Sunday, July 26, 2015

“I Am Confident!” (Phil. 1:1-6) FAREWELL SERMON to the saints in Armour, SD

S-1509 9SAP/3B 7/26/2015 Hymns: (O) #20; (S) #464; L.S. #292; 201; #339; #43 SOD (C) #47

Texts: Isaiah 52:7-10; Philippians 1:1-6; John 10:1-10

Theme: “I Am Confident!” (Phil. 1:1-6)

Question: “What is it that gives you confidence?


Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! The text for the 9th Sunday after Pentecost and my farewell message is from my favorite book in the Bible, the book of JOY—Philippians. “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am CONFIDENT of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:3-6).


Beautiful and Beloved people of God, you who are His SEGOULA = that is, His treasured possession, loved and precious in my sight but more importantly in His; rest in the confidence of Christ’s cross and empty tomb. This sermon is one of the hardest I have ever written and even harder to preach—because it is heart-wrenching to say farewell after 21 years of being your under-shepherd and caring for your needs.

Since I have been with you as your called pastor, I have been privileged and blessed to spend 7672 days, 1096 Sundays, and by the grace of God I have preached 1383 sermons. Through it all you have listened, received the admonitions and exhortations with joy (maybe not the admonitions). You have grown in your walk of faith and been nurtured through the eternal Gospel that I was so privileged to share with you. You did all of this not because of me, but because it is ALL, and always only about Jesus. He is the author and the finisher of your faith.

In this holy house everything that has been done, has been done to show you the face of Jesus, the heart of Jesus, the love of Jesus, the compassion of Jesus, the death and resurrection of Jesus. For it is ALL about Jesus. Through it all you listened, you pondered and you took the words to heart and shared them with others. I could not be more humbled, nor more proud of how you have received the Gift that is Jesus!

In this sacred place, I remember well holding some of your children in my arms and baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. I remember fondly the private communion we shared. I rejoice in giving you the forgiveness from the lips of Jesus. I remember well the e-mails saying, “Pastor, thank you for this message, I NEEDED TO HEAR THAT!” And I also remember a particular e-mail message of one saint whom I had spent a year catechizing. The message read: “Pastor, I finally understand what grace IS!” This is all the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of His people in this place.

It hasn’t always been a smooth journey. We haven’t always seen eye to eye on things. We have gotten into disagreements. But we never let these disagreements get in the way of the Good Shepherd. We came together as brothers and sisters in Christ and asked for mutual forgiveness. You were gracious to forgive and we continued to work together to spread the Gospel. That is ministry par excellence. PAUSE.

21 years ago (this past Friday, 7/24/1994) I was installed as your pastor to bring you the message of hope and help and point you to what awaits you—eternity with the Lamb who was slain, dead but is alive forevermore. You took a young man—green behind the ears and taught him with confidence what it means to be a pastor. You in word and deed demonstrated the fellowship we have together as the blood-bought of God. You are the ones who have molded me and shaped me to be the man of God I am today. I owe you a debt of gratitude and appreciation for your patience while I fumbled through learning what it means to be a pastor, forgiving me my many shortcomings and loved me just the same. How I thank my God upon my every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy.

Throughout the past 21 years together as Pastor and People we have laughed together, cried together, celebrated together and rejoiced together because of what Christ has done for us on Calvary’s cross and the way He used us to spread His glorious news of power over sin, death and the grave in spite of us. This is the confidence that the Apostle Paul shared with the saints at Philippi saying, “And I am CONFIDENT of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” This is the same CONFIDENCE that has been at work among us and will continue to be carried out long after I am gone from among you, because it is ALL about Jesus. That word, “Confidence” is from the Latin, Con = with, and Fide = Faith. It is with calm assurance the Faithful Shepherd is ever leading and keeping you that I can and do now commend you into His care, as He brings you a new under-shepherd, under Grace to serve and love and tend you.

As I reflect back on the grace of God, I am speechless and awe-struck that God in His mercy would permit me to be YOUR pastor. Oh, the joy that fills my heart because of you and your service to the Lord. Tears run down my cheeks as I think of your partnership in the Gospel, your love for us (my whole family) and the ministry we were able to carry out together. PAUSE.

Beautiful and Beloved people of God, you who are His SEGOULA = that is, His treasured possession, loved and precious in my sight but more importantly in His; I remember well the night I got the call to be your pastor. As I stood with my colleagues at the chapel of St. Timothy and Titus @ Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, my name was called out (I am weeping as I am writing this) Nabil Subhi Nour, SD District, Armour, SD. I was shocked to hear that I was going back to my home state.

The irony is I had never heard of Armour or known anything about it. As I was walking out from the Divine Service, my oldest son, Tony, grabbed my call document envelope and I didn’t see it till about 10. When I finally looked at it, I read that I needed to call the chairman and let him know that they have a pastor. A little after 10 I called, and Mr. Gordon Wunder answered. I said, “This is pastor-elect Nabil Nour, I am answering your call to be your pastor!” He responded, “I am not interested I don’t want to buy anything from you!” He was about to hang up. I raised my voice saying, “Please don’t hang up! I am not trying to sell you anything; I am simply informing you that I am the new pastor that received the call from the saints at Redeemer!” I now laugh at that conversation and the joy that filled my heart ever since.

But I have also wept with you folks. As I stood with you by the bedside of your loved ones and the doctor said: “I am sorry; there is nothing we can do! It is cancer!” We would hug, weep and share a word of prayer together. I have been with you as we lowered the casket into the earth of one you love so dearly who has been claimed through the curse of sin, and comforted you with the glorious resurrection that Christ has earned for us.

This is the confidence we have—a confidence that is rooted and grounded in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. After all, it is ALL about Jesus and Jesus ONLY. This is the confidence that no matter how the future holds, we know we will see each other again because Jesus has promised there is eternal resurrection to those who believe in Him as Lord and Savior.

Though my ministry among you will come to an end today, know that the ministry we have together will never end until the Lord Jesus Christ returns in glory to take us to be with Him. While we separate, we continue in confident hope to point others to Jesus and His great accomplishments through His suffering, humiliation, death on Calvary’s cross and resurrection from the grave on the third day—which guarantees our own resurrection. PAUSE.

Beautiful people of God, you who are His saints, as I think of our time together there is only joy in my heart and praise on my lips for His kindness and graciousness to use us in a way that the fellowship of the Gospel might go forth to the ends of the earth and others come to know Him as their Lord and Savior. This is our confidence today and always.

This is the joy and blessing the Lord of the Church gives to us. Together through the mercy of God and the working of the Holy Spirit we have made disciples by teaching the young and the old. We have over the past 21 years sent some of our beloved saints to heaven knowing that we will see them again. Add to this, so far this year, with your help and work, we have had 9 Adult confirmands as we continue to make disciples who will follow the Lamb till the end of days. To that we say, THANK YOU JESUS FOR WORKING AMONG US. All of this is the confidence that the Lord is at work in us and through us in spite of us. We have this confidence because the Good Shepherd leads us and guides us.

This doesn’t mean that our ministry is done as we go our separate ways. On the contrary the ministry will continue here and everywhere until the end of time. Therefore, I encourage you to remain steadfast, unmovable and laboring in the work of the Lord—for it is the highest privilege to be partners in the Gospel of Jesus Christ and share His victory with the world who so desperately needs Him today and in the unknown future. Furthermore, even as Joshua was to take the reigns for Moses in leading God’s people, this was the Word of the Lord to the Children of Israel (Duet. 31:8). “It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; He will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” Do, have confidence, you who are His beloved, the sheep who know His voice!”


So then beautiful and beloved people of God—you the saints of Redeemer Lutheran Church of Armour, SD; with all the more confidence, let’s look to the road ahead with hope and joy. Indeed, let’s not be deceived by doubts and the wily schemes of the devil—our arch enemy. Though we go our separate ways there will be challenges that you and I will face. What will the future bring? Will we have a pastor who will love and lead us? Who will teach our young and who will help us continue to spread the Gospel? Through it all, look to the Lord of the Church Jesus Christ. He will not abandon you or forsake you. He will at the right time in His Divine wisdom bring to you a shepherd who will love and lead you. This is the confidence we have in Him, because He will never neglect His church nor His sheep.

Therefore don’t lose heart, but by the power of the Holy Spirit, cling to the promise of Christ Your Savior, Your true and faithful Good Shepherded. The Apostle Paul shares these words of encouragement with us. “But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one. And we have confidence in the Lord about you, that you are doing and will do the things that we command. May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ” (2 Thess. 3:3-5). Wonderful words to remember during this transitional time in our lives as Pastor and People.

Remember please, the mercy of the Lord has no end! It is new every morning; and His faithfulness is great. Therefore with great confidence we look to the future with hope and go on our way rejoicing, as the Eunuch did after he was baptized (Acts 8:39) by Philip. Yes, immediately after the teaching and the Baptism, Philip was removed from the sight of the Ethiopian Eunuch, and this eunuch having received the gift of God through the waters of Baptism was filled with joy and went on His way rejoicing and so do we. I will no longer be your pastor, but will forever hold you in my heart. As brothers and sisters in Christ, with hope and confidence we wait His glorious return to take us to be with Him forever. This is our mutual confidence, for He alone is our Confidence now and always! Amen and Amen.


Now the peace…

Sunday, July 19, 2015

“Be Careful in How You Live?”

S-1508 8SAP/3B 7/19/2015 Hymns: (O) #16; (S) #333; (C) #47

Texts: Jeremiahs 23:1-6; Ephesians 2:11-22; Mark 6:30-44

Theme: “Be Careful in How You Live?” (Jeremiahs 23:5-6)

Question: “Do you care what others think of you?”


Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! The text for the 8th Sunday after Pentecost is from the O.T. reading: “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness’” (Jeremiahs 23:5-6).


Beautiful and Beloved people of God, a long time ago someone gave me this sign (Show) that has been hanging in my office. The sign reads: “Be careful how you live—you may be the only Bible some people read.” This is so true for all time! But now more than ever, we, Christians need to pay close attention in how we live and act in the public square. It is so vital for us to be in the ways of the Lord and give witness to His life-giving Word. While our good deeds do not save us, while we in no way earn our salvation, knowing that indeed, the Lord, He is our Righteousness, our being made right, pure, whole, complete – our Restoration to that which was lost in Eden. With that gift, we are indeed equipped to live in the light of His merciful victory! So often we downplay the full victory of Christ on the Cross! That is why I greeted you with the Easter Greeting: “Christ is Risen! He is Risen, Indeed! Alleluia!”

With that as our backdrop, we can look at our witness in and to the world, our witness to Christ’s victory on the Cross! Yes, we have seen a major shift in the world in general, and our country in particular. So many people no longer hold to the truth of Scripture. No longer do they believe that God is God and Jesus is His heaven-sent Savior. No longer do they adhere to the truth taught in the Bible. But raise themselves above God and His mighty Word.

Things continue to deteriorate in our world. We see evidence of this all over. On Thursday we heard again of the evil that was unleashed on the four US Marines and one US Sailor who were brutally murdered in the name of that liar and false god of Islam in Chattanooga, TN. We just heard of the Jury’s decision of James Holmes who 3 years ago walked into a Colorado theater and killed 12 people and injured 76 others. We have seen Bruce Jenner change his physique from a man to a woman saying he likes himself better this way. In essence, he said, “God made a mistake when He made me!” And if this not bad enough, the media on Wednesday (7/15) honored Bruce Jenner or whatever you want to call him/her “Caitlyn” with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the ESPYs.

Indeed, the world we live in has lost its moral compass. Now anything goes because God is no longer the Supreme God, but instead He has been pushed out of the lives of people who have elevated themselves above Him. How sad is this! Still, the Lord, He is our Righteousness, and that righteousness shines now through His Christians, through you and me, shining brightly in this darkened world!

So then, if ever there is a time for us as Christians to live and give witness that we are followers of Jesus, it is now. Now more than ever, we the minority must speak in love and truth who this God is and what His Son has accomplished for us on Calvary’s cross. And yet, with the minority of One dead corpse on a Roman Cross about 2,000 years ago, He won the victory. “Christ is Risen! He is Risen, Indeed! Alleluia!” PAUSE.

Let this truth sink into your heads and hearts. There is BIG difference between living for yourself or living in the reality of your Savior and His victory. There is a mega difference if you only think of yourself and not others. So many people are serving the gods of this world. Just this week I heard a lady who had cosmetic surgery saying: “Nobody is going to hold me back in getting what I want out of my life. THIS IS MY LIFE AND I WANT TO LIVE IT THE WAY I WANT TO!”

This is the problem the Lord God addresses in the text before us through the prophet Jeremiah. God warns the unfaithful shepherds of the imminent disaster that is coming because they have NOT held to the truth, taught the truth and lived by the truth. God warns of the demise of all these people, the unfaithful, the ungrateful and the untrue under-shepherds. He then offers Christ, the Righteous Branch, the Lord, our Righteousness!

The problem of unfaithful shepherds, and deep confusion and darkness in the hearts and lives of folks is not limited to these leaders but to us also. Many parents neglect their responsibilities and let their children do what they want to do. Too often, even in the Church of God, His Bride is unfaithful - We are no longer holding the Word of God before them as the compass for all of life. We have given up our role of leadership in the home, in church and in the community and have permitted the world to take over and affect how we live and what is right only in their eyes. Why don’t we stand up and live as the confessors and followers of Jesus? Why don’t we teach ourselves and our families what Scripture has to say about sin and its consequences? Why do we close our eyes about the evil around us without saying a word? PAUSE.

Beautiful and Beloved people of God, the time is now for us to live the right way that is from and in His Righteousness, as a “twig” growing from the Righteous Branch who is Christ and thereby reflecting the truth that we are the Baptized, the Redeemed, the Forgiven, the Blood-bought and the Heaven-bound children of God. Now is the time for us to live carefully and be the Bible that people read! Because sadly many don’t know what is in the Bible. They have been duped by the devil’s wily schemes and lies, like our first parents were. We should, by the power of the Holy Spirit be vigilant calling out to the Savior who died and rose for us to be His true and faithful followers.

Listen carefully please to the words of St. Paul as he encourages the saints in Ephesus with this admonition, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:15-17), and again to the Church at Galatia: “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another” (Galatians 5:16). Truer words could not be spoken for the times we live in.

Beautiful and Beloved people of God, today through the prophet Jeremiah God gives us this eternal promise: “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness’” He has done that already and fulfilled this promise in the gift of His Son—Jesus Christ.

Jesus is the Faithful Shepherd who would lay down His life for the lost sheep—you and me. He is the Faithful Shepherd who died for the sake of those who ignored His Word and lived according to the world. He is the True and Faithful Shepherd who even today calls you to hear His voice and come to Him and receive the blessings He offers you.

God kept His promise by sending His Son Jesus. He is the One who has dealt wisely with us and bids us come to Him, fear and trust Him above all things. He is the Lord our righteousness who makes us righteous by taking our sins from us and giving us His holiness so that we may not spend eternity in hell but with Him in the incarnate joy of the resurrection. He is the God who in our Baptismal Grace calls us back in His Righteousness. This Baptismal reality, that sinners like you and me can be brought back. This is a clear witness to the power of the Cross and Empty Tomb. This is the witness of Easter that Christ is Risen, He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! Yes, you are perhaps the first or only Gospel that someone will read. You have been redeemed by the Lord who is Your Righteousness. Branches grow and reach out and offer shade and food. He who is our Righteous Branch is working through you in this horridly dark and dead world. Go forth then, beloved of the Lord and be careful, that is full of care, His care, about how you live!

Yes, in this Holy house we—you and I have attempted to do everything we can to live carefully and faithfully for the sake of Christ and His blood-bought people. And pray we remain steadfast in the confession of faith given us through the Great Shepherd of the sheep—Jesus Christ.

Therefore, may our prayers be that we would continue to live our lives carefully to be the Bible that people read and give glory to God alone. Amen.

Please join me in a word of prayer: “Great God, never can we thank You enough for the privilege of calling You our Father. Your love in making us unlovely ones Your children in Christ staggers our minds. Give us, we ask You, the richness of Your Holy Spirit, who is the Spirit of prayer, and let Him forever move us to look up to You in childlike trust, to tell everyone what You have accomplished for us on Calvary’s cross and the empty tomb. In the name of the Righteous branch—Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.”

Now the peace…


Sunday, July 12, 2015

“Speaking Without Fear” (Amos 7:12-15)

S-1507 7SAP/3B 7/12/2015 Hymns: (O) #4; (S) #451; L.S. #296; #307; #312 (C) #47

Texts: Amos 7:7-15; Ephesians 1:3-14; Mark 6:14-29

Theme: “Speaking Without Fear” (Amos 7:12-15)

Question: “Do you feel comfortable to speak your mind at a voter’s assembly?”


Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! The text for the 7th Sunday after Pentecost is from the O.T. reading: “And Amaziah said to Amos, ‘O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, and eat bread there, and prophesy there, but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom.’ Then Amos answered and said to Amaziah, I was no prophet, nor a prophet’s son, but I was a herdsman and a dresser of sycamore figs. But the Lord took me from following the flock, and the Lord said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to My people Israel’” (Amos 7:12-15).


Precious children of the heavenly Father, because we live in a broken and sinful world, all of us experience fear. When we are afraid of something, our skin becomes pale, our hands begin to sweat, and our hearts begin to beat faster. Each of us are afraid of something. Some are afraid of the dark, drowning, big dogs, being alone, abandoned, snakes, going into an elevator and the like. These fears are real. One of the greatest fear people have is speaking in public.

Because we are fearful, we freeze up, we perspire, and we become dehydrated, and begin to look for a way out of the situation. The devil loves it when we are in these conditions because we are held captives.

But today, listen to the voice of Your gracious and merciful God who comforts you with His promises: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord Your God is with you wherever you go” (Josh. 1:9), “Fear not, for I Am with you; be not dismayed, for I Am Your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10), “But now thus says the Lord, He who created you, O Jacob, He who formed you, O Israel: ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are Mine’” (Isaiah 43:1), Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32), Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!” (John 12:15), and “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me” (John 14:6).

These promises are the anchor for the troubled and fearful soul of the Christian man and woman. With these promises we know that God is with us and will guide us to walk in His ways without fear or trepidation. PAUSE.

That is precisely the message before us today from the prophet Amos. God had called Him to speak on His behalf. He was sent to the house of Israel to prophecy to them. This is very similar to the words of the prophet Ezekiel from last week’s O.T. Lesson: “Son of man, I send you to the people of Israel, to nations of rebels, who have rebelled against Me. They and their fathers have transgressed against Me to this very day. The descendants also are impudent and stubborn: I send you to them, and you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God’” (Ezekiel 2:3-4).

The Lord in mercy sent out His prophets telling them not to be afraid to speak the truth in love in spite of what the world thinks. He who created the tongue and mouth equips us to speak on His behalf without fear. As the Lord God Almighty used the prophets and disciples of old, so He uses us to speak without fear.

I know it is a challenge for us to speak of our faith or to wear our faith on our sleeves. At times we are afraid of what other people think of our Christian belief. We don’t want to rock the boat so to speak. But speak we must. We must call sin for what it is. And by grace we also speak of the sweet Gospel that Jesus provides for us.

This past week there was a FB post from one of our saints that stated: “Today I am just feeling thankful. This weekend our family of three made memories as we were able to spend our time together alongside our extended families. We all have our own battles but did you know that our Lord can make oceans from the rain? His love is everlasting! Jim, Brody, and I are extremely blessed! Sometimes it’s just the little things. Have a blessed week everyone.”

I responded saying: “Saint Stacy, thank you for your witness to the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ in your life. You are a blessing.” And it was followed by another post from this saint: “You had a sermon one Sunday about witnessing our faith. I heard it. {Emphases mine} I am getting more confident about doing it face to face. I know not everyone may LIKE my images or my songs or just my thoughts, but maybe it helps someone, somewhere. You inspired me to be more than I was. So grateful!” PAUSE.

I am thankful to the Lord for a saint who is willing to speak up without fear of what Christ has done for them. I pray that all of us here would be that letter or post to those around us. Yes, it is fearful to stand up in public and speak about the love of Jesus Christ and the gift of Salvation He has earned for you on the cross of Calvary. Yes, it is terrifying to be told you are old fashioned we don’t want to listen to you. But by the grace of God, hear His Word and the promise “Fear NOT I Am with you wherever you go and whatever you do.”

As the Lord God almighty appointed Amos whose name means “Born of God” so too, have we been born of God. In Baptism we were born again to a new life. It is a life of speaking of the grace of God given us through His Son on the cross of Calvary. In this life we speak and we share and we tell the world what Christ endured to pay for all of their sins—yours and mine. Through the working of the Holy Spirit we are given the words to speak just at the right time.

The heaven-sent Savior taught us this blessed truth: “And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges Me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God, but the one who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God… And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say (Luke 12:8-12).

What a blessing it is to know that we are not on our own. Our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ will accompany us on this journey of life. He who went to the cross and the empty tomb is here today with us. He is here at Bethel (Hebrew) “the house of God” in His Word and Sacrament. He is here to strengthen us for the journey of confessing and speaking of His love to a loveless and empty world. But He does more. He is the One who speaks to His Father on our behalf. He is the One who says to His Father, “I have purchased this child with My own blood! I have paid the price! I have done all that is necessary to earn them a place in heaven with You loving Father! They are born into Your family and will live under Your grace forever and ever.”

My brothers and sisters in Christ, as the Lord Almighty sent out Amos, Paul, and others giving them power from on high, so He sends us out to this world filled with sin and hate and gives us the privilege of sharing the greatest story ever told—the story of our redemption, the story of our salvation and the story of our life in the palm of His hands—the palms that were pierced for our sins.

Therefore, in the name of Christ who bore you on His outstretched arms, I encourage you to do what the Lutheran Hour Speaker, the Rev. Gregory Seltz who in His sermon to the LWML in Des Moines, Iowa said: “Let Christ live in you, so they can see God in all you do. There will be people in heaven, because they got to know you.”

Saints in Christ, the prophet Amos listened to the voice of God and spoke without fear to all. May He who dwells in us and with us, use us today and always to speak of Him without fear. Amen.

Now the peace…


Tuesday, July 7, 2015



Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent His only Son into the world, so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and His love is perfected in us (1 John 4:7-12).

As I write this message, the debate regarding the Supreme Court decision in defining marriage handed down on Friday (July 26), is raging in the coffee shops, work places, homes, restaurants, and in all form of the media. Similar to the story of Bruce Jenner who no longer wanted to remain what God created him to be. Some of these debates are calm and others turbulent. I understand all of us have passion in how we feel about this topic.

Love wins. We have seen these words in social media and in print all over the place since Friday. Words by nature are amoral. They don’t have any intrinsic moral usage apart from their context. This means words are neither moral nor immoral in and of themselves. However, context changes the morality of these words for better or for worse. If we were to use the words love wins in the context of the cross and empty tomb of Christ, no truer form of sweet Gospel could be heard. However, the words love wins as they have been used since Friday could not be farther from the truth of the Word of God.

Love wins only if it is in accordance to the inspired Word of the Lord through His Apostle Paul: “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7). Love is always looking out to the other person’s benefit.

Yet, on Friday, the Supreme Court rendered a decision that, while not surprising, has forever changed the landscape of the way in which the Church will operate for the sake of the Gospel. Since that ruling there has been much ink spilled, many hours on the radio and TV have been pondered as to what this changed decision means. There are those who say that this will change nothing except giving liberty to those who didn’t have it before. On the other end of the spectrum there are those who feel that the sky is falling and that “our opponents” will be coming with their lawyer, pitchforks and torches later today to visit us.

As is often the case, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. What is worse, at this point in time there isn’t anyone who can accurately predict what will happen as a result. Anyone who tries is a false prophet or a liar. Both are to be rejected. There are some eventualities that we, as followers of Jesus in general and congregations in particular will have to consider how we move forward. At Redeemer, we saw this coming and have made some changes to our wedding policies, bylaws and other entities in the months leading up to this decision. As the dust begins to settle out legally, we may need to make other changes as well. This is yet to be seen.

However, know this: while we may have to change HOW we do the work of ministry, it will NEVER change the work itself. Before last Friday, there were billions of people on this planet, and more specifically hundreds in our own community who need the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That was long before the Supreme Court ruled. Those same people STILL need Jesus today more than ever! Our mission does not change. I, as a pastor and foot washer, will continue to proclaim the truth of the Word of God and its power as it pertains to Law and Gospel, sin and forgiveness, repentance and new life and grace and salvation. By the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit, we will do this without fear in gentleness and humility. A day may come where there will be civil and criminal penalties for us to speak like this. That day has not yet come. But if it does, you have my word of promise to God and to you that I will speak the truth in love. I will go to jail if need be. I WILL NOT PERFORM ANY WEDDINGS, EXCEPT THOSE BETWEEN A MAN AND A WOMAN! God’s Word and our conscience demand this.

Here is what I ask of you. First, hear the WORD. Know what God says. Don’t settle for thinking you know what God says. Second, pray! The Lord will give you the words you need to say, gently and lovingly. Third, be quick to listen and slow to speak. You may win a greater opportunity to speak the clear truth of the Gospel by being more like Jesus in this way. Finally, don’t be afraid. When people confront you trust in God more than fearing them. This is why St. Paul told young Timothy, For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, 7 for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. (2 Timothy 1: 6-7)

Our world is different. Our ministry is NOT. We will preach Christ crucified. Because in Christ, and only in Christ, Love Wins! His love is real. It is this love that took our Savior to the cross to free us from the bondage of slavery to sin and the deceptive means of the evil one.

Lord, Jesus Christ, help us to be faithful to you now and always.

In Christ’s love and in His service,

Pastor Nabil Nour a Foot Washer