though we know this truth, we don’t believe it or act on it. We still ignore this truth and believe we know better than what God has done for us. Let me ask you few other questions. “Would you set up your bed on a moving bus? Would you pitch your tent in a train? Would you dig foundations on a plane?” Of course not! They are all moving. Yet that is what we do when we think we are going to live on this earth forever and not going to die.

The sermon hymn for today said this: “Jerusalem, my happy home! Name ever dear to me; When shall my labors have an end, In joy, and peace, and thee? When shall these eyes thy heaven built walls And pearly gates behold? Thy bulwarks, with salvation strong, And streets of shining gold?” (TLH 618 vs. 1-2).

Our home address is not an earthly number like 403 3rd St. Armour, SD. Rather it is a heavenly address marked with the blood of Jesus and built by His pierced hands, not with wood and mortar but with flesh and blood. Our home is not here below but with Him who is our Immanuel—the God of the Universe; The Faithful and Good Shepherd Jesus. PAUSE.

Throughout the last two months as we have gone through this Psalm I have had a greater appreciation of David’s great theology. The Psalm begins and ends with these wonderful promises. The Lord is MY shepherd; I shall not want…and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Psalm 23:1, 6). David reminds us that truly, God is our Shepherd and we are so happy, content and satisfied with Him that we don’t want to leave His presence.

This familiar shepherd Psalm sandwiches between these two book ends the great blessings the Good Shepherd has for us. He leads us to the green pastures, gives us quiet water to quench our thirst, walks with us in danger, protects us from every enemy especially Satan; prepares a table for us, anoints our heads with oil and pursues us with the hounds of heaven. This is for the here and now. These are the Great Shepherd’s promises to you and to me. But there is more to this promise than the here and now. These golden jewels remind us again and again of the great mission of God our Savior, For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Lk. 19:10). And proved them with an eternal home.

The faithful Good Shepherd came to seek and save the lost. What a wonderful truth this is. I am reminded of this when my middle son David was lost. I am sure I have shared this story with you before. David must have been about 4-5 years old. We lived in Sioux Falls on a very busy street. I came home from work for lunch at noon, and as I parked my pickup, I noticed my son’s bike in the middle of the side walk and he was nowhere to be found.

I ran to the house looking for him but he wasn’t there. I ran out again and started calling his name. There was no answer. Franticly I ran to the neighbors and began asking them if David was with them, and no one had seen him or heard him. Fear had struck a chord.

Quickly I called my pastor and requested the prayer chain. Called the police to say we have a lost child. Called my brothers and friends asking them to keep us in prayers and come help us look for him. Many came and we searched and searched. We walked the streets hoping to find him but the minutes kept ticking away. After what seemed like an eternity an 1 ½ one of our neighbor boys came and said, “David is playing in a pond!” You don’t know the sweet joy that filled our hearts and the tears that rolled down our cheeks. He was found and brought home where he belonged. I picked him up hugged and kissed him and didn’t want him out of my sight.

Likewise our faithful Good Shepherd comes seeking us we who are lost and don’t know it. Just like my son was. He was lost and didn’t know it. The Lord not only comes to seek us, but He comes to save us—and this saving took place on a cross outside the walls of Jerusalem and in a borrowed grave. There the Lord Jesus, like a Good Shepherd would, faced the barren plain of the wrath of God, the rushing waters of judgment, the famine of separation from the Father and was anointed with the spittle of those who rejected and reviled Him. All of that which should have been ours, the Shepherd endured for us. But He didn’t only endure, but was victorious over them! And because of Him defeating death and the grave, He is building for us an eternal home that will have our names on it.

With a home like this prepared for us, with its protection and provision, its bounty and its blessing, as people of the Good Shepherd we raise our eyes from this world that will pass away and long for an eternity that will never pass away. We dwell here for a time. There we will dwell forever. The eternal presence of the Good Shepherd is our TRUE home!

You see your home address is not an earthly number or street. But heaven is your home. There is a room prepared for you and one day, very, very soon you will be welcomed home by the One who is Your faithful Good Shepherd Jesus. Then you will say with David, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Yes, forever in the Lord’s house. Amen and Amen!

Now the peace…


Friday, August 29, 2014

“The Hounds of Heaven!” (Psalm 23:6a)

S-1447 11SAP/3A 8/24/2014 Hymns: (O) 740; (S) 279 TLH; LS 620; 629; 628; (C) #722 LSB

Texts: Isaiah 51, 1-6; Romans 11:33-12:8; Matthew 16:13-20

Theme: “The Hounds of Heaven!” (Psalm 23:6a)

Question: “Have you ever had a dog?” 8th in sermon series on Psalm 23

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen, indeed! Alleluia! The text is from the 23 Psalm: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life” (Psalm 23:6a).

Precious little lambs let me ask you a question: Have you ever had a dog? Do you have a dog now? I know some of you have had a dog and you have a special bond with that critter. Dogs are very friendly and great companions. Dogs bring lots of joy to their owners.

David, the author of the text understood the value of a sheep-dog on the trail. They were to protect the sheep and defend them against wild animals. Sheep-dogs help the shepherd keep an eye out for straying sheep and guard them from an attacking wolf, bear or lion.

In this verse, David speaks to us about the value of a sheep dog. You may say, “I don’t read about dogs in this psalm. But you are mistaken. David highlights the value of the dogs—I call them the hounds of heaven—the twins of God’s grace—goodness and mercy. The blessings that are ours—goodness and mercy on account of the Faithful Good Shepherd, Jesus.

God’s goodness and mercy are the hounds of heaven that help us on our life’s journey. These twin hounds remind us of our privileged position as His very own sheep. These twin companions guarantee that our lives are in the Shepherd’s hands who will take care of all our needs. No matter what we will go through in life, we can be certain and confident that goodness and mercy are with us.

That is easy to say when all things are going well in our lives. When our health is great, when our job is wonderful, and when our family is doing fine; confidence abounds as much as grace and mercy. But it is very often confidence, not in God but in us! But what happens when our health is in the pit? What happens when we lose our job? What is to become of us when we say farewell to someone we cherish and love? What happens when everything that we held dear is taken away from us like it was for the Old Testament prophet Job? Is goodness and mercy still with us? You bet they are! This is the treasure that is given us from God our Faithful Shepherd. Goodness and mercy are not dependant on our circumstances, but on the unchanging God-who is the same yesterday, today and forever; as the prophet Malachi reminds us “For I the Lord do not change” (3:6). PAUSE.

Precious little lambs, in 1977 a TV miniseries called Roots chronicled the life of Gambian–born American slave—Kunta Kinte (1750-1822). While he was in his village (1767) searching for wood to make a drum for his younger brother, four men chased him, surrounded him and took him captive. He is shipped to North America and sold to a Virginia plantation owner.

Kunta attempted to escape slavery by running away. 4 times he ran away and his owner would send people on horseback led by hound dogs to chase him. The hound-dogs would keep running until they cornered him. Eventually they cut half of his foot so he doesn’t run away.

Whether the Root story is true or not, I don’t know. What I do know is that hound-dogs are relentless pursuers. Once a hound dog catches a scent or sees a moving target, it will readily pursue it with no bounds or limits, often to the point of getting lost themselves!

That is what David is trying to convey to us in this verse about the hound-dogs of heaven; their value as instruments in God’s hands for the benefit of His sheep—you and me. The 23rd Psalm is certainly a favorite to many Christians and Jews alike. But I believe that the verse of our text (6a) this morning is one of the sweetest phrases authored by the Holy Spirit and penned by David: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life” These words open to us a box of treasure that needs to be examined every day from every angle. It is like looking at a diamond that sparkles with beauty and majesty and reminds us of God’s constant pursuit of us—His wayward children.

God is in the business of pursuing us. In the book of Genesis God pursues Adam and Eve after they sinned. Talk with Joseph and he will paint to you the pursing God who followed him even into the prison dungeon. Visit with Moses and he will tell you of God pursuing the Israelites in the wilderness for 40 years and into the Promised Land. Converse with Jonah and he will inform you that God chased him into the depth of the ocean. Talk to the disciples and they will tell you of their Friend who sought them out in the midst of a terrible storm in the Sea of Galilee. Listen to John the disciple who was all alone (or so he thought) on the Island of Patmos, but God pursued him also. Hearken to Peter as he recounts the risen Savior, pursuing, forgiving and restoring him again to the fold.

Look at Paul the once persecutor of the church. On his mission to destroy the followers of the Way, the Lord Jesus Christ pursued him on the road to Damascus and called him to be His spokesperson to the Gentiles.

All of these godly men can tell you of the goodness and mercy of the Lord—the hounds of heaven. They can tell of the blessings that God bestows upon them and us constantly, continuously and ceaselessly. PAUSE.

David with the greatest of emphasis states, “SURELY” goodness and mercy. I borrow words from Max Lucado who in his book regarding this verse wrote: “David didn’t say, ‘Maybe goodness and mercy shall follow me.’ Or ‘Possibly goodness and mercy shall follow me.’ Or ‘I have a hunch that goodness and mercy shall follow me.’ David could have used one of those phrases. But he didn’t. He believed in a sure God, who makes sure promises and provides a sure foundation. David would have loved the words of one of his great-great-grand­sons, the apostle James. He described God as the one “with whom there is never the slightest variation or shadow of inconsistency” (James 1:17 phillips).

Our moods may shift, but God’s doesn’t. Our minds may change, but God’s doesn’t. Our devotion may falter, but God’s never does. Even if we are faithless, he is faithful, for he cannot betray himself (2 Tim. 2:13). He is a sure God. And because he is a sure God, we can state confidently, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.”

And what follows the word surely? “Goodness and mercy.” If the Lord is the shepherd who leads the flock, goodness and mercy are the two sheepdogs [the hound-dogs of heaven] that guard the rear of the flock. Goodness and mercy. Not goodness alone, for we are sinners in need of mercy. Not goodness alone, for we are fragile, in need of goodness. We need them both. As one man wrote, “Goodness to supply every want. Mercy to forgive every sin, Good­ness to provide. Mercy to pardon.’” (Traveling Light, Word Publishing, Nashville pp 146-147).

Goodness and mercy—the hounds of heaven are constantly on our heels. The Hebrew word David used for “follow” is so much stronger. It meant. To pursue, to chase after, catch up to, and clutch him. The hounds of heaven are pursuing us even now to bless us and pour God’s favor upon us. God shows us His goodness and mercy by the gift of His Son, the faithful and true Shepherd of the sheep. God demonstrates His goodness and mercy to us not for a little while but for the rest of our days here on earth and ultimately in heaven with Him.

Again, I will use Max Lucado’s words: And what will he do during those days? (Here is my favorite word.) He will “follow” you. What a surprising way to describe God! We’re accus­tomed to a God who remains in one place. A God who sits enthroned in the heavens and rules and ordains. David, how­ever, envisions a mobile and active God. Dare we do the same? Dare we envision a God who follows us? Who pursues us? Who chases us? Who tracks us down and wins us over? Who follows us with “goodness and mercy” all the days of our lives? (P. 146).

Yes, we dare say so, because we have the twin traveling companions—the hounds of heaven—goodness and mercy. They are God’s gift to us through His Son, Jesus Christ the faithful Shepherd who died in our place and rose again from the grave and is continuing to pursue us even now.

Today, you will taste these hounds of heaven—His goodness and mercy in the bread and wine of His body and blood to guarantee this is Your Good Shepherd—God who loves you not only for today, but for the rest of your lives. Amen.

Now the peace…


Monday, August 18, 2014

“You Anoint My Head!” (Psalm 23:5b)

S-1446 10SAP/3A 8/17/2014 Hymns: (O) #740; (S) #; 59 TLH; (C) # 616LSB

Texts: Isaiah 56, 1-8; Romans 11:1-2, 13-15, 28-32; Matthew 15:21-38

Theme: “You Anoint My Head!” (Psalm 23:5b)

Question: “Have you seen a king crowned?” 7th in sermon series on Psalm 23

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen, indeed! Alleluia! The text is from the 23 Psalm: “You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows” (Psalm 23:5b).

Precious little lambs let me ask you a question: Have you ever witnessed a King being crowned or a High Priest anointed? There are not many kings or High Priests around, and the likelihood of witnessing or seeing a crowning or anointing of a king and priest is very unlikely. But there was a time when kings and others were crowned and anointed as they took their positions.

Moses tells us in the book of Exodus of God’s command to anoint his brother Aaron and his sons as Priests of God to serve Him and His people: “You shall anoint Aaron and his sons, and consecrate them, that they may serve Me as priests. And you shall say to the people of Israel, ‘This shall be My holy anointing oil throughout your generations” (Ex. 30:30-31). This anointing was done in public for all to see the servants of the Lord.

God had a specific recipe to use the best spices for this anointing. Myrrh, Cinnamon, Aromatic cane: Cassia and olive oil (Ex. 30:22-29). When these spices were mixed it made a sweet smelling aroma in the presence of the Lord and that which it touched became holy. God also commanded this anointing oil to be used only for the priests and the Tabernacle furnishings. It couldn’t be used on anyone or anything else. If it was used on someone else, that person would have to be cut off—put to death.

David, the author of the text understood the value of the anointing by God and that is why he wrote: You [God, my faithful Yahweh] anoint my head with oil.” You anoint my head with the oil of gladness to be Your servant and care for Your sheep—the people of Israel. You set me apart to be King over Israel and point them to You my God and Lord. For You are the One to be praised and adored.

It is interesting to note that the Hebrew word translated “anoint” is not, the normal word “mashach,” but (a Piel) of “dishen,” which literally means “make fat.”  Anointing implies a few drops; “making fat” implies a whole lot more—more than meets the eye—more than what appears on the surface or understood by human logic. No, it is so much more because it comes from the gracious hands of God Himself—the faithful Shepherd. Perhaps, that is why John the evangelist writes: “Behold, what manner of love the Father has lavished upon us that we should be called children of God!” (1 Jn 3:1). This is no nickel and dime deity! But a God who gives us more than we ask or desire! PAUSE

God in His Divine wisdom had anointed certain people for certain tasks—Aaron and his sons as High Priests, Samuel, Elijah, Elisha and others as His prophets; Saul, David, Solomon and others as Kings over Israel. But they all failed to do the things God had called them to do.

By the grace of God, Samuel and the elders of Israel anointed David and established him as the King of Israel. We are told that the Lord had chosen David, because he was a man after His own heart (1 Samuel 13:14). The Lord also promised that one of David’s sons will sit on David’s throne forever. The promise of God was on the condition that the people would be faithful to Him. But David himself and many kings that came from his loins didn’t do what the Lord commanded. Therefore God cut them off the family tree and only a stump remained—the stump of Jesse.

But Yahweh is not a nickel and dime deity! But He is a God who gives us more than we ask or desire. Therefore, the Lord promised that there would be a new David, a king after His own heart once again. The Lord promised He would once again establish this new King, this new David upon the throne. A Messiah, the new David, the King of the Jews, the One who comes in the name of the Lord, a son of David—the Lord of David—Jesus Christ. PAUSE.

The new David—Jesus, was anointed not with oil, but with the Holy Spirit on the day of His baptism to be the Missionary of God for the specific task of Redeeming God’s people from death and destruction. He was anointed for the sole purpose of purchasing them with His own precious blood.

Jesus was anointed by the Holy Spirit for three different offices—Prophet, Priest and King. And in His earthly life and in His perfect death and resurrection He fulfilled all of these Offices Perfectly for us.

He was the Prophet who spoke God’s Word faithful and joyfully to all without exception. He was the High Priest who offered Himself as the ULTIMATE SACRIFICE—the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world—on the Altar of the cross (John 1:29). He is the King of kings and Lord of lords who rules with justice and truth both in heaven and on earth. And one day, all people in the world will bow their knees before Him and acknowledge Him as the faithful Good Shepherd.

What David couldn’t do—live the perfect life, the new David did much better. The King eternal cast out the enemies of the children of God and conquered them even on the battlefield of the grave. He established His rule forever, and, indeed the throne is filled from everlasting to everlasting. His enemies have been clothed with shame, but on the Son of God the crown shines, and He has clothed us with His robes of righteousness and His garment of salvation.

Though David said, “You anoint my head with oil,” and God kept His promise; yet David couldn’t atone for the sins of the Israelite. But the offspring of David—Jesus the Christ, became the true King who reigns overall and His people rejoice! The enemy is vanquished and the children of the lord are glad and praise His holy name. Blessed is He who sits upon the throne; He is King from everlasting to everlasting!

Jesus fulfills these Office because He is the oil splattered Savior, drenched in oil as God’s anointed One. On the cross He is splattered with His blood for us. His anointing at His own baptism prepares us for our resurrection power. Thus our baptismal anointing—is an event with ongoing power to serve Him and His people.

Did you know precious lambs that you too have been anointed? Indeed you and I have been anointed in our baptism. The Lord has anointed us to be His sons and daughters through the everlasting covenant which was procured through the shedding of His sacred blood. This makes us kings and priests! The Bible calls us ROYAL PRIESTS! He has anointed us to be His ambassadors and agents of sharing the authority and wonder that is the good news of Jesus Christ and Him crucified and raised with all people.

Therefore, today, we join David in saying: “You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows” (Psalm 23:5b). And He has! Our faithful Good Shepherd is not just any shepherd, but the Shepherd-King who gives us more than nickel and dime blessings. He gives us abundantly of His grace—forgiveness of sins, life eternal and faith to trust and obey Him.

Precious little lambs, all you need to know that your cup is overflowing is to take time to see all of the blessings He has bestowed upon YOU. They are eternal blessings from His store-house of grace. Thus David’s words become our words: The Lord is My shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows” Psalm 23:1-5.

All I can say to that is Amen and Amen.

Now the peace…


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

“You Prepare A Table!” (Psalm 23:5a)

S-1445 9SAP/3A 8/10/2014 Hymns: (O) #740; (S) #623; LS. #622; 623; 618; (C) #775 LSB

Texts: Job 38:4-18; Romans 10:5-17; Matthew 14:22-33

Theme: “You Prepare A Table!” (Psalm 23:5a)

Question: “What’s the most beautiful meal you have ever had?” 6th in sermon series on Psalm 23

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen, indeed! Alleluia! The text is from the 23 Psalm: “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;” (Psalm 23:5a)

Precious little lambs let me ask you a question: What is the greatest meal you ever had? And where did you eat? I am sure you can fondly remember many meals that you have enjoyed. I remember in 2001 as we traveled to the National Youth Gathering in New Orleans our first hotel was a terrible one. But then we moved to the Ritz Carlton hotel. This hotel provided us with the most elegant breakfast I have ever seen—3 large rooms with tables loaded with food. The biggest challenge was what to put on your plate. It was very delicious and enjoyable and that meal carried us all the way to the supper hour. The youth and their counselors were very happy.

But that feast was nothing compared to what they prepared for King Solomon and his court. According to Scripture here is what he had: “Solomon’s food supply for one day was 180 bushels of flour, 360 bushels of coarse flour, 10 fattened cows, 20 cows from the pasture, and 100 sheep in addition to deer, gazelles, fallow deer, and fattened birds.” (1 Kings 4:22-23 GW). Now that is a spread to be sure.

However, when you and I go out to eat, we pay for the meal and we have servants who cater to our needs. Likewise with King Solomon, he didn’t have to cook, kill the fattened oxen or serve others; his servants did it all.

But notice how David tells us of the Faithful Shepherd’s care for His sheep: “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” It is not that He only prepares a table, but He prepares it before my enemies. And the table He prepares is the greatest table we will ever feast upon. PAUSE.

In the book of Isaiah we read these words: “On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined” (25:6). Notice who the host is and who the servant is—it is Yahweh the Lord, the Good and Faithful Shepherd. He Himself will prepare it on the mountain for all peoples. There are no exclusions. This meal is offered to all who in faith believe that the Savior, the Suffering Servant, and the heaven-sent Ambassador is giving us what we can’t prepare or have—His gracious GIFT. And what a meal it is.

With vivid colors Isaiah describes this feast, where the rarest wine is uncorked and the finest meat carved. This is God’s activity and doing. And His table is groaning from the weight of the best of foods. And He bids us come to His table and dine with Him, which is by far better than dining at the Ritz Carlton hotel in New Orleans; and much better than with King Solomon. We get to dine with the King of kings and Lord of lords—the Faithful and Good Shepherd Jesus.

David, understood that well when he said: You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” He is not only preparing a table for me…but in the presence of enemies. The enemies of David were Saul and the Philistines, and yet God took care of David, fed and nourished him. PAUSE.

But there are others who needed that invitation to come to the table. Peter is one who needed to hear that personally. Remember the night Peter denied His Lord 3 times saying, “I don’t know the man!” (Mt. 26:69-75). Then he went out and wept. Not just sobbing but wailing. He had denied His Lord and Savior. His sin waited heavy upon Him. His heart was crushed and His conscience troubled and so he went to drown his sorrow by doing what he did before—fishing.

But Jesus didn’t let this situation destroy the disciple who one day would be His mouth-piece and take the message of the Resurrected Lord to Jews and Gentiles alike. No, the caring and loving Good Shepherd invited the one who denied Him to come and eat with Him at His table—and the table was prepared before the enemy—Satan. There on the shore of the Sea of Galilee the Shepherd fed Peter knowing full well that Satan can see everything; and that Christ didn’t cast him out. Instead Jesus forgave Him His sins and welcomed him back to the fold.

Jesus is like that you know. He IS the faithful Shepherd who cares for the sheep does so much to help us in spite of the fact that the enemy wants to destroy us as it did Peter. As Jesus reminded Peter saying, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:31-32). Oh, the comfort in these words not only to Peter but to us.

How often have we like Peter, David and many others denied Him, cursed Him, abandoned Him and forsook Him? How often have we said, “We will not do that Lord,” yet, we end up doing exactly what we said we wouldn’t? How often we have neglected His Word, abstained from His presence and avoided His table? How often have we lived like enemies of the Lord! PAUSE.

Children of God, today, if you are sobbing over your sin, if you are burdened, if your conscience is troubled and if your heart is heavy over what you have and haven’t done, then hear these words: The Victor over hell and the ruler of heaven, the destroyer of death and the champion of our salvation invites you to come and dine with Him in the presence of your enemies.

Yes, listen closely to these words and know that Jesus means it: He bids you come to His table the one He is preparing for you so that your enemy may know He holds no grudges against you, but loves you to the end. This is the love that caused Him to pay the deepest and heaviest price for this table—His life’s blood spilled on the cross of Calvary.

Don’t dismiss this thought quickly about His death. He will prepare this meal on the Mountain of the Lord and at a high price. Look at the Lord as He hung dead on the cross. “All who see Me mock Me.” It is our custom to dress up the crucifixion of our Lord. His dead Body is my life. His Blood is my blood. And He gives His holiness for my wretchedness.

We were not there to see the crucifixion of Jesus, but we are seeing it now on TV and the internet as many Christians are being crucified for the sake of Christ. Perhaps, the most disturbing thing about these crucifixions is that these men are men just like us, and I can hardly believe that any other human is capable of carrying out such a hideous act like these murderous Muslims! But there it is. The photos do not lie. The reports do not err. Crucified! Crucified…on a tree.

Just remember this is the most expensive meal you will eat. It is not in a ritzy restaurant or hotel, but on a messy, bloody, and filthy cross—the cross of Christ. And that is okay. Our Lord died the bloodiest, cruelest, and meanest death. Could it be any more vulgar? There He is, dead on the tree, and the image is horrifying. For what? So that He can prepare a table for me—the SINNER, before my enemies.

Precious little lambs, as the beacon of Lady Liberty has welcomed millions to this great nation of ours and live in its freedom; on a far greater scale Jesus, the earner of our salvation and the champion of our freedom invites and welcomes not only millions but ALL peoples to come to Him and receive from His pierced hands the Feast of love and to dine with Him and rejoice in the freedom He offers from sin’s curse and death’s hold.

Today, hear David the shepherd, as He portrays the love of God—His Shepherd who prepares a magnificent table for him and us. The Good Shepherd, Jesus, invites you today to be fed richly through the Word you hear and through His Holy Supper. The gracious Lord, the Great and Good Shepherd, this day is both host and guest. His body, His blood given for YOU. This is the feast of victory! And it is for you!

Therefore, I say to you, come for the table is ready—the table of love—for you the sinner. Come and eat the table He has prepared for you in the presence of your enemies. Amen.

Now the peace…