July 14, 2019 Sermon

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Jul 162019
 

Luke 6:36-41

Please turn to our Gospel lesson for today, Luke 6:36-41 where Jesus encourages us to be merciful toward one another, as merciful as God is toward us.

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Is God serious about his commandments? Yes, he is. They are commandments, not suggestions. James reminds us that if we were to keep the commandments perfectly, and then just once in our lives speak even one curse, or even one unkind word in anger, we would be guilty of breaking his commandments. You are either perfect or a sinner. There is no such thing in God’s book as 99.9% pure. 99.9% pure is still impure in his eyes. God is serious about his commandments; about everything he commands us to do and everything he commands us to avoid.

The Pharisees of Jesus’ day understood that God was serious about every one of his commands. So, they thought, “It is our job to point out to others when they have broken any of God’s commands.” When the disciples were walking through the fields on a Sabbath and picking grain, they pointed out that the disciples were breaking the Sabbath. Or when Jesus called Matthew to be his disciple and then went to the party Matthew gave to which he invited some of his former fellow tax collectors, they pointed out that these people Jesus was eating with were liars and cheats. They felt that they were doing their God-given job by pointing out sin when they saw it and making sure people understood that God is serious about his Commandments.

But on both those occasions Jesus reprimanded them with words from Hosea. He told them that they were wrong in what they were doing because they had not learned the meaning of the words, I desire mercy, not sacrifice. God’s is serious about every single one of his Commandments being kept. He wants people to bring the sacrifices he has commanded and keep every Commandment. But, because no one can keep every Commandment perfectly, mercy is even more important than sacrifice.

Jesus begins this section with the words, be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. What does that mean? How is our Father, our heavenly father, merciful? Jesus says in the previous verse that the Father is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. He is kind, not only to those who don’t deserve his kindness. He is kind to those who deserve just the opposite, to those who deserve his judgment, who deserve to be cast into the eternal fires of hell because they have disobeyed even just one of his commands.

The point is that he is kind, he is merciful, to you and to me. What Jesus wants us to see is that there isn’t one of us who have kept all his commands perfectly. He wants us to see that each and every one of us are ungrateful and wicked in God’s eyes. And yet, he is kind to us. We grumble about the food we have to eat, but he still gives us food to eat. We number ourselves among those who are considered wicked when we curse, or tell lies, or disobey those in authority, or gossip, or lust, or covet. And yet God doesn’t treat us as our sins deserve. He is merciful and he proved it in the most amazing way possible. While we were still sinners, while we were ungrateful and wicked, Christ died for us. He didn’t say, “first clean up your act and be perfect from now on and then I will think about saving you from your previous sins.” No. While we were sinners; while we were his enemies; even though we still are not keeping his Commandments perfectly; Jesus came to earth to live perfectly in our place, to take on himself the punishment we deserve, and to rise in victory from the dead. That’s the kind of mercy God has shown us.

The point that Jesus is making in Luke 6 is that, as those who know the mercy God has shown us, we are moved to be like him in our dealings with others. He says that if you show love and mercy and kindness to those who show love and mercy and kindness to you, that’s no big deal. Even people who have no use for God do those kinds of things. But God shows love, mercy and kindness to the ungrateful and the wicked. He sends sunshine and rain on both the evil and the just. Jesus prayed that the father would forgive those who were crucifying him. He loved those who hated him and did good to those who persecuted him. The disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher. We will never be above Jesus, but, as we grow in the knowledge of his word, and as we grow in faith, we become more and more like our teacher who prayed that those who were causing him unbelievable pain would be shown mercy, and be forgiven.

So, as you look at others and compare their words and actions to God’s commands, do not judge and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Jesus even uses an example to explain what he means. Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye but fail to notice the beam in your own eye? Or how can you tell your brother, ‘Brother, let me remove the speck in your eye,’ when you do not see the beam in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the beam from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck in your brother’s eye.

Jesus is not saying that we can never point out a sin. He is saying, before you attempt to point out something sinful someone else is doing, look in the mirror. First make sure that you clearly understand that you are not perfect and that you need the mercy and forgiveness of God just as much as everyone else, just as much as the worst sinner you can imagine. Only when you have experienced God’s mercy will you be able to be merciful to others. Only when you see how much you have been forgiven will you be able to forgive others. Only then will you be able to talk to someone about what God says without having a judgmental attitude. As Paul says, Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Unless you have seen the beam in your own eye, and had it removed by seeing your undeserved forgiveness in Jesus, you will just be a blind man trying to guide a blind man.

Jesus had pointed out that the people of the world give in order to get something in return. They invite people to their dinner parties so that they will be invited in return. But as we grow to be like our teacher, we show that we are sons of our Heavenly Father when we give to others not expecting anything in return. When you consider all that God has given you, and the fact that you can’t take any of it with you when you die, you are moved to be very generous in your giving to the Lord and to others. And God does promise that the measure you use as you give to the Lord and others will be used when things are measured back to you. If you use a skimpy measure, if you try to make sure that there is a lot of air in the cup along with what you are measuring out to others, instead of shaking it and packing it down and even letting it overflow, that’s how it will be measured back to you. Or the Bible puts it another way, you reap what you sow. If you sow sparingly, skimping on the seed, you won’t reap as much as if you sow the seed generously.

Probably the best illustration of this principle is the one God uses in Malachi. “Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. “But you ask, `How do we rob you?’ “In tithes and offerings.  You are under a curse– the whole nation of you– because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit,” says the LORD Almighty.

When you know how generous God is to you, giving you much more than you deserve, and when you know his promise to always provide what you need for your body and life, you are moved to be generous in return. You are moved to put God first, others next and yourself last. And God promises that he will use the measure you have used when he gives back to you.

None of us will ever be as merciful as God is to us. None of us will always avoid judging others more harshly than ourselves or avoid thinking that others deserve God’s condemnation more than we do. None of us will be as generous as we could be. So, none of these things earn us anything from God. Yet in his grace and mercy, he forgives our judgmentalism, our failure to forgive, our lack of generous giving to him and to others. He forgives us, only because Jesus did all those things we fail to do perfectly. He forgives us, only because Jesus took on himself the punishment we rightly deserve.

Having seen your own sins and having experienced God’s mercy and forgiveness in Jesus, be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

July 7, 2019 Message

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Jul 072019
 

1 Peter 5:6-11

Please turn your attention to our second reading for today, 1 Peter 5:6-11. In these verses, God, through Peter, encourages us to be alert because there are many things in this life that threaten our spiritual well-being, but he also encourages us to trust that he is always present to strengthen and support us.

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What worries you? What makes you anxious? Most people have a fairly long list. People are anxious about the weather, especially when there are storm warnings. People are anxious about job security; about their health; about the climate; about world politics and how they affect prices, or if there might be a war on the horizon. People are anxious about taking tests. They are anxious about what the future might hold for their children and grandchildren. Some people are anxious about having something to eat, or how they will pay their rent or their mortgage. But there is something I’m guessing very few would have on their list that should probably be at the top of the list of things that make us anxious- The Devil.

Peter says that the Devil is prowling around like a roaring lion. He’s hungry and we are his prey. But think about how many people aren’t at all worried about Satan because they don’t think he exists, that he’s a figment of people’s imagination. Think about how often you are more worried about some insignificant thing than you are about the fact that Satan is ready to pounce and devour you any chance he gets. In fact, he is hoping that all the little things that worry you will serve as a distraction so that he can catch you unawares. Think of all the people who seem to think that they can treat the lion, Satan, like a pet; they can keep him around the house, play around with temptation, and think they will never get bit.

I’m sure you have seen a TV program that shows lions hunting their prey. They look for an animal that is distracted, focused on eating, or drinking, or playing. They sneak up on the unsuspecting animal, especially one that is alone, separated from the protection of the flock, or one that might be injured. And when the lion gets close enough, it pounces.

Peter says, don’t be like that lion’s lunch. Make sure that the cares and pleasures of this world don’t distract you. Have sound judgment. You might remember that the KJV translates Be sober. Always have your wits about you. Don’t dull your mind with drugs or alcohol. Be alert at all times. Realize that you are being hunted by someone who is more powerful than you are and who is the master of lies and deception.

Compared to anything else that might make you anxious, the fact that the devil is hunting you ought to be at the top of the list. But one of his greatest, most successful deceptions is getting us to worry about everything else but him.

 Peter says, Have sound judgment. Be alert. Your adversary, the Devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.  This is serious business. It affects where you will spend eternity.

Thankfully, we are not on our own in our struggle to stay alert so that we are not devoured by Satan. Like all the other things that make us anxious, Peter reminds us to cast them, to give them to the Lord. He reminds us to humble ourselves under his powerful hand. In other words, don’t think that you can stay alert and fight off the attacks of Satan by your own power. Pride goes before the fall. When Jesus told Peter that Satan was working to sift the Apostles like wheat, Peter bragged that the others might give in to Satan’s temptations, but he never would. We all know what happened. We have all seen what happens to the animal that is on their own, he’s the one that becomes lunch for the lion. The first step in remaining alert against the devil is admitting that you can’t stay alert on your own, you can’t fight him off on your own. You need help. You need God’s help, and the help of your fellow Christians. Cast your anxiety on the Lord. Ask for his help knowing that he will help you because he cares for you.

How do you know that the Lord cares for you? Because, the God of all grace, has called you into his eternal glory in Christ Jesus. He is the God of all grace. Everything he does for us is grace. Anything and everything he does for us is undeserved. He doesn’t owe us anything except punishment. There is no reason he should invite us to cast our anxiety on him. He should say, “handle it yourself.” When we wander away from his flock and make ourselves an easy target for the roaring lion, he should just let us go, after all, he has so many others to care for who have not wandered away. Why should he leave them exposed to come looking for us? But he is the God of all grace. He cares for us, each of us individually. His love won’t let him ignore us, or tell us that we are on our own. In love he calls out to us, warning us about the danger of trusting in ourselves. In love, he leaves the 99 and looks until he finds his one lost sheep. He calls us to trust that, no matter what happens to us on this earth, he has a place ready and waiting for us in eternal glory purchased for us by Jesus.

Pride not only shows itself in bragging, like Peter, that we can resist Satan and his temptations by our own power. Pride also shows itself when we get a “poor me” attitude and think that we have it worse than anyone else; when we think that God should be doing more for us because we don’t deserve to have as many troubles and temptations in our lives as we do. It’s prideful to think that you deserve anything from God other than his just punishment.

God makes it clear that in this world, this world that is cursed by sin and is filled with people who are born with a sinful nature- in this world we will have trouble. There is going to be suffering. There is going to be trouble, some brought on by our foolish, sinful choices; some because of the sins of others. Satan is going to be stalking you 24/7/365. But, know that the same kinds of sufferings are being laid on your brotherhood all over the world. Whatever it is, it’s not something unique to you. Suffering and temptation are things that are common to all sinful humans. But don’t despair. There is hope.

Peter says, stand firm in the faith. It’s important to remember that when Scripture talks about faith, especially THE FAITH, it’s not talking about having a confident feeling. True faith always has an object, a foundation, something real and firm on which it is based. That real and firm foundation for true faith is the promise of God.

Peter reminds us what the promise of God is. God will allow you to be humbled. But at the proper time, when in his perfect wisdom he knows the time is just right for you, he will lift you up. He will allow you to suffer. Troubles and temptations are a part of being a sinful person living in a sinful world. But, he himself will restore you. He will literally make you adequate. That’s what he has already done for us in the best way possible. In Jesus he gives us everything we need to be received by him into eternal life. In Jesus he has removed the guilt of our sins and he has covered us with righteousness.

As we humble ourselves before him, admitting that we cannot resist Satan’s temptations, nor do we have the strength to endure the trouble and suffering that comes with living in this sinful world on our own, he keeps his promise to establish, strengthen, and support us. Through the word and Sacrament he gives us the support, the firm foundation, we need. For no-one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. Our faith is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.  It is only in Jesus that we have the sure hope of eternal glory, of something other than and better than life in this sinful world filled with suffering and temptation.

As we continue to read and study God’s word daily, and receive the sacrament for the forgiveness of our sins, God promises that the Holy Spirit is at work to establish and strengthen us in our faith so that we can recognize Satan’s lies, be alert and watchful at all times, and resist him, calling on the name of the Lord. Then Satan will have to flee from us, for in Christ, he has already been defeated.

Peter concludes, To God be the glory and the power. You see, he not only wants to carry our troubles and keep his promise to restore, establish, strengthen and support us, he as the power to do it. All power in heaven and earth is his. There isn’t anything he can’t do. To God be the glory. When you see what he does for you; how he forgives your sins, how he strengthens your faith through the word, how he lifts you up when you are humbled, how he protects you from the attacks of Satan and defends you against his accusations; make sure you give him all the glory because without him you would be devoured.

Be alert. Realize that the Devil is always looking for an opportunity to attack. Realize that, in this world you will have trouble and suffering. Humble yourself before the Lord. Don’t try to endure suffering and temptation on your own. Don’t try to stay alert and resist the Devil by your own power. Cast all your anxiety on the Lord. Trust his promise to lift you up, to restore, establish, strengthen and support you. Rejoice that, as the God of all grace, he has called you to eternal glory in Jesus. To him be the glory and the power forever and ever. AMEN

June 30, 2019 Sermon

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Jun 302019
 

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Luke 14:16-24

I invite you to turn to our Gospel reading for today as we are reminded that God has invited us to feast with him.

 

As I was thinking about this parable of Jesus, I was reminded of the many times that God invites us to come to him because he wants us to be with him or because he wants to give us something we need.

Maybe the most well-known example is Jesus’ invitation, come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. On another occasion Jesus called out to the crowd that had gathered in the temple courts, if anyone is thirsty let him come to me and drink. God issued his invitation in the Old Testament through the prophet Isaiah when he said, come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. And he repeats his invitation again in Revelation. The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.

What a gracious and generous God we have! There is no reason he should do anything for us. We aren’t his co-workers. We are his lowly servants. As we heard a few weeks ago, we have not done anything for him that requires that he repay us. In fact, we are all his disobedient servants. We are thankless servants. We grumble and complain about whatever he does. We are always looking for excuses not to do what he asks. We are constantly breaking his rules, rules meant only to keep us safe. Instead of inviting us to a feast he should throw us in prison, lock the door and throw away the key forever.

But what does he do? Over and over again he invites us to a feast! It’s not a pot luck either. Everything is provided for free! It’s not the cheapest he can get by offering-PBJ or box Mac and Cheese, or hot dogs. It’s a feast of choice food, a feast of the best wines, with the best cuts of meat, and the finest of wines. Despite our natural enmity and rebellion against him he wants only what’s best for us now and forever.

Through those he has called to do it, he sends out a formal invitation in advance. The invitation says, “The master, the king of the universe, the holy and loving LORD, requests your presence with him at a feast.” Everything is provided, even the clothing. You don’t have to bring anything. Just come. And then, when the big feast day arrives, he sends out the wonderful notice, Come, because everything is now ready. The feast is ready, come to the feast!

But those who had received the gracious invitation and who heard that the feast was ready, that it was time to drop everything and come, they all alike began to make excuses.  “The first one told him, ‘I bought a field, and I need to go and see it. I ask you to excuse me.’ “Another one said, ‘I bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out. I ask you to excuse me.’

“Still another said, ‘I just got married, and so I am unable to attend.’ ALL made polite excuses. Not a single one who had been invited made the feast a priority. They all thought they had something more important to do.

Who would do that? Who would pass up such a wonderful opportunity? The Jewish leaders and the Pharisees did. John the Baptist and Jesus came proclaiming the feast is ready, the kingdom of God is among you. But they ignored the invitation, often not even making polite excuses.

We are often like them, for this parable speaks of those who have received the invitation in advance, who have easy access to the word of God. The Bible is on your bed stand. The devotion book is on the kitchen table. The Bible app on your phone reminds you of your reading plan. The church bells ring. The church doors are open and the Holy Spirit is calling out, come to the feast!  Come and dine on the best food and drink there is, food and drink for your soul; the only food that can satisfy our deepest yearnings for peace with God, and the only drink that can quench our thirst to be righteous in the sight of God. But we all alike make excuses. I’m running late for work or school. I’m behind in my work and if I take time to feast on the word I’ll miss my deadline and I might lose my job. I stayed up late watching that move, or celebrating with friends. I had to catch up on the news, or see how many people liked my post on Facebook. The excuses go on and on, some polite, some maybe not so polite.

How does God respond when his gracious invitation is ignored? The master was angry. At the end of the parable we find out how angry the master was. He declares, none of those men who were invited will taste my banquet.

  These are words that remind us that God shut the door of the Ark as the rains came down and the waters rose. God’s invitation went out though the preaching of Noah, but everyone made excuses, and then it was too late. These words remind us of other parables were Jesus says that the door to the banquet was shut and those who are begging to be let in late are told to go away because they are not known by the master.

God is a loving and gracious God. He has provided a way of salvation for free to all in Jesus. He sends out his invitation to all to trust in Jesus for salvation. But when the time comes for the greatest feast ever, when the feast is ready and Jesus comes again in the clouds of heaven, the door will be shut. Those who continued to ignore his invitation or who took it for granted and made other things a priority will be locked out of his glorious eternal kingdom.

God has invited you to his feast. He has made sure that you received his invitation through baptism, through all the opportunities that he has given you to hear, read and study his word, and through his offer of the body and blood of Jesus so that you might have no doubt that he wants you to feast with him forever. Your sins, your polite excuses, your messed up priorities, all your sins are washed away by the blood of Jesus. They are covered by the white robe of his righteousness that he gives you to wear so that you may feast in God’s presence forever.

Our gracious Lord is determined that every seat at his banquet be filled. Even though he is angry that those who had his written invitation excused themselves and didn’t make feasting with him a priority, he doesn’t give up. He says to those he has called to do it, Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town, and bring in here the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.’ “The servant said, ‘Master, what you commanded has been done, and there is still room.’ “Then the master said to the servant, ‘Go out into the highways and hedges, and urge them to come in, so that my house may be filled.

He says to you and to me, who by grace know that the banquet represents the offer of his gracious forgiveness in Word and Sacrament, and that the word that everything is ready foreshadows the last day—he says to you and to me go out quickly. There still is room. God wants all to be saved. He wants everyone, regardless of social standing, or ethnicity; he wants everyone to be invited to come to his feast. Go out quickly and URGE them to come in. Let them hear the urgency in your voice. Let them clearly understand that the night is coming. This world as we know it won’t last forever. Everyone will stand before God in the judgment. Let them know that only those who trust that Jesus has paid for all their sins will be permitted to enter the banquet hall and be allowed to dine on the choicest of food in the presence of the Lord forever. Everyone else will be shut out. They will never get a taste of the banquet.

What a gracious God we have! We have received a written invitation to feast with him now and forever! It’s the most coveted invitation there is, greater than being invited to an audience with the queen, or to lunch with Warren Buffett. There is no way we deserve to be invited. We realize that we can’t afford the proper clothing. But we are assured that everything is taken care of for us. Jesus himself has put our name on the list of guests and provided us with the proper clothing. Everyone who has been baptized into Christ is wearing it. Don’t take God’s gracious invitation to feast on his word and sacrament now, and to feast with him forever in heaven, for granted. Make it your top priority. And, filled with joy and gratitude that God would invite you to his feast, go quickly, and share God’s invitation with others before it’s too late.

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” You are invited to a feast! It’s all free, but don’t let that fool you. It’s the richest of fare. Don’t ignore the invitation. Don’t delay. It’s a matter of eternal importance.

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