Sunday, September 27, 2015

“Stumbling Around” (Mark 9:38-41)

S-1515 18SAP/3B 9/27/2015 Hymns: (O) #601; (S) #718; LS. #623; #629; #632; (C) #579

Texts: Numbers 11:4-6, 10-16, 24-29; James 5:1-20; Mark 9:38-50

Theme: “Stumbling Around” (Mark 9:38-41)

Question: “Have you ever stumbled?” (5th sermon at Trinity)

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! The text is the Gospel reading. “John said to Him, ‘Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.’ But Jesus said, “Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in My name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of Me. For the one who is not against us is for us. For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward.” (Mark 9:38-41).

Beautiful people of God, travel with me today to a far country. Kindly close your eyes for a few moments and join me as we walk the streets of Jerusalem on Good Friday. I want you to hear the voices of Christ’s condemnation at the prÅ“torium “Crucify Him, Crucify Him!” Come closer and see the soldier’s whip making their marks on His body. Watch closely as they pull His beard, spit on Him, and beat Him. Look closer and see a soldier forming a crown of thorns and driving it into His head. Behold the blood dripping from His body…then, He is forced to carry His cross to the place of crucifixion. As He walks near where you are standing you see Him stumbling around at the massive weight placed upon Him. It is not the weight of the cross, the pain of the whip, the thorns, the beating and bruising; but the weight of the sin of the whole world including you and me. He is walking, stumbling and falling to the ground on His way to be put to death for your sins and mine. (Please don’t open your eyes yet). See Him humbling Himself for you. See Him carrying the cross for you. See Him stumbling for you, ONLY you. He is not dying for the brother next to you. He is not dying for the sister next to you. He is not dying for the worst criminal, thief, rapist, adulterer, or murderer. HE IS DYING FOR YOU—the sinner. Small pause. (you may open your eyes).

In the text before us today we see the disciples stumbling around in their walk of faith. They have been distracted by the devil. And we, His 21st Century followers, are not much different from the proud twelve in the reading before us. These Galilean’s who have been called by Christ to be His disciples to carry on the Gospel mission to the ends of the earth; think they’ve unearthed a scandal and shame. Someone outside their elite circle has been caught in the act. Doing what you say? Sinning? No! He was acting in Jesus’ name (in this case, casting out demons in the name of the Living God). Terrible! We’re the Twelve! That’s our job. That’s our privilege (verse 38).

The Gospel lives and breathes through His Christian. Yes, the wind and the Spirit blows where IT wills (John 3:8). We stumble due to our sin… oh and how He forgives, heals, moves us, moves you to be His blessing. Maybe your calling is to simply receive the gifts given to you by a Medad or and Eldad. Maybe they are to be Medad or Eldad, Moses was clear: I wish that all would so prophesy!

Isn’t that Ironic how in the previous verses of this chapter these Galilean fishermen-turned followers of Jesus, couldn’t remove an unclean spirit from a boy. Now, Mark, the author of the text, tells us they wanted to forbid someone who is doing the same thing, but successfully. Oh how we need to hear the Word of the Cross and receive the risen Savior for sinners like you and me! PAUSE.

Sin is at work in us, oh how we need to close our eyes and hear the lashings inflicted against our Savior! Without those lashings, and without us remembering and knowing the love that was behind them we will certainly act like the apostles in our Gospel, or the 68 who were in the tent of meeting. How often do we act like the disciples? How often do we act as if we are better than someone else? How often do we say, “It is too bad this brother or this sister wasn’t here to hear this sermon?” We think we have the world figured out and we know where we are heading. The devil takes our eyes from Christ and points them upon us, our works and efforts. And thus we stumble around figuring out what we should or shouldn’t do.

So why does our Savior say these harsh things about foot, hand, and eye surgery? Why does He sound so harsh in His tone with the 12? It is because Beloved… they are His Beloved, even as you and I are. He was going to the cross because we really are that selfish. We really are that blind. He knew that only the broken body and shed blood of the Cross would heal. He was removing all self-righteousness. He was leading them up the way to the Cross. His blood for their blood and your blood. His lashes so that we would not know the lashings nor the lasher who is the devil!

Indeed, every time we enter this holy place, we are acknowledging to one another, that we are sinners in need of God’s grace. Every time we come to the Table, we declare that we need the gift of His body and blood to help us remain strong and steady in the faith. Every time we gather

around the Word, we declare to the world and to us that without Christ, we will continue to stumble around.

Yet in this text the man, whom the Twelve had encountered did something beautiful. He was carrying out the message of God’s goodness and kindness to someone in need. He is indeed a follower of Jesus. By the power of the Holy Spirit he is doing the works of the kingdom. What on earth are you doing opposing him, Jesus declares? And so Jesus amplifies this positively and negatively. Positively He says that if you act compassionately (giving a cup of water to a disciple

IN MY NAME, verse 41) that will please God. Negatively, He talks about the perilous danger of causing ‘one of these little ones who believe in [Him]’ to stumble (verse 42).

Note that the ‘little ones’ are those who believe in Jesus. Here the Savior is saying this: you’re in danger of causing a believer to stumble, by trying to prevent him from exercising his God-given gifts of ministry. You won’t let him, as it were, ‘give a cup of water’. Now where does this challenge us? What are the ways in which we might risk causing other disciples to stumble? In what ways do we prevent our brothers and sisters in Christ from exercising their calling? PAUSE.

Every one of us here who is part of the body of Christ, has been given a gift[s] by our gracious Father to serve Him and His people. These gifts are not to be stored, or kept, but to be used to further the Kingdom and spread the glorious good news of Christ’s death and resurrection.

The challenge is this: When someone does something we don’t like, do we cut them down? Rather than accepting that God has given them these gifts do we find fault with them? We think we can do it better or sooner; or not do it at all. Many things cause us to stumble and others too: Jealousy, envy, resentment, mistrust and host of other things.

In this text Jesus opens our eyes to remind us that He has stumbled on our behalf. In carrying the cross to Calvary on our behalf He declares, I have loved you where you are, and through this Cross I will indeed ‘draw all men unto Myself” (John 12:23) so that through My grace you may be where I Am!” This is the meaning of Lexi and Luke’s Baptism and your Baptism and my Baptism. Jesus Christ loves sinners, of which I am chief (1 Timothy 1:15-16). You see, God in our Flesh, Jesus, He doesn’t want you to remain this way, that is, stumbling in your sins and without the sure hope of His gift. It is though He was saying: “I have stumbled so that you don’t have to. I have suffered so you don’t have to. I have endured God’s wrath so you don’t have to. I was crucified, put to death and raised again so that your lives might be redeemed and restored.” Thank God that the Savior of mankind did all of the stumbling for us.

Today, we call upon the Holy Spirit to help us be His gifts of mercy, love and compassion. Today, as we witnessed the miracle of baptism of Luke and Lexi we give thanks that we too, have been baptized. And in that baptism our stumbling has been spoken to by the Name and Promise of our Trinue God, oh yes, and our joy of serving, caring and sharing increases day by day so that all people might receive the GOSPEL of Jesus and live under Him forever and ever. This is the gift of the Cross, of His stumbling up to Golgotha. This is the gift of the Empty Tomb, made vacant today for Luke and Lexi, made vacant for you and me, and all because He stumbled up to that awful Tree. Let us thank Him for His ongoing Mercy. Amen.

Now the peace…


Sunday, September 13, 2015

“A Father’s Heart is Healed” (Mark 9:14-29)

S-1514 16SAP/3B 9/13/2015 Hymns: (O) #725; (S) #728; LS #629; #632; #633; (C) #729

Texts: Isaiah 50:4-10; James 3:1-12; Mark 9:14-29

Theme: A Father’s Heart is Healed” (Mark 9:14-29)

Question: “Does your heart ache when you see injustice?” (5th sermon at Trinity)

(This sermon will be preached in Narrative style. I am dressed as a first century Jew from the Galilee area)

As I stand before you on this glorious day, I declare to you the joy and happiness that fills my heart to overflowing. But it wasn’t always that way. There was a time when my heart was heavy without help or hope. Tears flowed easily every night as I went to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in prayers on behalf of my son…But that was then.

Please forgive my rudeness and interruption in your service today. I should have introduced myself to you. My name is Moshe ben Yohanan, (Moses son of John) and my son whom you heard his story in your Bible reading today is Yaacov ben Moshe, ben Yohanan (Jacob, son of Moses, son of John). My wife Ruth and I were looking forward to having a family. Shortly after our wedding, my wife informed me I am going to be a father and I was happy. We announced it in the Synagogue and our village. All of the elders and neighbors congratulated us on the news and wished us the blessings of the God of Israel upon the new arrival.

But soon that happiness turned to sorrow. Our young toddler was different. Pain filled my heart and life as I watched my Yaacov throw himself into the fire and water. Oh, I tried to help him, but couldn’t. The evil spirit that possessed him almost destroyed his life. I felt helpless against the demons. I took him to every doctor in our village but to no avail. I spent a fortune, but didn’t get any results.

Then one day I heard of a Rabbai from Nazareth by the name of Yeshuah Ha Massiah, (Jesus the anointed One) so I brought my Yaacov to His disciples but they couldn’t help him. Then I brought Him to the Rabbi and that’s when help and hope was offered to me. PAUSE.

I came to this Rabbi pleading to Him to remove the demon from my Yaacov. At the sight of the Rabbi the evil spirit immediately convulsed my son. He fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth.  Then, the Rabbi Yeshuah asked me, “How long has this been happening to him?” I responded, “From childhood. I told Him that often the demon threw him into fire and into water, to destroy him.”

Then, I pleaded, “Rabbi, if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” And Jesus said to me, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” Immediately I cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” To believe in God’s Word is a difficult thing. How challenging it is to trust Him always. How taxing it is to put all of our hopes in Him. We rely so much on our own power to do everything to get ourselves from difficult situations. Add to that, the many obstacles the devil throws at us to doubt God’s Words of love, hope and forgiveness for us sinners. These are struggles I faced, and am sure you face them too. (move to a different location)

But then…then my ears were riveted to His Word and eyes were glued to His touch. In mercy He spoke a loving word and touched my son and restored him to my wife and I. Oh that feeling of joy that flows in my heart. That day I knew that miracles do happen. “That day the Lord delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling; and knew that I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living” (Psalm 116:8-9). That day my heart was healed!

Today, because of the Rabbi from Nazareth, I believe what our Torah taught. I believe that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is the ONLY true God and with Him there is nothing impossible. He can heal, open the eyes of the blind, deliver those who are demon possessed and raise people from the dead. My son Yaacov was one person among many whom this Rabbi touched, healed and restored. PAUSE.

But sadly, not all of our Jewish leaders liked Him. I even heard that when He traveled to Jerusalem, He was captured by the Pharisees’ guards. He was dragged in chains to the High Priest and interrogated illegally, spat upon, beaten mercilessly and condemned to death. I couldn’t believe the news I was hearing. Why? What crime has He committed?…

I never heard anything out of His mouth but kindness. I heard others from our neighboring villages telling of the many kind deeds and miracles He performed. He touched many lives. He even turned water into wine and fed multitudes of people around the Sea of Galilee with five loaves and two fish.

(Look up in disgust and disbelief) At hearing the heart-breaking news that He was sent to Pilate—the Roman governor, who gave the order to crucify Him; my heart ached and almost stopped beating. I still can’t believe the news…It can’t be! He is so kind and caring, loving and merciful, compassionate and gracious. Yet, some hated and wanted Him dead, {raise voice} DEAD, because they were afraid to lose their power over the people.

My heart was heavy again. Tears run down my cheeks and I began to wonder how did His Father feel? (move around and face people) Can you imagine His Father watching His Son being beaten by the Roman soldiers? Can you hear the whip running across His back? Do you hear the pounding of the nails into His hands and feet? Can you see the blood running down and gathering on the dirt beneath His crucified body?

I was sick to my stomach. I felt His Father’s pain. But I heard a report from others who were in Jerusalem saying that even while the Rabbi from Nazareth was on the cross, He showed compassion to His enemies crying out to His Father: “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they do!” (Luke 23:34). After that He said, “Father, into Your hands I commit my spirit” and He died. (Luke 23:46). They lowered His body and some of His secret disciples wrapped Him and laid Him in a tomb. PAUSE.

(Change location and rub my mustache and face).

I still can’t believe the news. It can’t be. But it is true…You know what is even truer. Word had gone out that on the third day, He rose from the grave. Oh, yes, the Jewish leaders were trying to deny it. But I tell you many saw Him and for over 40 days He showed Himself to many.

I then, remembered His Words to my Yaccov when I brought my son to Him so long ago: “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” I then said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” The Holy Spirit helped me believe, grow in walk of faith, and trust Him more than ever. Faith had taken hold of me and my heart was made sure that this Rabbi is truly God’s own Son who came into the world to take away our sins.

Our prophet Isaiah put it this way, “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth” (Is. 53:4-7).

Today, I stand before you and tell you the true story of a father’s heart that was healed by the touch of the Rabbi Jesus—that father was me. I want you to know that He is STILL alive today. He can touch your hearts and heal them from every pain and anguish as He did mine and my son. In fact He has already. He did it in His suffering, death and resurrection from the grave. All of Scripture testify about Him as the God who came to earth to save us—sinners. Please don’t let your troubles or trials keep you away from Him. Don’t let the demons within you keep you away. Don’t let issues in your lives or church keep you away. Instead come to Him in faith and cry out to Him, as I did, “I believe; help my unbelief!” And know for certain, He hears the cries of His people and comes to their aid.

I am glad you gave me the opportunity to let you know what happened to my family so long ago. And I pray that you would tell this story to others that they too, may worship and believe in the Rabbi from Nazareth, Yshuah ha Massiah.

Moshe leaves the stage without any words.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

“Crumbs from the Master’s Table” (Mark 7:25-30)

S-1513 15SAP/3B 9/06/2015 Hymns: (O) #559; (S) #725; (C) #524

Texts: Isaiah 35:4-7; James 2:1-10, 14-18; Mark 7:24-30, 31-37

Theme: “Crumbs from the Master’s Table” (Mark 7:25-30)

Question: “Are you satisfied with Crumbs?” (4th sermon at Trinity)

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! The text is the Gospel reading. “But immediately a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit heard of Him and came and fell down at His feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, a Syrophoenician by birth. And she begged Him to cast the demon out of her daughter. And He said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” But she answered Him, “Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” And He said to her, “For this statement you may go your way; the demon has left your daughter.” And she went home and found the child lying in bed and the demon gone (Mark 7:25-30).

Beautiful people of God, you who are His treasured possession, growing up in Israel we were very poor. Many times my mom and dad didn’t have enough food to feed us and they would go hungry. Yet mother always made sure that we children got something to eat. My mother did everything in her power to feed the 10 of us.

Bread is the staple of the Middle East. There is never a meal without bread. Whenever we got done eating, mother would save the crumbs and put them in a basket. When she had saved enough she would cut lettuce, add mint, parsley, few spices and mix it with water and made a dish for us out of the dried-up crumbs to eat-called Fatush. We enjoyed that meal. Never once while growing up did I know it was a poor-man’s food. Because it was served by a loving mother to her family.

St. Mark in the text before us today, tells us of another mother who did everything in her power to care for her daughter—a daughter who needed the touch of Savior’s mercy and grace. This mother came to Jesus and begged Him to help her daughter. Notice please her posture: she fell at His feet and cried out to Him to relieve her daughter of the demon possession that has afflicted her.

Observe though, His response. “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” Whoa! What kind of response is this? We are not used to this kind of Jesus. We know Him as the caring and loving Shepherd who is constantly caring for His people. We are taught through the Living Word, that He always reached out and touched people with His hands of healing and showed compassion to them. We know Him as the seeking and caring Shepherd. Yet, here we see another picture of this Jesus—as an uncaring, unkind and unloving. And we are puzzled!

At first glance we are amazed at the kind of response Jesus gives. He said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” PAUSE.

What is going on here? It is not how it appears to be. Dig deeper into the gold mine of God’s Word and a marvel of marvels is revealed. Search deeper into the text and be in awe at the kindness of Jesus. Here you will see the Gospel overflowing. Here you will see compassion in a different measure. Here you will learn of the love of God given to all people.

Please be aware Jesus never said, He will not help her daughter.” He simply stated: “Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” He said first the children must eat. The children He is speaking about are the Jews. He came first to His chosen people—Israel to whom He promised Father Abraham, “All the nations of the world will be blessed by you” (Gen. 12:3, 18:18).

Therefore, it is very important to know that Jesus is not saying His mercy doesn’t go out to others, but simply, to the household of Israel, and then to others. This is similar to what the Apostle Paul shared with us last week: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Rom. 1:16). Here is the answer. First to the Jews and then to the rest of the world.

The world has always been included in the grace of God. We see this in the genealogy of Jesus. Think of Rahab—the prostitute from Jericho. She is a foreigner and yet part of the family of God. Think of Ruth the Moabite—she, too, is in the family of faith. You see the grace of God is not limited, but must be done in the order that God ordained it first to the Jews and then others.

This mother understood that very well. Therefore, she responds to His statement saying: “Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” Again, the words used by Jesus appear harsh. But they are not. He is not talking about wild dogs that roam the countryside and scavenger in the garbage. No He is taking about the little dogs that are pets in a house. They have a master who loves, cares and provides for them. The little crumbs given from the table are blessings from their master.

This humble mother was willing to compare herself to a dog waiting for crumbs from its master. She knew that He will not shut her out or turn a deaf ear to her cries. But at the right time He will come to her aid. In faith, grounded in what she had learned about Jesus; she continued to follow and plead for help. At the right time, Jesus praised her great faith in front of His disciples. He healed her daughter and lifted her up much higher than the level of a pet or watchdog. REMEMBER To God, who cares about even tiny sparrows, we are extremely precious.

As the Psalm states, we can calm and quiet our souls under God’s care; we don’t need to worry ourselves trying to understand all of His ways. Our eyes are trained on God’s hand in our lives, but the Lord of Life gives us much more than crumbs. He gives us something wonderful: the forgiveness of sins at His table and the everlasting banquet in heaven. PAUSE.

Beautiful people of God, please know the awesomeness and amazing love of God who sent Jesus into this world first to the Jews and second to the Greeks—that you and I who are not born into the Jewish faith, just like this Syrophoenician woman was; we see that the Gospel flows to us as well.

We learn of this Gospel as the Holy Spirit brings us to His house of worship weekly. Here we hear of the great sacrifice of Jesus on Calvary’s cross for the sins of the world—Jews, Greeks, Syrophoenician, and US. We are reminded of it by David who said: “For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet—I can count all my bones—they stare and gloat over me; they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots. But you, O Lord, do not be far off! O you my help, come quickly to my aid! Deliver my soul from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dog! Save me from the mouth of the lion! You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen!” (Psalm 22:16-21).

Yes, on Calvary’s cross they pierced His hands, feet and side. They punctured His forehead with thorns. They beat His body mercilessly. They suspended Him between heaven and hell and placed Him in a tomb. But the cold, dark and dismal tomb couldn’t hold Him. He rose victorious on the third day, and by His glorious resurrection we have the certainty that He will always gives us not only crumbs from the Master’s table but an eternal banquet that satisfies the soul forever.

Remember the Fatush the poor-man’s food I was telling you my mother made? Though I enjoyed eating that meal because it was made by my loving and caring mother, on a far grander scale the Savior of the world feeds us at His table a banquet that truly blesses us beyond our wildest imagination. And for that we say to the Lord the words of this caring mother: “Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” And He feeds us blessed crumbs from the Master’s Table. Amen.

Now the peace…


“Armed With POWER!” Ephesians 6:10-11

S-1512 14SAP/3B 8/30/2015 Hymns: (O) #594; (S) #662; (C) #660

Texts: Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-9; Ephesians 6:10-20; Mark 7:14-23

Theme: “Armed With POWER!” Ephesians 6:10-11

Question: “Do you enjoy having power?” (3rd sermon at Trinity)

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! The text for the 14th Sunday after Pentecost is the Epistle reading. “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil” Mark (7:1-5).

Precious children of the heavenly Father walk into any convenience store and you will find an assortment of energy bars and drinks. These bars and drinks are supposed to make you strong and powerful. I stopped to check them out in preparation of my sermon. Here are few that I found available: Power aid, power drink, Red Bull and 5 hours energy drink. There are Power Bar+, Supreme Protein, and Lean Muscle to name a few.

The companies that sells them claims that these drinks and bars will give you POWER—power to run faster and farther. You will have more strength and stamina. They will give you power like Samson, and Superman.   Young men take them to impress the girls. Young ladies take them to impress the guys. But so do the older generation. For those of us whose “get up and go has got up and went”, we like to have power to accomplish the task at hand. All of us in this room desire to have more power to get the job done. Power gives us stature and sometimes fame. But do they really? Do these chemicals that we take into our bodies really make us like Samson and Superman?   

Today, the Holy Spirit through the pen of Pastor Paul tells us, “…be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.” Notice please what Paul is emphasizing here, “Be strong in the Lord!” The strength that we need to daily to fight the enemy is from the Lord and not from us. Our strength doesn’t come from our own power that we make by exercising in the gym or in the chemicals we take into our bodies, but rather is given us by the Lord Himself. If we stand, we stand because God made it possible for us to stand. How tragic though that we often rely on our own power rather than God’s. We look to ourselves rather than our Savior. We depend on what we have rather than on what God provides. PAUSE.

Almost all of us have one of these (show cell phone), these are wonderful invention. They give us power to communicate with others all over the world. We rely on them often and desire to have them with us at all times. Just last week my wife and I were leaving our home in Armour to come to Sioux Falls. Two miles out of town she said: “Oh, no!” I responded, “What is wrong honey?” She answered, “I forgot my phone at home.” You know what I did…right? I turned around to get the phone. That phone is power. It helps us reach out to others. But that phone is useless unless it is charged. Daily we plug it in so that it will have enough power to serve us. And if we are in a place where there is no good signal, we lift it up high (demonstrate) and try to reach a place that will give us power to make contact with someone.

We have become dependent on the cell phones that it is almost impossible for us to leave home without them. Wouldn’t be wonderful if we did the same with the Word of God take it with us wherever we go? It surely would. It would give us power to fight our enemy—the devil because we are armed with the strength of the Lord. PAUSE.

Saints in Christ, Pastor Paul tells us to put on the whole ARMOR God so that we might be able to stand against the evil one—the devil. We don’t stand on our own power but the power of God. Certainly we have many things to help us stand against our enemies. They are all defensive mechanism. Daily we use things to defend us and keep us secure. Some have security system in house or office. Some have passwords on our computer or cell phone. Some wear helmet on bikes or while playing football. We have air bags in cars and many other things. These are gifts to keep us from harm’s way. This is what the Apostle Paul is encouraging us to do—to stand firm on the promises of God who gives us the Armor to wear. His Armor is what gives us power to destroy the enemy.   As we stand under the grace of God we see Him at work in us and fighting for us.

By the way precious children of the heavenly Father, did you see the battle today? Did you observe what just took place? At the Font a battle ensued over Jacob’s life. At the Font the devil who had Jacob in his clutches didn’t want this child to come here. But Jesus, His loving Savior through water attached to the powerful Word washed his sins away and made Him His child forever and ever. Thank the Lord Jesus, that He has won the war on behalf of Jacob and all of us. Here, today, you saw a mighty battle fought by Jesus on your behalf and destroyed every arrow of the devil. That little garment that Christ put on during baptism, appears to be soft and gentle, but don’t be fooled. That is your armor against the fiery arrows of the devil. That garment is your protection because you are wrapped up in the strength of the Lord.

That is why the devil hates baptism. That is why we Christians love baptism. Today, this sinner became a saint and was given the garments of salvation to be presented holy and pure in the sight of God. There is power in Jesus. There is power in His Word. There is power in His blood. There is wonder working power in the precious blood of the Lamb of God—power to take away the sins of the world—and YOURS.

Beautiful people of God, daily we are attacked by our enemies. This world is filled with evil, sin, and temptation. But we don’t need to fear. We have an armor that has been given us to protect us and help us fight our enemy. The spiritual warfare that we face day in and day out can ware down your defenses. Spiritual strength and courage are needed for our spiritual warfare and suffering. And we have it in Christ our Savior. He is the One who arms us. He is the One who fights for us. He is the One who has defeated our arch enemy on Calvary’s cross, when He cried out: IT IS FINISHED!”

Christ has won the victory. Now, we, His followers by the working of the Holy Spirit follow Him and know for certain no matter what the devil throws at us, we are able to stand armed with His Gospel. In another book, Paul wrote: For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Rom. 1:16). Did you know that the word Paul uses for “power” in the original is dunamis from which we get the word dynamite?

Yes, the Word has power. Power that drives Satan and his cohorts away from us. Power that strengthens us in our walk of faith. Power that arms us for our daily battles. Today, the Holy Spirit puts on us the armor of God. So how do we do that? by praying for others because Satan’s attacks are relentless.

I pray that the Lord would arm and armor us for battle, just like He did for His servant David. Remember the story of David and Goliath. You can read about it In 1st Samuel 17. For forty days the giant Goliath taunted the army of Israel to have someone fight him. David heard of the challenge and accepted it. Saul and his commanders wanted him to wear his armor. David refused. He chose and armor that works—God’s mighty power.

Listen to this discourse between Goliath and David: “And the Philistine moved forward and came near to David, with his shield-bearer in front of him. And when the Philistine looked and saw David, he disdained him, for he was but a youth, ruddy and handsome in appearance. And the Philistine said to David, ‘Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?’ And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. The Philistine said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the beasts of the field.” Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the Lord saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the Lord’s, and He will give you into our hand.” (1 Samuel 17:41-47).

David did destroy the giant Goliath. But the greater Son of David, Jesus fought our battle on Calvary’s cross and defeated the devil, sin and death once and for all. And He Won. The victory is the Lord’s. In Him and through Him we are armed with power.

The power you need and seek will not be found in a bottle that you drink, or a candy bar that you eat. But real power is given to us through His blood which we drink, and His body which we eat. Week in and week out we gather in this place to be fed, nurtured and nourished through His mighty and powerful Word. Daily we stand firm on His promises that delivers. Through His grace we are armed with power—power for today and forever. Amen.

Now the peace…


“Clean Hands or Clean Hearts” Mark 7:1-5

S-1511 13SAP/3B 8/23/2015 Hymns: (O) #865; (S) #527; L.S #633; #618; (C) #587

Texts: Isaiah 29:11-19; Ephesians 5:22-33; Mark 7:1-13

Theme: “Clean Hands or Clean Hearts” Mark 7:1-5

Question: “What is more important: Clean Hands or Clean Hearts”? (2nd sermon at Trinity)

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! The text for the 13th Sunday after Pentecost is the Gospel reading. “Now when the Pharisees gathered to [Jesus], with some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem, they saw that some of His disciples ate with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands properly, holding to the tradition of the elders, and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing of cups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches.) And the Pharisees and the scribes asked Him, ‘Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?’” Mark (7:1-5)

Most precious people of God, there are sermons that are easy to write and to listen to both for pastor and people. But on the other hand there are those sermons that are difficult to write and preach. These sermons don’t permit you to say, “So and so need to hear it! Or I wished she was here to hear this message that is just want she needs!” This sermon is for pastor and people alike because it hits us right between the eyes and there is no escaping it.

The text before us from St. Mark is one that brings to our attention the life of the religious leaders of Jesus’ day who often complained about the disciples that they didn’t have their hands washed before they ate. These Pharisees and Scribes were more concerned on the outside but not the inside. Therefore the question that I asked you earlier was this: “Which is more important to have clean hands or clean hearts?” That is the question that is before us today, and we, God’s blood-bought people need to know what God teaches us.

To help us with this, I share with you a true story that played out in the lives of a very wealthy man and a poor couple. So here it goes.

This man was rich beyond measure. He had livestock of every shape and kind, land, property and servants attending to his every need. In the public square he was well respected and esteemed. However, behind closed doors he lived another life. On the surface his hands were very clean (at least he thoughts so) but his heart wasn’t at all.

He was a peeping tom, slept with a woman who wasn’t his wife, and when he discovered she got pregnant he attempted to make her husband sleep with her so that it doesn’t appear that someone else fathered the child. But when the husband wouldn’t do it, he put the order out to kill him.

All the people saw was this good man whose hands were clean (at least he thought so), but his heart was far from it. You know the man very well. As a matter of fact you know the story well. It is in the Scripture in 2 Samuel 11. It is the story of King David, taking Bathsheba Uriah’s wife, fathering a child with her and then giving the command to murder her husband. He did everything right for the people to see, but his heart was filthy. PAUSE.

That is the story of the text before us today. The Jewish leaders of Jesus’ day as well as ours put so much emphasis on what is visible on the outside—clean hands and good behavior, but very little on matters of the heart. The Lord Himself sent Samuel to Jesse’s home in Bethlehem to choose the next king of Israel, and told him as Jesse was parading his sons before him: “Don’t look at his appearance or how tall he is, because I have rejected him. God does not see as humans see. Humans look at outward appearances, but the Lord looks into the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

Jesus Himself condemned the acts of the Pharisees and Scribes by telling them: Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites in Scripture: ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is pointless, because their teachings are rules made by humans’” (Mark 7:6-7).

How often are we as guilty as these Jewish leaders? We, too, judge people by appearance. We determine who is guilty and who is not. We see the fault of others and don’t see our own. We sit as judge and jury and make ourselves better than others. It is as the picture in the catechism book that shows a man looking at his neighbor’s sin and sees a small bag, but on his back there is a huge bag. We really play “god” because we focus so much on the outside, but not on the inside.

Certainly we can wash our hands as Pilate did when he condemned Jesus to death saying: “I am innocent of this man's blood; see to it yourselves” (Mt. 27:24b). But the fact of the matter is no matter how hard we try to clean our filthy hands from sin, they will never be truly cleansed! No matter what we use, even Gojo, bleach or stain remover, it can’t remove the sins. It may remove dirt and grime from the hands but it can never remove the grime of sin from the heart.

In order for the sin to be removed from the heart, we listen to the peeping tom—David, who when confronted with sin by the prophet Nathan (2 Samuel 12), didn’t attempt to come up with excuses, or blame someone else, or the condition of the environment. No, he confessed right away that he was guilty. He is the one who sinned against God, Bathsheba, Uriah and his military personnel. He was so moved to sorrow that he wrote Psalm 51 in which he cries out to God to help him remove the sin he committed. Listen to this repentant man: “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight…[and this beautiful verse] Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me” (1-4, 10). PAUSE.

Thank God the cleansing is done by the blood of Jesus shed on Calvary’s cross. It is Jesus who purifies us from all of our sins. As the Apostle John reminds us, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9).

Jesus is the One who cleanses us, purifies us and makes us whole. In the waters of Baptism He takes our filth—all of it and removes it from us. He does this by taking the filth of our sin on Himself and gives us His holiness and righteousness in exchange! He continues to offer us this cleansing week in and week out here through His mighty, powerful and strong Word and Sacrament. In the presence of this unbounded grace, He gives us the confidence to confess our sins and acknowledge our dependence on Him alone.

No matter how much we try, we can’t remove sin from us. That is why Jesus needed to come to earth and be our Savior. That is why He chose to suffer the punishment we deserved and was willing to endure the torment resulting from our sin and disobedience. That is why He was willing to give His flesh to the floggers, His hands to the soldiers to be pierced for us to redeem, cleanse and present us pure and holy to His heavenly Father,.

Beloved in the Lord, today by the grace of God the Holy Spirit has brought you here. Today, in the Divine Service you spoke the words: “In the name of the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit.” Some of you even made the sign of the cross on your forehead to remind you of your baptism. And that is so very important. Why, you may ask? Because the word that is used in the original text to wash the hands is “Baptizen”, from which we get the word to baptize. Small Pause.

(Lean at the pulpit and point at the saints), Beloved in the Lord, I want you to ponder this thought. If the Lord God almighty, can look at the peeping tom, the adulterer, the murderer, the liar and deceiver—David and declare him, “A man after my own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14, Acts 13:22), how much more will He look at us sinners for the sake of Christ, our Savior and declare us holy and righteous in His sight forevermore.

Today, beloved, may we, in true humility confess our sins before God and know that for the sake of the shed blood of Christ on Calvary’s cross and His mighty resurrection that we too, are counted as a man/woman after God’s own heart and also precious, cleansed, forgiven and made saints. Amen.

Now the peace…