Sunday, November 15, 2015

Theme: “Let us…” (Hebrews 10:21-25)

S-1519 25SAP/3B 11/15/2015 Hymns: (O) #744; (S) #575; (C) #510

Texts: Psalm 16; Daniel 12:1-3; Hebrews 10:11-25; Mark 13:1-13
Theme: “Let us…” (Hebrews 10:21-25)

Question: “Do you enjoy eating lettuce?” (9th sermon at Trinity).

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! The text is the Epistle Reading. Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the freshly slaughtered and living way which Jesus opened for us through the curtain, that is, through His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to worship together as is the unfortunate habit of some, but encouraging one another big time, And all the more, as we see the Day drawing fast near” (Hebrews 10:19-25)

In Nomine Iesu

Perfect people of God, made perfect by God’s Perfect Son—the Great and Eternal I Am, through the gift of righteousness—infinitely loved, fully forgiven, and heirs of eternal life.

While I was at the Seminary, one of our Professors who taught us homiletics (the art of preaching), often told us to avoid a “lettuce sermon.” Now our eyes got wide, like a deer in headlight. We didn’t know what he was saying. A “Lettuce sermon” is when the pastor would end his homily this way. “Let us resolve to spend less time enslaved to the digital world...Let us strive to be patient, following the patient example of Jesus...Let us daily fill our minds with that which is pure, lovely, gracious, excellent, and of good report. Let us. Let us. Let us. They dubbed such sermons as “Salad Sermons;” because it focuses more on what we are doing than the work of God in saving us.

WELL....Guess what? One of the greatest sermons ever preached was a Salad Sermon. In fact it is preached not by a Pastor but by the Holy Spirit that inspired the author of the book to pen these words to encourage us on our journey of faith and give us the added measure of running the good race, fighting the good fight with eyes on Jesus, ears on God’s powerful Word—so powerful is this word that changes lives forever.

This letter to the Hebrews, this first century sermon, is filled with a let-us patch. Let us draw near. Let us hold fast. Let us consider how to grow in love. But the let-us section of the Divine menu presented in the letter to the Hebrews follows after the writer has given them a generous meat portion for spiritual amino acids, for healthy spiritual protein, for healthy holy hormones, and eternal-life giving gospel vitamins. The “Lettuce” portion follows the serving up of the meaty Gospel. The meaty gospel contains these good news faith building truths: Christ died once for all sins! Jesus made purification for all our sins! Jesus is our great High Priest who totally understands intimately our predicament in life, is able to help, and is praying for us 24/7. Jesus loved us so much so that He was willing to become lower than angels to lift us up to be a man to save mankind. PAUSE.

And here is one more meaty portion of the gospel. It comes from verse 19-20 of our text. It is so strong, so powerful, so dynamic, so striking, that most translators try to tame it way too much. vv 19-20 reads. “Therefore brothers and sisters of the risen Christ, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary—the body of Christ by the freshly slaughtered and living way which He opened for us through the curtain, through His flesh...”

Most English translations render “freshly slaughtered” as “new.” This one of a kind word in the New Testament, when traced back to its origins means “freshly slaughtered.”

Jesus as the Lamb of God, on Good Friday, was freshly slaughtered once for all. This translation fits so well with the whole context. Now, apply it to your life. Jesus was slaughtered on the cross for you. He just didn’t die for you. He was slaughtered for you. He did not die an easy death like the lambs and rams did—one quick kosher cut and they were humanely taken out of this veil of tears. NO Jesus was slaughtered in a more ruthless way than any other human—in love, for you, once for all.

We had just witnessed some of this slaughtering on our TV screens as the children of the dark—the followers of the devil, destroyed, maimed and put to death people who had done nothing wrong. We have seen the carnage, chaos and confusion that were brought about. These people were slaughtered. But Jesus was slaughtered so that no one would be slaughtered. And we His followers must do everything in our power to stop the slaughtering of humans and introduce them to the Eternal Lamb the Great I Am.

Faithful followers of Jesus, ironically, strangely, paradoxically, the writer of the Bible that gives us added insight into the deep, deep, deep love of Christ is a prophet who saw 600 years in advance what was going to take place on Calvary. This prophet six hundred years before the fact was planted at the foot of the cross. The same prophet, who cleanly, clearly predicted the Virgin Birth of God, Immanuel, predicted all kinds of details about Jesus’ death on the cross, because he saw ahead of time. This is the image we know of what took place on Good Friday on the cross:

For you, Jesus, God is flesh, the very photocopy of God, very God of very God, was freshly slaughtered. He died in love the most terrible death in history by far and the way to bring us to God. Now that is part of the meaty Gospel that precedes the “let us” portion of our sermon. PAUSE.

So the Messianic menu moves like light of the Great High Priest, the Lamb of God, being slaughtered for you upon the cross in total unconditional love, Let us draw near—we who have drunk the waters of baptism. Let us hold fast in light of all the powerful prophecies perfectly fulfilled. Let us consider how to stir up love and good works, not by becoming isolated which the devil loves to see happen but by cultivating the holy habit of gathering together—especially since the Day of Christ’s reappearing is fast drawing near.

It is a series of “Let US,” echoing the “Let us make man in our image.” Love is an US, not a ME. We are parts of a body. We are not a lone ranger, but a family united by the blood of the Lamb. We miss a major point of love when we think we can be a lone ranger Christian and thrive.

The “Let Us” portion of our spiritual diet enjoins us to let us gather together to hear the story of Jesus, let us gather together to break bread together, and let us examine the powerful promises of God fulfilled so that we are filled with high octane heavenly hope.

Now that is a Super Salad sermon. And then for good measure the writer to the Hebrews gives to his readers and listeners wonderful dessert. He describes how Abraham, Moses, Joseph, and all the Old Testament believers kept their eyes on Jesus and heaven, the better City. Eyes on Jesus’ love and the better City helped them to endure during the bitter moments of life. It helped them to suffer mocking, imprisonment, Isaiah himself being sawn in two, death by sword, beatings by chains, destitution, and more.

Precious and perfect people of God, “let us” remember in our prayers the families that have been affected by the work of darkness and “let us” be children of the light, reflecting this light to all who are still walking in the ways of the devil, and introduce them to the Lamb who was slaughtered for them.

So my beloved, enjoy the “Let US” Salad sermon of staying close to Jesus anchored by worship, prophecy, and the Lord’s Supper. Be fortified by the meat of the gospel as you consider how Christ was freshly slaughtered for you. Relish the reality of the Better City of heaven coming your way, closer every day, to free us from all decay.

Let us run the good race enjoying the meat of the gospel. Let us enjoy this salad sermon of the letter to the Hebrews. And Let us keep our eyes on the Kingdom with perfect foundations—Heaven. In the name of the Him who was freshly slaughtered for US—YOU AND ME; “let us” say, Amen.

Now the peace of God…


Sunday, November 8, 2015

“Don’t Do It For Show! A Pretense Of Piety” (Mark 12:38:40)

S-1518 24SAP/3B 11/08/2015 Hymns: (O) #588; (S) #783; LS. #644; #633; #632; (C) #923

Texts: Psalm 146:9a; 2 Kings 17:8-16; Hebrews 8:24-28; Mark 12:38-44
Theme: “Don’t Do It For Show! A Pretense Of Piety” (Mark 12:38:40)

Question: “What motivates you to do things in/for the Church?” (8th sermon at Trinity).

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! The text is the Gospel Reading. “And in His [Jesus] teaching He said, ‘Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes and like greetings in the marketplaces and have the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation’” (Mark 12:38:40).

In Nomine Iesu

Beloved in the Lord Jesus Christ, you, who are His precious and blood-bought souls on Calvary’s death Tree; as you know I just returned from my Holy Land Nour Tour. While visiting the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem where Christ was born, we arrived early before many of the tourists and took our place. We waited for over an1 1/2 while the Greek Orthodox were having Mass. It was a big fanfare and pomp and show. While we were waiting many would visit softly with one another and then out of nowhere a priest would raise his voice and say: (loud) “SILENCE!” To me, this priest was more disturbing than those waiting in line. My wife was even chastised because she crossed her legs while sitting and waiting in the church.

If that is not bad enough, when it was our turn to visit the cave where The Savior was born; the security officers came and said: “You have only 30 seconds to empty the church because there are some VIP diplomats who are going to visit the site!

I was upset. We waited for a little over 1 1/2 and now we have to leave. It was a big circus of showing pomp and fanfare. And it was the same way when we got to the Wailing Wall. There the Orthodox Jews pray with loud voices so they can be heard by all. At times, they would pause from their prayers and look at other people in disgust.

That is exactly what the Lord of the Church, please notice that term: “The Lord of the Church”, Jesus Christ has told us through the writing of St. Mark not to seek the places of honor in the marketplace or workplace as these Jewish leaders were doing. We are not to be self-serving, or seeking the life of ease and luxury by a pretense of piety.

For many in Jesus’ day and sadly in ours also live for themselves. Always doing things to be noticed and seen; always involved in a manner that brings attention to the person instead of the Savior. That shouldn’t be. Jesus warns us of such things. PAUSE.

Instead, as the followers of Jesus living in the 21st Century, we should be noticed. But in getting noticed, we shouldn’t just speak to impress others. We should be honest and sincere. Willing to always be on the firing line of any issue and deal with it lovingly, caringly and joyfully. This should happen not only when people are listening and watching but especially when no one is around.

In the waters of Holy Baptism we were made saints of God. In this we are called out of the world to be faithful and true. To be men and women that live the Christian faith not to earn points, but as a reminder we are the souls that have been purchased with Jesus’ precious blood. While we are here living in the Ark of Salvation, we should always follow His teaching and example.

We should deal with all issues at hand head on, so that the devil doesn’t come between us but; rather to build each other up and spread the gospel to the ends of the earth. This house of worship called Trinity in Hartford should be known as a house of prayer and not as a house of division; a house of joy and not of sadness; a house of peace and not of heartaches.

Our aim as the baptized children of the Heavenly Father is to be sincere, truthful, caring, honest and loving in doing everything to the glory of God and not for personal gain. As we live and move and have our being our sole purpose for having this house of God, is to manifest who Jesus Christ IS and what He has accomplished for us through His suffering, brutal death on the cursed Tree and glorious resurrection. PAUSE.

Beautiful people of God, I know we mean well. But sometime our well meaning intentions get in the way of being caring and loving. Some even say: “That the road to heaven is paved with good intentions” but good intentions don’t change outcome. At times with pious satisfaction on our faces we act as holier than thou. At times we look down on others.

The questions that need to be asked of us all—pastor and people are: “What is our hearts motivation?” Why do people go to church? What do men ask of their religion? Is it life-changing? Or is their churchlife no different than if they belong to a large social club? Are they looking out for the good of their neighbor, or rather seeking to bolster their own prestige, and power and position? And what right do they have to expect of their pastor, elders and other church leaders—who lead them in worship and their spiritual growth? Why are we here doing what we do? Is it for show, or is it to receive the great blessings and goodness God offers us in His Word and Sacraments? Do we speak out of our hearts the truth for truth’s sake? And are we criticizing for criticism sake and tear people down to lift ourselves up?

Whatever reason the Holy Spirit has brought you here, I pray you have come with a genuine and true heart to confess your sins and sorrow over that sin and live in the grace of God and the mighty, marvelous Means of Grace He dishes out for you week in and week out.

Here in this place you learn to depend not on the things you do, but on the One who has done all things for you—Jesus the Christ. Here you will see that He went to the cross not to show that He deserves to suffer for His sin, but rather He went to the cross to show you how much He loves you, pay for your sins and want you to be His forgiven and redeemed child. PAUSE.

Precious children of the heavenly Father, I ask yet another important question of you. Is there anything in all this beautiful world of greater importance—of more value to the world—than a human life, with all its marvelous power to think and feel and love and hate and so leave its mark on all life, for all time?

There is nothing in all the world that God has created is so wonderfully of worth as every human soul He has made. Every soul you meet on the street, workplace, school is a soul purchased at Calvary’s cross. I pray that these souls haven’t depreciated in value since Calvary.

May people who know us here and out there (point to the outside of church) see us as men and women on a mission not to tear others down, but build them up: not to divide, but to forgive and love and show mercy. May all that we do both here in this holy house and in all other activities be done for one purpose alone—to show them the face of Jesus, the love of Jesus, the compassion of Jesus and the grace of Jesus.

Here, in the Ark of Salvation, by the power of the Holy Spirit you will learn that what Jesus did was not to show Himself as better or having more power, though He IS/DOES. No He did ALL of this for you. He loved you to the cross, empty tomb and back to life again. And in this place, you and I will be used as an instrument in the Master’s hand to build and enlarge His kingdom, so that many more will come in, sit at His feet, dine with Him and leave refreshed in knowing Jesus loves them eternally and has forgiven them their many sins, even the ones they have done for show.

God grant this for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Now the peace…