Sunday, January 19, 2014

“She Chose Life” (Isaiah 49:1)

S-1408 SOHLS/3A 1/19/2014 Hymns: (O) #394; (S) #725 LSB (C) #398

Texts: Isaiah 49:1-7; 1 Corinthians 1:1-9; John 1:29-42a

Theme: “She Chose Life” (Isaiah 49:1)

Question: “What value do you put on life?” Armour, SD

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen, indeed! Alleluia! The text for Sanctity of Human Life Sunday is from the O.T. lesson “Listen to Me, O coastlands, and give attention, you peoples from afar. The Lord called Me from the womb, from the body of My mother He named My name” (Isaiah 49:1).

INTRODUCTION: In Nomine Iesu.

Precious children of the heavenly Father, today we give thanks to our mothers and fathers who gave us life through the grace of God. Today, we observe Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. Today, we declare to the world that every life is precious in the sight of God no matter how that life is brought forth—whether in the confine of marriage or out of wedlock. Today, we declare to the world that life is God’s gift to us and we have no right to destroy life by any means including abortion. To that end, we call upon the Holy Spirit to use us in spite of us to protect the life of the unborn, and provide support to anyone who find themselves in unexpected pregnancy.

In the most unusual place, under the most difficult situation, in her hour of desperation she spoke only four words. But oh the power of these four words. These four words brought light in a dark room. These four words brought peace to a troubled heart. These four words made a difference in someone’s life. These four words changed life for the person who spoke them, and to others. You know what these four words were: “I CAN’T DO IT!”

“I can’t do it!” Were the words spoken by a very frightened and scared young girl. She was only 13 and got pregnant. She was afraid to tell her mother of what had happened. Her fear drove her to an abortion mill to get rid of the evidence. But as she visited with the people at the butcher shop, she struggled with the thought she is about to murder the precious life that is growing in her womb. She was about to snuff the life out of a baby that is developing within her. Therefore, instead of death, SHE CHOSE LIFE. And we give thanks to the Lord for the godly decision.

Nine months later the 13 years old gave birth to a baby girl. Ultimately she chose not only to give her life, but to give her up for adoption—and a family that would be able to care for all of her needs. The fortunate couple was the singer John Elefante and his wife. Recently John dedicated a song to his adopted daughter Sami called “This Time”. (I will show you the video after the Divine Service). https://www.dropbox.com/sh/urt3xynuq2q2zxs/uKGpYBNarp

This young 13 years old girl chose life. How thankful we are that she did. Just ask John and his wife how blessed they are because she chose life. Ask John and his wife how they felt when they held her in their arms, wiped away her tears, rejoiced at her uttering “daddy, mommy.” That life is so precious that her dad dedicated a song to his daughter in thanksgiving to the goodness of the Lord. PAUSE.

On this Sanctity of Human Life Sunday we hear the prophet Isaiah proclaiming God’s Word saying: “Listen to Me, O coastlands, and give attention, you peoples from afar. The Lord called Me from the womb, from the body of My mother He named My name.” God the Father and Author of life, created man in His own image, declares to us that life is precious. Even from the womb He has known us, given us a purpose and called us by name. That purpose is not clear at times in our lives only to God, but He has given us this purpose. This was true of the people of Judah in their Babylonian captivity. It is true of our lives, and even true in the case of those unplanned pregnancies!

With these words Isaiah states that the Servant joins others who were set apart at birth for God’s purposes. The expression “from the womb” connects the Servant with Yahweh’s choice of the nation, as well as with Isaiah’s Immanuel prophecy (Is 7:14) and other Messianic texts that reference birth. Because the Servant was set apart to be our Savior, we have likewise been elected before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in Christ (Eph 1:4–5). This Servant is Jesus our Immanuel—God with us—who comes to us to bring about salvation.

From the womb Jesus was set apart to save every person in the whole wide world. What Israel as a nation couldn’t do, the Messiah, the Suffering Servant would accomplish through His birth to a young girl who was not married, through His perfect life on earth, through His brutal demise on Calvary’s cross, and by rising from the grave on the third day; He gives us LIFE. Precious life. Eternal life. PAUSE.

The prophet Isaiah makes it clear that God loves life-even life from the womb. For He knows each and every one of us. In the book of Jeremiah we hear these words: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations” (1:5), again the Psalmist declares: “For You formed my inward parts; You knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are Your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in Your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them”
(139:13-16). Yes, God loves life. That is why He created it in the first place.

But not all people love life. At least not human life. Just recently I saw an ad from the The American Society For The Prevention Of Cruelty To Animals that turned my stomach upside down. Here is some of what I heard in the commercial: “Every single day of the year, we are rescuing animals from a lifetime of cruelty, violence and pain. Your commitment makes it possible for our life-saving programs to create happy endings for those innocent lives touched by cruelty. 60c A Day Saves lives, give a little to make a big difference for animals. 12 Gifts in 12 months, Give a little, change a lot.” I’m not against supporting animals if you are an animal lover. But what about the unborn? Daily about 3500 babies are burned with sailene, cut in pieces and put to death. But you don’t hear of the cruelty and pain they experience they call that a woman’s choice.

How tragic that we have disregarded the Word of God and followed the ways of the world. Rather than supporting and protecting life-born and unborn many are busy destroying it. That is why it is important for us today to hear the word of Isaiah again: “Listen to Me, O coastlands, and give attention, you peoples from afar. The Lord called Me from the womb, from the body of My mother He named My name.” Yes, listen and hear God’s Word of promise. The lord, who formed His only-begotten Son in the womb of the Virgin, has called Him to come forth and be a great light in the midst of the darkness, a great light shining throughout all the earth. The darkness has reigned far too long. The evil one has extended his rule and set his throne upon our earth. His governance is oppression, and he enslaves the citizens with his wickedness. For too long he has roamed about, seeking to devour, terrorizing the people of the land. They cry out, they groan under the load, they gasp in pain—how long, O Lord? How long?

Daily we have seen this darkness. Daily we have known the evil of this world. Life has been deluded, discarded and destroyed. It seems like we put more value on things than life. Even more shameful, is how often our world values the life of an animal over human life. PAUSE.

But on this Life Sunday, let me stop and say: “To each of you here today, welcome in the name of Him who values life—Jesus the Christ. Some of you are burdened because of abortion. Some of you are burdened because of adultery. Some of you are burdened because of gambling, pornography, alcoholol or whatever your secret sin is. I’m glad you are here. You see it is not the sin of abortion that separates us from God, but it is sin period.” I’m so glad the Holy Spirit has moved you to come today, to receive His grace and forgiveness.

O Life Sunday, I announce to you in the name of Christ Jesus the One who was appointed before the foundation of the world and called YOU out of the womb, YOUR SINS ARE FORGIVEN!

I am so thankful to the good Lord that this 13 years old girl chose life. I am so thankful that John Elefante chose to love his daughter Sami and dedicated a song for her. But I am most thankful on this Life Sunday that Christ chose death for you and me so that we may have everlasting life with Him beginning now and forever in eternity. Amen.

Now the peace…

SOLI DEO GLORIA

Saturday, January 18, 2014

“Water: A Gift of Death and Life” (Romans 6:3-4)

S-1407 BOTL/3A 1/12/2014 Hymns: (O) #302; (S) LSB #594; L.S. #298; #300; (C) #301

Texts: Isaiah 42:1-9; Romans 6:1-11; Matthew 3:13-17

Theme: Water: A Gift of Death and Life (Romans 6:3-4)

Question: “Do you know how valuable is YOUR Baptism?” Armour, SD

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen, indeed! Alleluia! The text for the Baptism of the Lord is from the Epistle lessons “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:3-4)

INTRODUCTION: In Nomine Iesu.

Most precious people of God, last week we marked the Epiphany. Over and over again we said that Epiphany was about light and life. Light is a powerful force. Light gives life. Light gives safety. Light exposes. Light heals. The Epiphany light of our Lord Jesus Christ is a great gift from our Lord that kills and makes alive.

Today, we turn our attention to another great force in creation. Water. Water like light is essential for life. Did you know that you will die much sooner if your body is deprived of water than if you are deprived of food? Water is omnipresent in our great creation too. Our Lord has seen fit to make a world that is over 70% water! Life in our bodies and in our world is not possible without water. That is why in South Dakota when there is rain, there is an abundance of crops, but when there is a drought, it is a terrible thing.

Water is a precious commodity and critical for persevering life. But water can also be most destructive. In the Scriptures we read of Noah. 40 days and 40 nights of rain deluged creation leading to a worldwide catastrophe. Since then, when we think of floods we can’t help but think of Noah. While the Lord has promised never to destroy the entire world in a flood, we are still reminded of the destructive power of water. You have seen that first hand two years ago when much of the Midwest was flooded as the Mighty Mississippi River began to swell. Thousands of acres of farmland, scores of homes and businesses and a way of life for several months were all washed away by the unchecked water. But we have seen more. A couple of years ago Hurricane Sandy hit the East Cost and the tranquil waters of the ocean into turned into an instrument of carnage and death. The very bodies of water that have been placed here by the Lord to make life possible are also able, in a world marred by sin, to wreak disaster, destruction & death! PAUSE.

So in a real way, on this Baptism of Our Lord, we consider the great gift of water. It is a gift of both death and life. What is true in our life in the world is also true in our life with the Lord. Water is both a gift of death and life. This is what we hear from the Lord through St. Paul in his letter to the Romans. In this precious Word we hear how Baptism, which is the application of water, both buries and raises—it kills and it brings forth life. The mighty miracle of Baptism, administered at the direction of the Lord Jesus Christ, kills and makes alive. We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

But this new life is not possible were it not for the new life granted to us in Christ. On this first Sunday after the Epiphany, we observe and celebrate the Baptism of our Lord Jesus in the Jordan River by John the Baptizer and revealed by the heavenly Father to those who were there to see the beloved Son of God.

John knew this long before our Lord Jesus instituted the Holy Washing that we know as Holy Baptism. That is why he reacted the way he did when his cousin Jesus came to be baptized in the Jordan. John would have prevented Him, saying, “I need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?” But Jesus answered Him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.”

And the significance of that act of righteousness for us is that all who are now baptized into Christ, into His body, the Church, partake of that righteousness which Christ obtained for us through His perfect life, His atoning death on the cross, and His subsequent resurrection from the grave. That means we have an unlimited supply of God’s grace that kills the old man in us and raises in us a new man that loves Him and serves Him with humility and joy. PAUSE.

The Wildman in the wilderness known as John the Baptizers paints a most beautiful picture of this righteousness as He reveals to us that the Man standing before him was not and is not part of the swirling waters of death that is our sinful world. NO! Jesus was the Holy One who is from God and sent by God to bring about life and salvation. For this reason, Jesus willingly stepped into those waters. In an obedience that pleased His Father in heaven, our Lord allowed Himself to be washed away in the tsunami of our filth, sin and death. He rode the current of death through Galilee, into the plains and all the way to the Hill country of Judea. But eventually the waters swept over Him. On the hill called Calvary, our Lord willingly went under the waters of sin and death. All of the destructive force of those waters washed over Him as He allowed Himself to be drowned and die.

The Babe of Bethlehem, who a week ago, the Magi came to visit, bow before, offered Him gifts and worshiped Him permitted it to happen for our sakes. He took it into Himself to fulfill all of God’s righteousness. This pleased the Father so much that He spoke profound words: This is My beloved Son with whom I Am well pleased (Mt. 3:17). Indeed, He was and is pleased with His Son. In fact, it was for that very reason Jesus came in the first place!

And what happens after the flood of sin washed over Jesus that makes our baptismal waters a dual power? Jesus went under the water of sin and death. But He did not stay there. He paved a way through the waters for those who would come after Him. His death in the waters stilled them. No longer could the raging waters of sin claim us as victim. It serves only as a washing. Those still waters wash away the sin and death that would assault us and they leave us with life! Like Jesus, we die in that powerful water of Christ and miraculously we are raised out of the water to a new life. This life is a resurrection of the highest order. It is life that will never again be overcome by the water of death! NEVER!

Today, by the mighty, majestic and marvelous miracle of Baptism—the Baptism of Christ and yours, remember that you have died and been raised to a new life. Therefore, as the redeemed, baptized children of God, we can by the power of the Holy daily remember our baptism, repent of our sins and live our lives for our King, Jesus and present Him with our most precious gifts—our new lives of faith, righteousness and holiness.

This holiness has come upon us at our Baptism. In Baptism God clothed us with the garments of His salvation. By His grace, Christ’s forgiveness covered us and His holiness counted for us. Through His Word, as we hear and read it, He wraps that beautiful robe more tightly around us and fastens its buttons more securely.

Indeed, beloved, know this truth and celebrate it every day. Jesus’ death in the flood of sin and His rising out of the water and the grave makes our Baptism an eternal GIFT of life! Amen.

Now the peace of God…

SOLI DEO GLORIA

Sunday, January 5, 2014

“Shining the Light of the Lord” (Isaiah 60:1; Matthew 9b, 10)

S-1406 EOL/3A 1/05/2014 Hymns: (O) #126; (S) #127; (C) #129

Texts: Isaiah 60:1-6; Ephesians 3:1-12; Matthew 2:1-12

Theme: “Shining the Light of the Lord” (Isaiah 60:1; Matthew 9b, 10)

Question: “Are you letting the light of the Gospel shine?” Armour, SD

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen, indeed! Alleluia! The text for the Epiphany is from O.T. and the Gospel lessons “Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you…And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy
” (Isaiah 60:1; Matthew 9b, 10)

INTRODUCTION: In Nomine Iesu.

Most precious people of God, today we observe and celebrate the Season of Epiphany. This Greek term means: “To appear, to manifest or to reveal.” And the church throughout the centuries have observed January 6th as a Christian feast celebrating the manifestation of the divine nature of Jesus to the Gentiles as represented by the Magi. Thus, Epiphany is about light. That means Epiphany is about life! Without light there can’t be life in our world. Light is the first of God’s creative gifts that we see in Genesis 1. From light comes life. Did you know that without light we cannot breathe? Light is the main component in the process of photosynthesis. That is the process where plants use the combination of light and carbon dioxide to give off oxygen! No oxygen and there would be no life! Light is that powerful!

Epiphany is about light. That means Epiphany is about safety too. When a room is awash in light, you can see where all the dangers are. You are far less likely to step on a toy that your kids got for Christmas, or stub your toe in a light filled living room, as opposed to the middle of the night as you try to make your way to the kitchen for a glass of water. Light can also keep us safe when we are away from home. When walking at night and you have a light source, you can see all the dangers that lurk: That raised section of sidewalk that could trip you as you walk that not-so-friendly dog that belongs to your neighbor or even that person who is intent on doing you harm. When there is light, you can see the dangers and avoid them.

Epiphany is about light. That means Epiphany is about exposure too. That very same light that would give us life and keep us safe is also the same light that can reveal things about ourselves that we really don’t want others to see or know about. When the light is shined on those things we do in secret, we are exposed to the world. That light is what will show the world that we are doing something that is illegal, immoral or both. That light shows that we are not always who we make ourselves out to be. Underneath the fa├žade of goodness, holiness and righteousness that we like to portray, the light of God’s Word is searing! It exposes all of what we like to keep in the shadow. It doesn’t leave anything hidden. It exposes us to all of the shame and guilt that our sins deserve. That is why St. John tells us that we prefer darkness to light! We like to hide in the shadows.

But Epiphany is about light. Light exposes! While this exposure can be painful, it is also the only thing that can bring about true, lasting light. When our sin is exposed to the One who is the Word Made Flesh and the Light of the World all at the same time, the death of our sin and the dangers of the world and flesh are revealed. But they are not just exposed for a divine “gotcha!” They are laid open so that the light can heal. When the disease of our sin is exposed the Lord of Life heals us! His Word of forgiveness and life overcomes our sin and death. That is why we can hear the Word of the Prophet and rejoice about this light that has come! This Light has not come only to kill us, but also to make us alive. And the life that we receive from this light will be the life that lasts forever!

And we are called to reflect this light. We don’t originate it. It doesn’t come from us. No, by grace through faith this light is placed in us by the Holy Spirit like a flame is placed in a lantern. The lantern’s job is only to reflect the light that it has been given. Through us the Light of God’s word then does its work. It gives life to others as they see the light in us and are led by the Lord to repent of their darkness. Through us the Light of God’s Word gives safety as it leads our family and friends and neighbors and co-workers out of the perilous, sin-filled world into the Light of Life that only comes through Jesus the Christ. The Holy Spirit uses that light that shines through us to expose sin in others so that the death in them might be revealed and healed.

Epiphany is about light. It is about a light that has been revealed to all peoples. It was a light that first shone brilliantly in creation. While sin and death cast a dark pall over creation, that Light would not be extinguished. That light was carried through the ages in the promise of the One who would be that light. The arrival of that Light was first announced in the glory of angels talking to shepherds in the Judean hill country. But that light could not just be contained there. That light was revealed to the Gentiles, that’s you and me, through the light of a brilliant star that led Magi from the East all the way to Bethlehem, where they would see the Light of Men in the face of Jesus.

And that light still shines for all people. It shines in the proclamation of the Word of God even here today. This light will expose and give life. It will do that for you today! And then that light will be carried out by you as you too go home by another route. Like the Magi of old, you can’t head back to the certain death that Herod promised. There is a new way for you to go. It may be uncertain. It may cause you to do things that you would never think of doing. But it is the way the Light of Christ—who is the Light of the world is calling you to go.

For some that might mean heading into the Office of the Holy Ministry. For others it may simply mean reaching out to that brother or sister in Christ that has wronged you and you shine the Light of God’s forgiveness on them so that you might be reconciled to them. It could be like a friend of mine who called this week, saying, “Nabil, I was going through my checkbook and I realized I haven’t sent any money for the Bike-For-Life. I will be dropping the check in the mail today!” On Thursday I received a check for a $1000.00. Praise The Lord (PTL). Or even like the Jewish convert to Christianity from Tel Aviv, who was harassed for reading the New Testament by a Rabbi Slovstowski who hated Jesus and the mention of His name. But when this Rabbi confronted the new believer and told him how much he hated Jesus Christ. You know what this new believer who had seen the Light of Christ did? He gave him the Hebrew New Testament to read. When the Rabbi started reading, he couldn’t stop. He read till 3 a.m. and then said, “I have found 270 reasons, why Jesus is truly God and Messiah.” PTL.

Epiphany is about Light. Epiphany is about life: Life with our Lord, Life in the Church and life in the world. By the grace of God, you and I have seen this light. You and I have daily opportunities to the let the Light of Christ shine through our words and actions as we are exhorted by Matthew saying: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to Your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16)

Having seen the Light, the Holy Spirit sends us out to speak of the glorious Epiphany to those who are still in darkness. Therefore, Epiphany is about Light. Epiphany is about life: Life with our Lord, Life in the Church and life in the world. This light is life. Life for now and life forever. It is the gift that the Lord gives us each and every day in Jesus WHO is the Light of the World. AMEN.

Now the peace…

SOLI DEO GLORIA.