Sunday, October 11, 2015

“The Journey of Life!” (Mark 10:17-18)

S-1517 20SAP/3B 10/11/2015 Hymns: (O) #593; (S) #707; LS. #696; #617; #623; (C) #918

Texts: Psalm 112:3-6; 5:6­7, 10­15; Hebrews 3:12­19; Mark 10:17-22

Theme: “The Journey of Life!” (Mark 10:17-18)

Question: “What journey stands out in your mind?” (7th sermon at Trinity)

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! The text is the Gospel reading. And as He [Jesus] was setting out on His journey, a man ran up and knelt before Him and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone” (Mark 10:17-18).

In Nomine Iesu

Precious Bride of Christ, life is a journey—sometimes the journey is sweet and other times it is bitter. All of us in this holy place have been invited to journey with our Savior Jesus to the cross and the empty tomb. But often times we don’t know what that means or where the journey leads.

A story is told of an Iranian Muslim woman named Padina. Listen as she tells her story that took her on unexpected journey. As a devout Muslim, Padina was taught all of the Islamic rules and to hate Christians because Jesus can’t do anything for you. Padina followed the Islamic Law by praying faithfully. In preparation for the prayer she would wash her hands and face according to their teaching. Many times she wasn’t sure that she washed well enough. This caused her much anguish that during the prayer she would interrupt the prayers and wash herself 10 times.

She began to hate herself because she wasn’t a good Muslim and felt Allah was very distant from her. She wanted to die because Allah wasn’t helping her or her mom who was dying from MS. She told her mom, “She wants to kill herself, because she can’t live like this!” Her mom told her, “If you are going to kill yourself, you will have to kill me also!” She agreed to her mom’s request.

That evening as Padina was about to carry out her plans, her mom turned on the TV. A pastor was speaking about Jesus and said: “If you are depressed, angry, hate life and want to commit suicide please don’t! Call me, and my Savior can help you!”

The Holy Spirit moved the mother that she picked up the phone and talked to the pastor for a long time. Padina began to get angry at her mom for talking to the pastor and said, “Mom, why would you want to go to hell in your final hours of life by talking about Jesus?” The mother urged Padina to speak with the pastor, but she refused. Eventually her mother convinced her to do so. When she did, she told him that she was going to kill herself. He challenged her saying: “Ask Jesus to help you. Why not wait for another week. You are going to kill yourself anyway. Another week is not going to make any difference. If you want to kill yourself then, you can do it on the air.” She accepted the challenge and even said, “Allah, I am going to kill myself on live TV for you, so people know who you are, compared to Jesus!

The next morning she heard an unusual sound. To her amazement she saw her mom walking normally and without any pain. She took her mom to the hospital for a checkup. After the tests, the doctor said: “There is no MS, and she is completely healed. This is a miracle!” The Dr. asked “Which Imam did this?” Padina answered, “It wasn’t an Imam, but Jesus!” That day began her Christian journey of life with joy and peace; even in the underground Church in Iran. PAUSE. (You may see her story on youtube).

Precious bride of Christ, taking a walk in the early morning or in the evening, to clear the mind, or to get the old blood flowing is a grand thing. Taking a walk with a friend or with your beloved, that is all the better. Ah, but to take a a journey implies some intentionality ­ like a vacation ­ like a plan for your future, that is something all the more important. A journey means you are going somewhere. It means you have been somewhere.

Today our Savior has come from Judea. He is nearing Jerusalem after having been up north in Caesarea Philippi with His disciples. This is important, for this re­entry into the region of Judea draws our Jesus, our Savior ever closer to the Cross. Mark begins our story with Jesus “Setting out on His journey.”

Every day and with every step of His journey...that is the intentional walk, has as its goal ­ Golgotha! He was walking relentlessly and single-mindedly toward what should have been my cross and your cross, my condemnation and your condemnation. He was not out on a nice little stroll. Our Savior was completing the journey begun from before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame in Him (Ephesians 1:4).

There appears to be a stop along the way as a man, an unnamed man, came in an attitude of servitude, of humility, he knelt before Jesus and asked, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” This dear man wants to inherit eternal life, and do so by doing something.

Beloved, he is our brother. Ever since the fall into sin, we have sought to self­justify, and in that to self­pay for our sins. In so doing we cut Jesus out. We want Him as a dear friend, even as a “Good Teacher.” Ah, but a Savior? No! That would imply that I need something other than the right self­help book, something other than the right recipe, the right formula. That would imply that I am really THAT Bad! Oh, yes I am! PAUSE.

We really are that bad. We all are imprisoned with sin. By our very nature without Christ’s righteousness we are on a one way journey to hell.

This summer my dear brother in Christ, Pastor Jeff Nehrt, was a speaker at the International LWML Convention in Des Moines, IA. He spoke to over 5000 precious daughters of the Lamb, who faithfully, lovingly, and joyfully had been moved by the Spirit to give their hearts and their mites to prison ministry. During his talk he showed a power point of some of the men incarcerated who by the nature of their crime were BAD very Bad. But through their journey of incarceration they were given the good news of Jesus Christ. Just like all of us…one sin separates us from God and just like all of us one drop of our Savior’s blood gives us complete forgiveness. This is why Christ made His journey for you and me and the world. Our journey is to make this Christ known to those we know and love to the world. And we don’t make this journey alone. We have great partners. The partners include the women of the LWML. Through their nickels, dimes, quarters and the occasional folding money, the journey of the LWML is to share the GOOD NEWS OF CHRIST.

The journey of life for us is not in doing something or paying for it, but journeying with the Savior. There is nothing for us to do to earn salvation or eternal life. It is a gift from God’s grace given in the blood of the Lamb shed on the Altar of the cross. We only journey with Him because He bids us come. He is the One who offers medicine for those who are depressed, angry, sick of life and dealing with pain. But He is more than an example. He is the Savior who has journeyed to Golgotha and the empty tomb and came out victorious.

Today, the Savior calls us to come follow Him because He knows the way that leads to eternal life. The Lord of life bids us hear His voice and leave everything behind and follow Him. I pray that we hear and heed His voice as Padina did and not unlike the young unnamed man in the Gospel reading.

By the grace of God, the Holy Spirit helps us follow Jesus throughout His earthly ministry all the way to Calvary. Along the way, we see something unique play out. From the very moment that Jesus journeyed from heaven to earth in human form, there were forces who were trying to destroy and kill Him. But He wouldn’t allow anyone to stop Him from reaching His final destination—the cross upon which He would be extended for the unnamed man and us who don’t always follow Him.

From the cross we hear unbelievable, unthinkable and unimaginable words of love and compassion. We hear of forgiveness. We hear of love and learn what love means. Love means traveling a journey of death to offer life. Grace means giving to someone what they don’t deserve and mercy unearned.

Precious bride of Christ, by the grace of God, we witnessed today the beginning of another journey of a child of God. Erin Marie Beach has been joined to the family of faith on an eternal journey through the water and the Word. Like Erin, you too, have been invited to journey with Jesus, not only to college, job, marriage, home or retirement, but to the glories of heaven. Today, He invites you to follow Him on the path that leads to eternity. Oh, what a journey awaits us—a journey of a lifetime, established and paid for by the blood of the Savior to give us an eternal home with Him forever and ever.

As His precious and blood-bought bride we rejoice on this journey begun in Baptism and will culminate in paradise with the groom who made it all possible. Amen.

Now the peace…


Sunday, October 4, 2015

“Bring the Children…” (Mark 10:13-16)

S-1516 19SAP/3B 10/04/2015 Hymns: (O) #592; (S) #605; (C) #862

Texts: Genesis 2:18-25; Hebrews 2:1-18; Mark 10:2-16

Theme: “Bring the Children…” (Mark 10:13-16)

Question: “How are you raising your children?” (6th sermon at Trinity)

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! The text is the Gospel reading. “And they were bringing children to Him that He might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, He was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the children come to Me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.’” And He took them in His arms and blessed them, laying His hands on them” (Mark 10:13-16).

Precious bride of Christ, purchased with His crimson blood, nurtured on His lap and fed from His Table the precious life-giving and life sustaining body and blood, what a beautiful thing it is to know that we are truly the children of God and He wants us to come to Him always.

I remember well the day of our wedding. It was a glorious day. But I also remember few other special days. I remember the day my wife looked at me and said, “Honey, I am pregnant!”Wow! To be a father is something special indeed!” I remember well the day my first born (Tony) was born and the joy that filled our hearts. I remember the day we brought him home. The day he was baptized, confirmed, graduated from high school, college and another college degree, and the day he got married. All of these days are imprinted on my heart.

These are days of memories given us by our gracious and loving Savior, Jesus Christ. But on one of these memorable days, December 26, 1979, when we brought our youngest child to the Lord’s house to be baptized as Evelyn Grace was earlier in the service, we promised God and those gathered that we will bring our child to the Lord’s house to be fed and nurtured. Thankfully, by the grace of God we were able to do that most of the time. And now two of my sons are doing the same with their children: taking them to the Lord’s house and showering them with God’s Word! PAUSE.

Far too often, parents stand before God and promise to do the same thing and they don’t. Many parents go through the motion in making the promises but once they leave His house they forget their role of instructing their children and bring them to the Lord’s house as they have promised.

It is truly sad and tragic that many children are being raised without the knowledge of the LOVE of Jesus or His Word. Many claim to be Christians but have nothing to do with Church and the life of the Savior. This is the saddest thing that I witness as a shepherd of God’s flock.

But that is precisely what the Lord of the Church and Life is asking us to do in this text today. Listen once more to the words the Holy Spirit gave to St. Mark to write: “And they were bringing children to Him that He might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, He was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the children come to Me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.’” And He took them in His arms and blessed them, laying His hands on them.”

When the disciples of the Lord hindered the people from bringing their children to Jesus, He wasn’t very happy. He wanted to be near His children so that they receive His gracious blessings. He rebuked the disciples and said, “Let the children come to Me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.”

Yes, “Bring the children!” Jesus cries out. Why you may ask? Because they too, need to have their sins washed and saved like the rest of humanity. They may be cute, loveable, adorable and precious, but they are still born in sin. And without the removal of sin, there is no salvation. When we bring the children here, they learn of the great love of Jesus and the great sacrifice He fulfilled on their behalf through His death on the cursed tree and through His glorious resurrection from the grave on the third day.

The disciples thought like first century Jewish people. A child is not responsible for sin until the age of accountability. But that is not true. Jesus’ teaching is clear here. Bring the children so that they may know Him, believe in Him, follow Him and serve Him. Oh, the damage of those who don’t bring the children to Him. We saw it playing out on TV with the shooting in Colorado this week. Jesus begs us to bring the children to Him because unless we believe like a little child that is by faith we will not receive the grace of God. PAUSE.

But what do many people do? They bring their children to be baptized and leave. Never stepping back into the Lord’s house, until they are ready to be confirmed. When that happens many are being negligent. They forget their promises. But they explain: “I want to let my child decide on their own what they want to do when they grow up.” That is the way of the world to let them be their own without any teaching, any guidance or any protection.

I am reminded of a story I read long ago. Someone was visiting a friend that she hadn’t seen for a long time. The lady of the house was showing her friend the house and went out to show her the rose garden. As the guest was looking at the garden, she said: “I don’t see many roses! All I see is thorns chocking the roses!” The owner of the house defended her actions by saying, “I left them alone to fend for themselves!

Tragically, foolishly and carelessly many parents and grandparents do the same. We let the children grow up without encouraging them to come to the Lord’s house. How dare we as parents ignore the voice of God who said, Bring the children to Me?” How dare we neglect our responsibility of being true and loving parents? How dare we ignore the Lord’s teaching, who instructs us in His Word, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Pro. 22:6).

God’s Word is clear, concise and crisp in giving us these instructions. “Bring the children to Me!” Jesus wants us to bring the children. I am thankful the gracious Lord moved Tyler and Sarah to bring Evelyn Grace to the Font, but don’t stop here. Keep on bringing her and the rest of the children so that all may learn of Jesus great love for them.

Bring the children we are told. Did you know that includes you? Don’t forget you are a child of

God. If you are too old to have new children by birth, don’t forget that you are still a child in the eyes of God! Don’t forget that whether you are a child, teenager, parent or grandparent you play a major role in coming to the Lord’s house to hear the Word and dine as a guest at His Table. He wants you here! He wants you near Him. Anything or anyone that keeps YOU away from Him will make Him indignant! PAUSE.

Precious Bride of Christ—you’re His beloved children, purchased with His crimson blood, nurtured on His lap and fed from His Table. If you have been hearing the admonishing of Christ, I thank Him for the work He has done in you. But if you haven’t heeded His command, then call upon the Holy Spirit to help you be a faithful bringer of God’s children whether they are a day old or a century old. Bring them here to receive healing, help and hope and point them to heaven.

Here in this place the Child of Mary, born in Bethlehem’s manger, grew up in Nazareth, taught the nations of God’s love by dying on Calvary’s cross; declares to you that He loves you and wants you to be His child. He went to the cross for your negligence, ignorance and defiance of His holy Word. He paid for your sins—all of them because He as God’s heaven-sent Savior listened to the voice of His Father and was faithful in being in the Lord’s House always.

Dear precious Bride of Christ and loved dearly. Do you want proof of this love? Behold His hands and side, see, it is Him Your groom who has finished the work on your behalf; who has paid the price of your redemption, and has restored you to be His for time and eternity.

Today, as His child, lift your eyes up and see Him anew. See Him as the One who paid for your soul with His life’s blood. His death destroys your death. His resurrection guarantees your resurrection. And in mercy He makes you His child forever and ever.

Join me then as the Bride of Christ in saying thank You Jesus for not leaving us alone to fend for ourselves, but dying in our place that we may live with you forever as your children. Amen and Amen.

Now the peace…