Monday, June 16, 2014

“A Mighty Creator” (Genesis 1:1-2)

S-1437 TS/3A 6/15/2014 Hymns: (O) #244; (S) #39; (C) #744 LSB

Texts: Genesis 1:1-2:4; Acts 2:14, 22-36; Matthew 28:16-20

Theme: “A Mighty Creator” (Genesis 1:1-2)

Question: “Have you created something?” Armour, SD

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen, indeed! Alleluia! The text for Trinity Sunday is the O.T. Lesson: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters” (Genesis 1:1-2).

Beloved in the Lord, perhaps you have seen and touched something someone has created like a beautiful quilt, a china cabinet, a dress, or a stained glass window. When we see them and touch them we say, “Wow! What a creation! What workmanship! What beauty!”

Indeed many people are gifted and have crafted amazing creations with their own hands. We admire them and at times even envy their talents and wish we have their creation abilities.

On this festival of the Trinity, we see the Mighty Creator, our God—Father, Son and Holy Spirit at work in creating not only the world and all that is seen and unseen, but creating faith in the heart of man so that he may know God has made him in His image.

We see His mighty creation all around us. We see the touch of His fingers and the care of His hands in the marvelous work of creation. What would our world be like without the imagination of God? What if everything was black and white? You would not see the stripes on the Zebra, the spots on the leopard, and the majesty of a swan. You would not see the beauty of the rose, lily, carnation and Iris. Think of the butterflies, the bees and the birds.

All of this has been given to us because God is the Mighty Creator. But He has also created faith in our hearts in the same miraculous and mighty way. Through the Word that is connected to the water our Mighty Creator rained down forgiveness of sin upon you and spoke faith into your once lifeless, sin-scarred heart! We see this faith born also through the mighty and powerful Word proclaimed. In the Epistle lesson as Peter preached his sermon; faith was created in the hearts of the listeners. We see it as God commissioned His Church to go out into all the world and in His mighty name preach, teach and baptize the nations; so that the nations will know their Creator. These are part of the mighty creation God did and does even today.

Moses, the author of the text tells us of the Mighty Creator who created the heavens and the earth. In Deuteronomy 34:9-10, we are told that Moses got the creation account as he visited with Jesus face to face. Through that encounter we have the movement, the means and the message of God creating all things for the benefit of His children—you and me. And through these acts we get to realize how deeply God is in involved in our lives that He pours upon us His undeserved GRACE in everything that He does.

We behold this Grace from the angle of Creation in how deeply we are dependent on Him for everything to sustain our lives. We see this Grace from the angle of Redemption through the act of the cross; that is 100% a pure GIFT as Paul tells us in Ephesians: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (2:8-9). Through this gift our sins are forgiven and we receive life and salvation. We observe this Grace from the angle of Preservation through His continual providence. Paul in Colossians tells us, “For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together” (1:17). Everything that we have and hold unto is a gift of His loving hands. Paul even states that God will keep us in this faith according to Philippians 1:6.

This is our God. He is the Mighty Creator of life and love, faith and hope. No wonder the Psalmists describe Him with such marvelous descriptions that defy human logic. “But You are the same, and Your years have no end” (Ps. 102:27); “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever You had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting You are God” (Ps. 90:2). The writer is telling us that our God doesn’t change. He is not like man or the world constantly changing. But our God is mighty, powerful, faithful, loving and gracious. PAUSE.

Beloved, you may have heard the expression: “God is good; all the time. All the time; God is good.” Psalm 136 declares, “Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever” (Psalms 136:1). That doesn’t mean that everything that happens in our corrupt, confused, and chaotic world is good. Far from it! But it does mean that, in the midst of everything wrong, everything evil, and everything painful, God’s goodness appears as a light shining in the darkness. God’s goodness is present as living water in a barren desert. God’s goodness appears as love and hope in the wilderness of pain and suffering. God’s goodness is revealed in the most selfless act, causing His Son, His ONLY Son to come to earth and don upon Him human flesh and blood to save mankind and give them a future.

Through the mercy of the creating power of God, Mary conceived and bore a son—God’s Son would grow up and fulfill every promise God made to Adam and Eve in granting them forgiveness and restoration after falling into sin. His promise was fulfilled when Jesus laid down His life for the sins of humanity. Jesus’ mighty acts were evident as He crushed the grave stone and burst forth to remind us every promise made is a promise kept. But, He also creates faith in the hearts of His children. PAUSE.

A pastor told a story of a terrifying day at a New Jersey beach for a father, his son, and his daughter. The kids were 8 and 10, but they were good swimmers. In fact, they enjoyed swimming together in the Atlantic Ocean quite a lot. On this particular day, a few years ago, they went swimming like they had done so many times before.

As they swam, they got farther and farther from shore. Suddenly the father realized that the tide was carrying them out to sea. It had also separated them from each other. Trying to stay calm, he searched for both children, and realized that he had to help his son back to the beach for his safety and then return to rescue his daughter. So just before turning to the shore, he called out to her, “Mary, I am going to shore for help. If you get tired, remember what I taught you, stay calm, turn on your back, and remember you can float all day long. And I promise you, I promise you, I’ll come back for you; trust me.”

He and the boy made it to shore and then there was a frantic search for the girl. Finally, after four hours, they found her far out in the ocean, away from the shore. But, they found her calmly swimming on her back, not frightened at all.

There was a tremendous amount of relief when the calm girl was finally back on shore. Everyone wondered how she could be so at peace. And they were even more stunned when she gave such a simple answer. She said, “Daddy said he would come back for me and, like he said, I could float all day, so I swam and I floated because I knew he would come.”

That little girl knew that her father would do all in his power to come for her no matter the cost to himself. But, when it comes to things like forgiveness, life, and salvation; it’s going to take more than merely the love of a good mom or dad; it’s going to take the love of a Savior, God in the flesh, for you and me. The Bible says that the work of Jesus isn’t merely the best efforts of the best human being that ever lived. It’s infinitely more than that. He doesn’t merely show the way, share the truth, and shed some light on a situation. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Through Jesus we see the mighty work of the Father and the Holy Spirit as they continue to work in our lives by strengthening our faith and keeping us in the faith. That is the work of the Mighty Creator, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Today, as we observe and celebrate Trinity Sunday, we bow in humility before Him and praise Him for what He has done and continues to do. Amen.

Now the peace of God…


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

“Flames of Fire” (Acts 2:1-3)

S-1436 PS/3A 6/08/2014 Hymns: (O) #234; (S) #224; L.S. #236; #226; #427; (C) #225

Texts: Numbers 11:23-30; Acts 2:1-21; John 7:37-39

Theme: “Flames of Fire” (Acts 2:1-3)

Question: “What would our community miss out on if our church closed?” Armour, SD

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen, indeed! Alleluia! The text is for Pentecost Sunday is from Acts: “When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them” (Acts 2:1-3)

On this Pentecost Day we celebrate the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the Church and its mission. Jesus on this day fulfills His promise and the Spirit descends upon His disciples and sets them on fire to spread the message of His resurrection to the ends of the world.

Perhaps you have seen the images on TV of the flames of fire that are running wild in the western part of our nation. These flames have devoured homes, property, animals, land and life. These flames have caused havoc and heartache to many. These flames have brought destruction and death. These flames have drained many counties’ budgets. But thanks be to God that we have firefighters and other personnel who come to the aid of those in need.

However, in the text before us today, Dr. Luke speaks of different types of flames that were visible on the heads of the Disciples on Pentecost. These flames are not of death, but of life; not of destruction, but of deliverance. These flames of fire are a blessing and not a burden. These flames don’t cost funds and empty budgets; instead they bring joy and peace to many hearts that are cold and dark. These flames of fire built faith, brought hope to many and revealed the grace of God through the lips of uneducated fishermen from Galilee who shared the greatest message the world needs to hear then and now—the message of Christ’s death and glorious resurrection to liberate them and give them a future with Him.

When the Apostles received the promised Holy Spirit that landed on their heads as tongues of fire—the work of spreading the Gospel began in earnest like a wild fire that is scorching the earth. At first the fire was a little spark. As they spoke in multitude of languages to those gathered in Jerusalem many believed their message. The flames spread in such a way that 3000 souls in one day became followers of Jesus.

The fire jumped from Jerusalem, to Judea, to Samaria, with fervent zeal as each Apostle armed with the power of the Holy Spirit traveled to communicate the message of the grace of God and the salvation Jesus earned.

As they departed neither mountain, valleys, rivers or oceans could hold the tide. They passed the Mediterranean and traveled to Rome. Though many were persecuted the flames got higher and higher that all of Europe was on fire with the message of Jesus and His great accomplishments.

Even the forefathers of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod—the Saxon German immigrants crossed the ocean and came to New Orleans. From New Orleans they went on to St. Louis and to every part of the US and ultimately even Armour, SD. PAUSE.

The Saxon immigrants were on fire. They built schools and churches. Used the Bible as textbook and taught that salvation is only through Jesus Christ alone. They had the logo long before the US Postal adopted it, Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” And they did! They took the message on foot, horseback, wagons, trains, cars and eventually planes. The flames of fires driven by the ever-blowing Spirit of God spread the Good News of Jesus sacrificial death on Calvary’s cross.

In Exodus chapter 3 we behold flames of fire as Moses sees a bush that is on fire but doesn’t burn. God gives him the command to go and tell Egypt to free His people. From that day on the flames of fire burned within Moses’ heart. We see the flames of fire on Resurrection Sunday as Jesus accompanied the Emmaus disciples. After Jesus reveals Himself to them, they respond: “Did not our hearts burn within us while He talked to us on the road, while He opened to us the Scriptures?” (LK. 24:32).

These two Emmaus disciples were indeed on fire. That same night they ran back the 7 miles to Jerusalem without fear of robbers, thieves, wild animals or any danger to communicate the good news that they had seen the Risen Lord, Jesus Christ.

Likewise, we too, need the Scriptures flames of fire to work on our hearts as they did to those who listened to Peter and the other disciples on that first Pentecost Sunday. We need the working of the Holy Spirit to ignite, fire us up and keep us involved in spreading the glorious story of our salvation. Do the flames of our church affect our community? Do your flames affect our community? PAUSE.

Last night, I returned from the NE District visit. While visiting the District I was a presenter in the “Prairie Fire” event. When I invited to be a speaker, I asked how this name came about. This is what I was told:

“The name ‘Prairie Fire’ was thought up by some staff members of the Nebraska District as an ‘Ablaze’ event in 2004. Our promotional materials featured the title and the following taglines: ‘Like a fire sweeping across the prairie, we pray the Spirit will use this event to ignite many of God’s people for ministry and mission’ and ‘Igniting hearts to make God known across Nebraska.’

People were invited to come and be resourced and re-ignited for ministry and mission in their congregations and throughout their communities, a focus we have kept this year.” PAUSE.

By the grace of God, we who have received the gift of the Holy Spirit in Baptism have the same power at work in our lives. We have been ignited to spread the flames of fire of the Gospel to all people. Fire has lots of power, it kills and it brings to life. When I came to Armour, I went to visit one of our members who is a farmer. As I drove up to the farm I noticed all along the fence line was fire burning. I asked “Why?” His response, “We have to get rid of the old so the new grass comes up.”

Beloved saints, as we gather week in and week out, more fuel is put on the fire. The fuel of God’s Word and His precious Sacrament. As we hear the Word and dine at His table we are given the energy to do the work of ministry. We are re-ignited and like a wild fire that spreads across the prairie we take with us the message of hope and help, life and love, salvation and forgiveness and share it with others.

In this place the Lord makes His flames of fire burn in your hearts so that others may see those flames and be on fire too. God grant the Gospel flames to continue to burn in our hearts forever. Amen.

Now the peace…


“The Heart of Jesus!” (John 17:9)

S-1435 7SOE/3A 6/01/2014 Hymns: (O) #216; (S) #219; (C) #221

Texts: Acts 1:12-26; 1 Peter 4:12-19; 5:6-11; John 17:1-11

Theme: “The Heart of Jesus!” (John 17:9)

Question: “How would you describe your heart?” Armour, SD

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen, indeed! Alleluia! The text is for the 7th Sunday of Easter is from the Gospel Lesson: “I Am praying for them. I Am not praying for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours” (John 17:9).

Beloved, precious, beautiful and adored children of the heavenly Father, in 1997 a movie hit the big screen called the Titanic. The story is not only of the sinking of the ship but also the illicit love between two passengers. One of them wore a heart-shaped diamond necklace called “The Heart of the Ocean” which belonged to King Louis 16th and which he wore on the day of his execution in 1793. Though the diamond that was worn by Rose in the movie is fictional, yet after the success of the movie two London-based jewelers Asprey & Garrard created an authentic “Heart of the Ocean necklace” using the original design. The result was a platinum-set, 171-carat (34.2 g) heart-shaped Ceylonsapphire surrounded by 103 diamonds. The necklace was valued at $20 million.

However, today, what we have in the Gospel of St. John is not the fictional story of diamond- studded heart; but the faithful and true story of the heart of God’s only Son, Jesus the Christ. The story that John tells us this morning has a greater value than $20 million because it reveals the heart of Jesus and what He was willing to endure to liberate us from the prison of sin.

The saying is true: “The eyes are the window of the soul.” Today, through the words of John we get to see the heart of Jesus. All of Scripture reveals to us God’s heart. His heart demonstrates how much He cares for His people and reveals how much He loves us. His heart is one that gives us a glimpse into the inner chambers of His thoughts towards His creation—you and me.

In these words of prayer, Jesus reveals His true heart. This isn’t just Jesus being the emotional guy who wears His heart on His sleeve. No there is so much more going on! In these words Jesus reveals that His heart is set on two things: Glorifying the Father and Caring for those who follow Him.

It was the Heart of the Father that caused Jesus to be in a position to pray the prayer that is before us today. He was broken hearted at the prospect of losing you and me for eternity because of our sin. That would not do. So from the foundations of the world the Father was willing to send His very Heart, His One and only Son, into the world to do what we could never do, that is keep His Law perfectly, bear up under its burden, die and then rise. In this action of Jesus He shows us the true heart of God. PAUSE.

It is this heart of God that shows us what true glory really is. This is the glory that Jesus makes known to us. Glory is not about gleaming crowns and cushy thrones. Glory is not about having notoriety or fame. Real glory, the glory that our Lord treasures and exemplifies, is a self-less glory. Jesus knows what this glory costs. I glorified You on earth, having accomplished the work that You gave Me to do. And now, Father, glorify Me in Your own presence with the glory that I had with You before the world existed. He selflessly lived, selflessly taught and was on His way to selflessly die for you and for me. There is no greater glory in all of creation than the glory that comes at the very moment when Jesus allowed His holy heart to stop beating on that day we call Good Friday. The cross is our Lord’s ultimate glory.

But that glory is for others. First it is in response to the Father. That is why this prayer starts the way it does. But there are others on our Lord Jesus’ heart as well as He prays these words. You are on His heart. A heart that could well be so heavy with the burden He was in the process of bearing on our behalf is made light because He is going to face it all for you! Only a heart full of love can be so consumed. This is the very heart of Jesus!

The heart of Jesus continues to be filled with this kind of love for you and for me. What Jesus prays for in this wonderful prayer is being answered for us even today! I Am praying for them. I Am not praying for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours. All mine are Yours. PAUSE.

Here in this place, we, His 21st century disciples see and hear Jesus’ heart. Jesus’ conversation with the Father is especially compelling: It’s about us! Yes, you and me sitting in this place called Redeemer Lutheran Church of Armour, SD. And the heart of our Savior is that we know God. John invites us to pull up a chair and listen attentively not simply to words, but the Words from the Word made flesh.

As we eaves drop on the conversation of Jesus, we hear Him asking the Father to glorify the Son for the purpose of glorifying the Father. Jesus seeks no other glory than the glory of the Father! Everything that Jesus did was to bring glory and honor to the One who sent Him into the world to redeem the world. Every word spoken by Jesus was to draw the disciples the world over to see the love of God for His precious children—even you.

We desperately need to be here exposed to this heart of Jesus! Our human heart, so greatly corrupted with sin is so easily turned in on itself. Of ourselves, we could not ever pray that prayer that Jesus prayed for us. We don’t know how to be selfless. From our earliest days in this world it is clear that the human heart is about itself. Our heart desires what pleases us. We want what we want, when we want it. It is this sinful self-centeredness that severed our relationship with God in the Garden. That same self-centeredness still ruins relationships to this day. Centered on self, our heart cannot be at peace with God, our neighbors or creation. Even among us Christians this self-centeredness comes through loud and clear. We want to worship Jesus in a style that suits us.

We truly have a golden gem in these words of John because they show us the heart of Jesus. From His heart flow His desires for all of God’s creation. First, He wants the world to know the truth that He is the Only WAY to the Father. Second, He wants them to know that He will protect them from every enemy—especially the devil. And finally He has set them apart to tell the world of His great and unconditional Sacrifice on the cursed tree of the cross. PAUSE.

Saints in Christ, when the Titanic embarked on her maiden voyage in 1912, the world was filled with hope and awe. In just a few short days those emotions turned to horror and grief. However, when the Savior embarked on His journey almost 2000 years ago, He came to bring hope and joy to all of those who lived under the burden of grief and horror. And He gave them that hope as He permitted some to hang Him on the cross and cause His heart to stop beating. But that is not the end of the story. Three days later He rose from the grave and forty days later He ascended to heaven and promised to return to take us to be with Him.

Some of you know that this past week we held our VBS. The theme was based on Ephesians 2:8-9 “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” Here lies the heart of God. He reveals it in His Son. Each child received a t-shirt with this message (show the shirt. It is blue with life line of white and center of a cross) “Jesus saves our souls” and He has and always will!

The VBS students along with their teachers put together this banner that talks about the heart of Jesus that teaches us the truth of our HOPE: “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure” (Hebrews 6:19 NIV).

By the grace of God alone, we have seen the heart of Jesus, His love for us and His unconditional sacrifice in saving us from the punishment of hell. Thanks be to the One who reveals His heart to us now and always. Amen.

Now the peace…


Theme: “He is NOT in Retirement!” (Ephesians 1:18-20)

S-1434 AD/3A 5/29/2014 Hymns: (O) #341 vs. 1-3; (S) #381; L.S.#213; (C) #341 vs. 4-6

Texts: Acts 1:1-11; Ephesians 1:16-23; Luke 24:44-53

Theme: “He is NOT in Retirement!” (Ephesians 1:18-20)

Question: “Are you counting the day to retire?” Armour, SD

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen, indeed! Alleluia! The text is for our Ascension observance and celebration is from the Epistle Lesson: “…Having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which He has called you, what are the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His great might that He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 1:18-20).

Beloved children of the heavenly Father, as we grow older many of us (myself included) look forward to the day we retire. We look forward to and sometimes even long for the day when we no longer have to wake up to the sound of the alarm clock. We don’t have to dress for work, and we don’t have to face the drudgery of the day. When we retire we will have the pleasure to sleep as long as we want, do what we want—Travel, go fishing, golfing and just have a leisure life. The time of work is done and the time of relaxation has begun. Retirement is a wonderful period in someone’s life to enjoy. And they should.

However, let us be clear that the Savior of mankind didn’t go into retirement as He ascended into heaven. He is not sleeping or snoozing. On the contrary, He is working even now just as He did when He walked the dusty roads of earth. The Apostle Paul teaches us in the text for this evening, though God raised Him [Jesus] from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places” He is still involved in our lives.

Paul, in the book of Roman speaks of Christ’s State of Exaltation saying: “…Christ Jesus is the One who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us” (8:34). Yes, the Lord Jesus Christ in His Ascension continues to care for His little lambs. As He seated at the right of God, pleads with His heavenly Father to always look at us with mercy and fill us with His grace continually. He continually asks the Father in heaven to forgive us our sins for His sake. He is at work even now. PAUSE.

In the teaching of Catechism we speak of Jesus as being anointed for three different Offices: Prophet, Priest and King. These Offices were not only carried out and fulfilled while He was on earth, but even now He is still fully Man and God and uses all of His powers to continue fulfilling these offices for us.

As a Prophet He preached the Word and continues even today to preach the Word through His ministers. He is the Prophet who promised to send the Holy Spirit to guide and guard us on our way. As a Prophet He warns us of the danger ahead and grants us the wisdom to follow Him.

As a Priest, He fulfilled the demand of the Law by offering Himself as the ultimate sacrifice on our behalf. And now as the exalted Priest He continues to bring our petitions and requests before God.

As a King, He, the Exalted Christ rules over the whole Universe by His mighty power. He governs and orders the whole world to live under Him. He protects us from every calamity and keeps us in His loving and gracious arms.

Certainly Christ is not in retirement; He is still at work for us and on our behalf. He is working in our behalf to do what we promised to do but don’t. We have said and confessed we are His witnesses, but don’t always give a good witness. We have promised to support the ministry of the Gospel with our gifts of time, talents and treasures; but more often than not we hoard everything. We have said we will pray to Him on behalf of others, but how quickly, we, out of fear that we won’t be given enough by God to make it through the day let alone through retirement become lazy, self-consumed and just plain forget; so often that we don’t fulfill these promises.

While this may be true of you and me, it is most certainly NOT true of Jesus! While He was on earth He fulfilled the requirements of the Law even to the point of death-death on a cross. Then on the third day He rose from the grave. 40 days later He left the disciples and commissioned them to go to the ends of the earth sharing His story of salvation so that others might be His followers.

Now as the Exalted Christ, He is crowned with glory and honor. Angels worship Him and jump at His every command. Now He always uses His Divine Power to meet our needs of body and soul. Though He is no longer living on earth in a way that is visible to the human eye, He is and always will be with us to grant us the joy of living for Him forever and ever.

Before He ascended into heaven, He promised to come back to take us to be with Him. The room He has promised His Disciples both then and now in the Upper Room are all ready for that grand day when He will come back in all His glory, majesty and honor to take us to be where He is! That will not be for a short time. It will be forever!

Therefore, know the truth and hold it dear. Ascension Day is the coronation celebration of the Lord as He is proclaimed to be King of the universe. Jesus’ ascension to the Father is His entrance to the greater existence beyond the confines of time and space, being no longer bound by the limitations of His state of humiliation. Jesus now sits at the right hand of God, which Luther correctly taught is everywhere, having again taken up the power and authority that was His since before time. Yet our Lord is present with us who remain bound by time and space. He is with us as true God and true man, exercising His Lordship in the Church through the Means of Grace that He established, His Word and His Sacraments. We mortals in these Means of Grace can taste and see the King of the universe and receive a foretaste of the feast to come.

This evening as we observe the Ascension, we give thanks to the One who suffered, died, rose on the third day and intercedes in heaven for us; and will soon return to take us home. What joy awaits all of those who bow the knee before Him who rules the Universe and cares for her as a Prophet, Priest and King forever in the order of Melchizedek. Amen.

Now the peace of God…