Category Archives: Sermon

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Living Time in the Lord

God’s grace His mercy and peace from Him our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ be with you through the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The texts for our sermon this morning is from Romans 14:7-9 where Paul tells us none of us lives to himself and none of us dies to himself. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.

You will not be the same after this sermon is done. Yes, the words of Christ spoken through me will bring new life in you through the Holy Spirit as you are killed alive, but I also mean you will physically change. In the time it takes me to deliver this sermon, you will be older, and therefore your body will be further along in its gradual, inevitable demise. Perhaps a hair or two will fall off (more for some than others); skin cells will die and be replaced by others; your eyesight dim; wrinkles deepen and lengthen; the enamel on your teeth thin, your joints will stiffen, your back will compress. Although these changes will be so profoundly minute that the loss defies measurement, it nevertheless remains true. You are changing as you hear these words. You are aging. You are on your way to death. And nothing, absolutely nothing, can alter that fact. (Bird)

Today we are touching on the stewardship of time and this is a topic of stewardship that we can all relate to, whether we are 3 or 103 we are stewards of our time. When it comes to talents, some people just don’t have them (kidding), when it comes to treasures, some have more than others and some may not be in an earning arena of their life (too young). But if you are alive, you have time. This is why time is a good place to talk about stewardship.

Stewardship is taking care of the things God has given to us. Godly stewardship is loving him and loving others with everything he has given to us. In the stewardship of time we are called and redeemed by God to use our time in ways that helps us to love him and helps us to love our neighbors. These are the great commands. This is all we are to do, and thankfully God helps us to do it by giving us time. God is patient with us as we grow in love towards him even as he lives in us.  Because whether we live or die. We are his even as he is in us.

So time… What is time? Time is something we are continually watching. Our culture and society prize time and value time and mark time like none other. Time is always before us. In our speech and in our mind. It can become an obsession for us.

We measure time with centuries, decades, years, months, weeks days, hours, minutes seconds milliseconds becomes more and more precise as we “progress” in the world. Time is really just the passing of events one after another. Whether we track it or not, time is passing. From the beginning the passing of days has been noted and noticed. The first 7 days of the world included the creation of the lights (day 4) in the (Genesis 1:14-15) expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. These lights are to be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years to shed light upon the earth.

Since the moment when death entered the world through sin, time has meant many things but for our broken minds more often than not, the passing of time reminds us of the approaching of death. Regardless of what we do with it, how we measure it or how we spend it, time is a gift from God and our days are entrusted to us. How we manage our time as God’s people is one of the questions we are blessed to answer with our lives in Christ.

We have a couple examples from our lessons today of time management. “Jesus,” Peter asks, “how many times do I have to forgive my brother who sins against me? Aren’t I just wasting my time if I do it more than seven times?” Jesus responds: “No, you need to do it more like seventy seven times (or 490 times) before you should worry about the cost it is to your time.” What a great picture of how we are to spend our time. Forgiving one another as Christ has forgiven us. Do it. How many of your 168 hours in the past week did you spend forgiving your fellow believers who have sinned against you. And, not just in your mind, but in your living. I admit before God and before you that I have not lived to this degree the forgiveness that God has called us to exhibit.

In the parable Jesus follows this exchange up with, we get an example of needing more time and being impatient. The man in the parable asks the master to be patient, I cannot repay you at this time, I need more time. Be patient with me and the merciful master allows the debt to be carried a bit longer. What a great gift of time given to the man. This man leaves the presence of the master only to find a man who owed him a debt. This second debtor to the original debtor too wants time to repay. But the original debtor would not extend the grace that was originally given to him.

And therein lies just a picture of our sinful failures to be good stewards. In this example it is a stewardship of forgiveness. A stewardship of patience. A stewardship of time. God has given us all of days, hours, minutes and seconds and he doesn’t just want some of them dedicated to him, but he asks for lives that are dedicated to him. And we fail. We fume. We forget. We fight and we forge a schedule based on the desires of our heart rather than that which God has called us to loving him, loving others. Forgiving as we have been forgiven.

In our Old Testament lesson we receive a picture of the life of stewardship we have been called to. So often we carry a chip on our shoulder and we let that chip dictate our motivation. I will do this so that someday I can show them. I will put up until I can get up. I will fake it until they break and then I will make it. Our sinful nature loves to make us focus on a fairness based on our standards rather than a faithfulness based on God’s commands.

Joseph’s father had passed away. Upon the death of their father, Joseph’s brothers were concerned that Joseph would pay them back for what they had done to him (throwing him in the pit, selling him into slavery, claiming he was dead). Their fears were put check when they sent a message to Joseph from their father before he died where he asks Joseph to forgive their sins. Joseph wept, and they said, we are your servants, he wasted no time telling them not to fear. Joseph says: “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for your little ones.” Genesis 50:18-21

Joseph’s answer easily could have been quite different, but this man of God was living a life to the Lord. This is what a life lived to the Lord looks like. It realizes that God has given us all things. All of our time, all of our blessings, all of our challenges, and he uses them to bring about His good. Had Joseph harbored hatred and sought vengeance with his time do you think the story would read as good in scripture? Well they do make the pages. Because God’s word doesn’t gloss over the reality of our brokenness. God doesn’t ignore or hide the fact that we are not perfect stewards of the time he has given us on this earth No, those stories of bitterness and unforgiveness are written not only in scripture, but in our own personal lives. They have happened and happen continually they are the stories that put our Lord to death on the cross.

Romans 14:7-8 None of us lives to himself and none of us dies to himself. If we live we live to the Lord. and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.

How does our living look when we realize we are the Lord’s? How do we use our time? This week and the week ahead I would like to challenge you to track your time for a day or two. If you had a chance to look at your news and notes this morning already, you will have seen or you will see that there is a chart with some average time usage statistics. These statistics and at least 25 pages of similar data are available from the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics. Including breakdown by gender and ages.

  • So in the next week or so, proactively track you time. What do you spend your time doing?

  • Consider this a family homework assignment, the children, make sure your parents are doing their homework!

  • We aren’t asking you to report how you use your hours, although you are welcome to share observations on the back of this yellow card if you want…

  • This is a personal exercise that you can use as part of your devotional life. Take note of what takes your time, pray about how you feel you are spending your time, ask God to forgive you for too much time spent on things and not enough time on others. Watch God answer prayers and lead you to a life with different time emphasis…

  • We are asking you to complete this assignment no later than Oct 5 by returning the card with your name on it. We want to encourage one another with this and will share the names of those who complete the time challenge.

How many hairs did you lose? How many skin cells died? Your eyesight may indeed be dimer; your wrinkles don’t appear to be deeper and longer from where I am standing, but ever so slightly they are; the enamel on your teeth is thinner. You have changed. You have aged. You are on your way to death. And nothing, absolutely nothing, can alter that fact.

But even if I was to deliver this sermon over and over again, there is someone beside who will not change. He is to your left and right. Above you and below you. Before you and behind you. Inside and outside you. He thoroughly envelops you with his presence. He too has a body like yours, but his body is different, and it is finished with change. It changed from a fetus to a crying newborn; from a newborn to a toddling toddler; from a toddler to a pimpled teen; from a teen to a robust man; and from a man to a beaten, crucified victim robbed of life. And, then, after three days, he underwent the final change: from a buried victim to a resurrected victor. No hairs fall off. No skin cells die. His eyes penetrate heaven and earth. Even the scars from nail and spear are dazzling, trophies of love. He will not change, either in body or heart. He has said it once, and his announcement remains unalterable: “You are mine. I have bled for you. I will never leave you or forsake you. Though you are on your way to death, you are not, for in my death you already died. In my resurrection you already rose. And nothing, absolutely nothing, can alter that fact.” (Bird)

None of us lives to himself and none of us dies to himself. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. Romans 14:7-9

In the name of our Living Lord, Jesus. Amen.

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Romans 8 Funeral Sermon

In the sermon below, the name of the deceased person has been replaced with “our friend.” I pray this funeral sermon on Romans 8 is a blessing to you.

Romans 8:38-39 – For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Family and friends in Christ gathered today, God’s grace his mercy and his peace are yours from him our heavenly father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Nothing separates us.

We live in a time when separation is quickly and simply overcome. Skype, Google Hangouts, Facetime what have you bring faces from places all over the world into a conversation with those who want it. Devices bring instant updates from friends firing off a quick lined updates in text messages. Voices can be heard in our ears transmitted over phone lines and cell towers in an instant. Social media networks keep us close to all sorts of people in all sorts of places some we are happy to hear from — some we endure. Separation is overcome by technology, but in many ways separation is increased as well by the same luxuries.

It is easy to diminish the closeness of a relationship when it is only shared across technological connections. The sting of the loss of a loved one is easier absorbed over the phone than it is face to face. The same is true of consoling and comforting one another. When we have barriers of miles connected by lines we are only able to say and do so much. Separation is hard.

The opposite of separation is connection. Being connected to God begins in our faith live when we are baptized in the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. That is how it began for our departed friend on her baptismal birthday. She was baptized into the family of God and in that baptism, like yours she received the gift of faith which we know by grace, through faith alone the gift of life is ours. That gift of faith was nurtured by her family and by this school and church which led her to her confirmation which took place before this very altar. Our departed friend’s faith was evident in her life as a mother, a wife, a church member, an active volunteer in our church and school. I had the opportunity to get to know our departed friend quite well. I saw what she wrestled with — and I saw her faith.

Satan loves separation. He loves separating us from all that is good. He loves seeing separation happen. Satan is even happy to see us convinced us we are separated from all that is good even when we are not. He loves tormenting us to believe we are disconnected. Once someone is disconnected he stops tormenting them.

Satan loves separation. He would love you to be separated from that gift and he uses all sorts of devices to keep you separated. Busy schedules are very logical separations from the gifts. Complacencies like — “I know my savior and that’s enough.” Not knowing enough people and the feelings of discomfort keep us separated from the gifts. But our friend knew better than to let these things keep her away from God’s gifts. As a faithful member of Trinity she received God’s gifts of forgiveness of sins regularly in worship services here and in meetings with me where I assured her of God’s love. As a mother she ensured her children would be in church and in our school here where they are being trained in the truth of God. God worked through this congregation and many in our friend’s life to assure her that she was not separated from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

Satan loves separation. And now the biggest of his lies lays in front of us as our friend no longer lives. No more will we be able to talk with her. No more will she be enjoying laughter and hugs in these halls and in her home. She is gone —  taken by death. But Satan’s biggest lie is just that a lie. You see what Satan wants you to believe is that our friend no longer lives. Satan wants you to believe that she is undeserving. That she was not good enough — that she was too bad and her sins were too big for God to overlook. And he points the same accusations at you. You aren’t good enough. You aren’t deserving.

And Satan is right. Our friend was too bad for God. Our friend never deserved God’s love. You are too bad for God. You don’t deserve God’s love. No one deserves it. But God still gave it to our friend and he gives it to you.

And this is the gift from God that our friend had — she had the promise that nothing will separate her from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Until last week it was a promise. But for her now, removed from the reach of Satan’s lies, the promise is reality. And the further reality is that since her baptism it has never been our friend living, but Christ living in her. She was baptized into his death so that just as he was raised from the dead, she too walked and lives in a newness of life in him.

Christ came into the world to remove the separation. To defeat the lies he came as a human baby and died as a grown man. He Himself experienced for you and for our friend the separation that heals all separations when He cried out on the cross My God why have You forsaken me! He took the punishment for the big sins (and the little ones) that God cannot overlook. He gave His life on the cross for our friend’s life and for your life. And in His resurrection, we know life is now lived with Him in God. We are comforted knowing that we are never separated from the love of God in Christ Jesus. In that love of God we find a direct connection to those who have died in the faith.

For our friend this is real now. For us it is something we can only imagine. May God strengthen us in our faith as we mourn together.

In the name of Jesus.

Amen.

 

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This is How to Pray

Sermon on Luke 11:1-13 for Pentecost 10C at Trinity Lutheran Church in Toledo, Ohio

Colossians 2:6-15 Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, 7 rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. 8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.

Luke 11:1-2, 13 Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” 2 And he said to them, “When you pray, say: “Father … 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

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This past week I had the honor of representing assistant and emeritus pastors of our Ohio district at the LCMS convention in Saint Louis. Although I enjoyed the company of some old friends and our own Elder Dan Gibson who was representing you and the rest of our circuit, I missed my wife and children terribly. It was pleasantly pointed out to me upon my return by my lovely wife that I had missed 25% of Caleb’s life. Ouch. I have been making it up by holding him as much as possible since my return.

At the convention I received a great view of a difficult way to get something accomplished. Questions were asked, resolutions were sought and, yes we even had a gavel knock from time to time. I heard it said a number of times that there is proof we are God’s Church – in that we are still “in business” after years and decades and centuries and millennia of us “sinners” making decisions to run the Lord’s Church. The will of man is evil continually and our best ideas are often paces away from being abused and perverted into the worse offenses. It is only by the grace of God and His guidance that we could continue and survive and work for him through all our weaknesses. Getting 1200 people representing over 2.2 million people to agree on a decision and direction at one time is a monstrosity of a way to accomplish something.

Thanks be to God we have been granted a means of accomplishing things via prayer to God. And asking, seeking and knocking are the means by which we can communicate our wants needs and desires to the Lord. It doesn’t take any floor committees, resolutions, ⅔ majority, points of order or anything of that sort to bring our prayers to God. All it takes is us approaching His throne of mercy as he graciously invites us through His Son.

“God is more willing to give than we are to receive.” Saint Augustine
In our Gospel lesson today, Jesus gives us a glimpse of prayer that seems to be too good to be true. Especially in comparison to our human machinations for making decisions and requests. Ask, seek, knock. That’s all it takes? If it were so easy, then why do we spend so much time desiring more than we have? Why do we groan through the pains of trials and tribulations if our heavenly Father is waiting to answer our asking, waiting to be discovered by our seeking and waiting to open doors at our knocking? This can’t be all there is to prayer? Not only does it seem too good to be true, but our experience doesn’t bear it to be true. Or does it?

God is our Heavenly father and in these verses we get a clear indication from Jesus that this is how we should talk to God, as dear children talk to their father. Through baptism we enter the family of God and in that family we have the privilege of being able to ask of our father as children ask their fathers, boldly and confidently. As His children we know that our perfect father will not give us a stinging scorpion when we ask for an egg. As his dear children we know that our perfect Father will not give us a venomous snake when we ask for a delicious fish. And this all begins when we enter God’s family through baptism.

Baptized for this moment was the theme for the convention and has been a theme of sorts for the year here at Trinity and in our Church body. Wet with the water and steadied by the Word that we remember daily in our Baptism, we are equipped with all the grace and mercy and God given strength we need to face the world. And along with this grace comes the privilege to ask, seek of God to knock on His door. In this washing of rebirth and renewal comes the ear of our Father waiting to give us all things that we need to support this body and life… and more.

So how and what are we to ask for.

  • Well we have to make sure we do it in the perfect manner or our prayers will be thrown into the invalid category? Right?
  • We have to be in the right frame of mind with the least amount of distractions possible before we come to the Lord in prayer. Right?
  • We have to seek out strength in numbers, the more people praying the same prayer the same way the better chance God will hear and answer. Right?
  • We need to use the proper words and to say them in the proper order. Right?

All these are wrong and more. Not that we shouldn’t seek to be away from distractions, surrounded by fellow Christians, and respectful of God in our prayers, these are good things, but these do not make or break our prayers. They may make or break our prayer habits but they will certainly not put our prayers on top of God’s answer pile. So then how should we pray?

Jesus answers this question for us today. Actually he answered that question for the disciples and the words ring true for us. When you pray, say: “Father…” And so the most important word of prayer. Not Amen, not just, not some other pious word but that simple name we are gifted to call our God, Father. And that simple word brings with it so much good.

You see we have a perfect father, not just a really nice father or a really fun father or a really good father, but a perfect father. And a perfect father knows what his children need before he is asked but a perfect father also enjoys hearing and answering his children’s requests.

There are two ways parents can respond to the news and questions that children often bring to them. Take parent one, perhaps his name is Ryan. Ryan’s children approach him and tell him something they have learned for the first time. Ryan responds as an adult who has been highly educated, far traveled and well read responds without flinching, “of course child, that is the way the world works…” before carrying on with a personal example or further information along the same topic. Parent two, perhaps her name is Kati. Kati’s child approaches and tells her something they have learned for the first time. Kati responds in a completely different way. Her mouth drops open and her eyes widen. It’s as if she has never heard this kind of thing before. The kid’s face brightens, and they feel as if they have truly connected with their mother.

It may seem to be a dishonest reaction to pretend to not know the information brought by a child, but in many ways it is not completely a rehashing of old information. The information through the child’s eyes is being interpreted and experienced in a new fresh way and being shared with one who cares deeply for the child.

So it is with God when we bring our prayers of praise and need to Him, we are talking to the one who knows all. We are talking to the one who suspends the stars in the sky and who keeps our atomic particles sticking perfectly together to keep us from dissolving into space. He knows not only the past and present perfectly, but he also knows what the future holds. And yet he loves to hear us. As perfect parents love to hear their children.

Luke 11:13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!
Another thing the name father brings to mind is that we are part of a family. And in this family is the Son of God and when we pray we pray like him. We even pray in the name of Jesus so that as God’s children, He doesn’t see our evil nature standing before him, (as Jesus knows us to be and calls his disciples in the lesson today) but rather than evil us, He sees the perfect died and risen for you – Son Christ, speaking the words we pray.

Colossians 2:6-7 Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.
In Colossians 2:6 we are told by Paul: “Since you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” We are instructed to walk in him, and it would make sense that we can extend it to how we pray. We are to pray in him. Rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as we are taught and with abundant thanksgiving. What a great checklist for our prayer life. Pray in thanksgiving, pray in what we learn of Him through the word, pray rooted in our faith. Pray in Him walk in Him and in doing so our lives become a prayer keeping His name holy. We know God’s name is kept holy when the Word of God is taught in its truth and purity, and we, as the children of God, also lead holy lives according to it. Our dear father in heaven certainly helps us to do this!

Colossians 2:8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.
On the contrary though anyone who teaches or lives contrary to God’s Word profanes the name of God among us. Our heavenly Father also protects us from this. Paul warns us against this and encourages us to be protected from these things when he goes on to warn against walking in the ways of the world, there are dangers for us to pray according to the world. We are continually facing the traps of “philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” These things would have us pray to a God and in a way that make rational sense. Our evil minds can grasp many things as God has gifted us to do, but we cannot rationalize and understand God. What our minds can fully fall for though is the temptations of this world the desires for health and comfort and things of this world consume us and overwhelm us and overtake our prayer life. Yes God does give us health and comfort and he does give us things of this world, but these things are not what we need.

We could have perfect health and abundant, comfortable living and all the gizmos and gadgets and things our finest minds and fullest wallets could dream up and purchase but they will not last. And they will not give us that which we need the most. These things will never give us the forgiveness of sins life and salvation that our evil ways require. All we need is Jesus. And Jesus is what you have. As a redeemed child of God, even when we pray for things we don’t need, your sins are forgiven and your prayers are answered. Always.. It is in Him and through Him we pray. Always.

And in Him, through Him and because of Him, praying is as easy as asking, seeking, and knocking. Because you are washed in baptism, buried with Him in baptism, you are now cleansed, with the water and the blood — and you are able to stand and with new life, with Him, with His words to ask as a dear child asks a father, knowing he gives perfectly.

Saint Augustine wrote: “God is more willing to give than we are to receive.” How true it is, we will never know this side of glory. Go to him in prayer and continue to receive his abundant blessings.

In His name. Amen

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What Can I Do?

Sermon on Luke 10:25-37 for Pentecost 8C at Trinity Lutheran Church in Toledo, Ohio

Luke 10:25-37 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” 29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

We are always seeking to do something to save ourselves. Satan works overtime convincing you that you need to do more. That you haven’t done enough. More than – that even more baser than the “not reaching the goal with your actions,” Satan tempts you to believe that you can do anything, something, towards your salvation. It is an easy victory for him. We are quite capable after all, God has made us with the ability to think and do – beyond all the other creatures in the world. We can do many things, but we can do nothing for our souls. We can do many things, even things for our neighbor, but when it comes to your soul and its standing before God, there is nothing you can do. Satan doesn’t want you to realize that, he doesn’t want you to dwell on it. Right now, some of his attacks are entering your minds right now. Don’t give him any ground. You are Christ and as Christ’s chosen selected, perfected – He does and has done it all for you.

We get a glimpse today of a man who had lost this inner struggle and had given up the idea that he could do nothing. He thought he could do something. Perhaps he had never been told that he was justified by faith. Perhaps he did not realize the sacrifice of one, made the sacrifices of many effective, not the other way around. The lawyer stood to put Jesus to a test, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” What can I do, Jesus, to make sure I have life everlasting? What can I do?

Jesus answers him the way wise people answer questions, he answers with a question: “What does the Law say? How do you read it?” By law, talking to the lawyer, he didn’t mean statutes and codes, he was talking about the law, the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, the book of Moses. The law, as opposed to the prophets and the writings of the Old Testament scriptures that they were all familiar with.

The lawyer was a smart man, he quickly indexed through to the meaning and referencing all of the laws with one answer he says: “Love God, with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” He nailed it. And Jesus let him know. “You have answered correctly,” Jesus says and continues, “do this and you will live.” The unspoken flipside of the coin goes like this, “don’t do this and you’re dead.”

And the flipside of the coin is what kerplunked in the recesses of the mans mind. Something nagged at him. The cripple he passed without a second glance earlier in the day. The former friend or family member he was at odds with that he couldn’t forgive. The person he worked with but couldn’t stand. That time he was distracted during prayers and wasn’t fully loving God with every ounce of his heart, soul, strength and mind. That flipside of the coin rattled to a stop in his brain and stared accusingly at him. Death for not loving god and not loving neighbor as self. The law spoke in the mans mind and so the man sought to defend himself against this law. The law spoke and so did the lawyer.

“Who is my neighbor?” the man asks the loaded question. The question loaded with the expectation that he could do anything, that he could do something for his soul. The loaded question he hope would get him a pass for his failed attempts.

Romans 3:20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.
Just like the lawyer, We are always seeking to justify ourselves. Seeking to find a way around loving the unlovable; seeking to find a way around the discomfort we feel when facing God’s desire, His laws. When God’s demands, requirements, his law, his design when these things make us uncomfortable, they are doing something good for us. Saint Paul tells us some truth in Romans 3:20  - “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.”

And so Jesus takes the loaded question and responds with a timeless parable. This story transcends belief systems and is known throughout the world. The good Samaritan – not just a parable these days, it now anyone who goes out of their way to help someone else.

The story goes something like this… You are walking through life, doing your thing, minding your business and suddenly things take a turn for the worse. Your friend betrays you, your financial situation takes a turn for the worse, you can’t find the person to spend your life with, your parents hurt you, you find yourself hurting others, you sin repeatedly doing the wrong things, hurting those around you making terrible decisions you can’t make right. Suddenly on your walk through life you find yourself stuck on the side of the road, in the ditch, broken, half way to dead.

And there you are as the thoughts enter your mind that, hey, I just need to try harder. I can pick myself up and dust myself off and make it back on this journey of life. And before you can even get started on this solution your mind has enlightened you to, you fall flat on your face and are back in the ditch, broken, half way to dead.

Once again another thought enters your mind, hey I wasn’t ready to try harder earlier. I wasn’t really ready to do what I needed to do to successfully pull myself up. I can make it this time with the right rituals and steps and so you start to rise from the side of the road, reaching out after this thought that enters your mind and before you can even get to your knees, you crash again to your pit of despair, broken again, failing, halfway to dead.

And then something despised and rejected, a painful thought associated with suffering enters your path. The only thing that’s moved enough to reach out to you and provide that which you need. Jesus comes along and binds up your wounds, your imperfections are made perfect, he pours oil on your head, your filth is cleansed. He pours wine on your wounds washing out the disses and lashes and dents life has thrown at you. He picks you up and puts you on his donkey and brings you to a place with many rooms and tells the one in charge, take care of him. Whatever it costs I have it covered.

Forgive my allegorizing Jesus parable, but I hope it helps you see what Jesus is doing here. He finishes the parable by asking the Lawyer, “which of these three men (the priest, the levite or the samaritan) was a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?”

And the man answered again rightly, saying, “the one who showed him mercy” and so Jesus charges him, the same charge he gives to you, “Go and do likewise.” He tells the man something impossible but he doesn’t stop there. God’s law tells you to do something impossible for you to do, but he doesn’t stop there.

Every time Jesus tells you to do something that seems impossible, He proceeds to do it all for you.

Romans 3:21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it.
Paul tells us some more truth in Romans 3:21 – “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it” The Law will not save those who cannot keep the law. Those who cannot by their own reason or strength keep the law perfectly are saved only by the one who can.

We will do well to not forget this. We do well to hear this and hear it often, because Satan and the world around you magnifying Satan’s work will seek to tell you otherwise. You can do it. You can do it on your own and if you’re not doing it on your own, you’re not gonna make it and you’re not worth it. Don’t surround yourself with lies. Listen to the truth.

When we look to find the solution within ourselves we are turning from God’s solution on the cross. I really meant it during the worship service. I really believed God’s promises. I really prayed really hard. I sang really loud. I was extremely nice to that person I can’t stand. I, I, I, I, all these I’s threaten to get in our way of seeing Jesus.

Beat up on the side of the road we don’t look very beautiful or worth saving, but His saving love is beautiful.

As we are transformed by Christ from wretches slumped in a ditch next to the road into saints relaxing in a luxurious suite in our Father’s gracious home, our questions change. Our question changes from, “what can I do to inherit eternal life?” much the same question as the lawyer at the beginning of the gospel lesson, we are wrenched away from this selfish question to the selfless question that we are led to continually ask in our redeemed life, the question becomes, not “what can I do to inherit eternal life,” but “what can I do as an heir of eternal life?”

And so restored, as God’s redeemed, we do go and do likewise. We go out and seek to serve those in need. As the good Samaritan points us to the perfect neighbor, we are strengthened to live like that neighbor, to live like Jesus.

In His name.

Amen

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Sheep Among Wolves

Sermon on Luke 10:1-20 for Pentecost 7C at Trinity Lutheran Church in Toledo, Ohio

From the rising of the sun to it’s setting, the name of the Lord is to be praised! (Psalm 113:3) It is unspeakable joy to see a child of God saved through the waters of Baptism (1 Peter 3:20)  into the family of God (John 3:7). Surpassed only by having that child be my own on this awesome day. The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is His faithfulness! (Lamentations 3:22-23) And how greatly you need those mercies, brothers and sisters in Christ… daily, as Christ’s redeemed… you are sent as sheep in the midst of wolves.

With this same warning, Jesus sent the 72, two-by-two into the towns ahead of Himself as kingdom bearers. Jesus chose then what He still chooses to do now, He chose to use sinful broken men to bring His good news. He does it in a way we would never think of doing. He doesn’t do it the way we would expect the one who has power to do all — would do it.

Luke 10:3 Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves.

He didn’t spell it out with an arrangement of the stars in the heavens. He didn’t form the clouds in the sky into a message that could not be missed. He didn’t cause the birds of the air to cry out in chorus with an ethereal voice that declared His glory. He didn’t even matrix style mind meld it into hearts and minds of people everywhere. No, God used sinners like me and sinners like you to be His sheep among wolves to bring His good news to the lost.

And so He sends them. He sends them in a buddy system and He sends them with a warning and He sends them with instructions. “Don’t bring anything, no money, no bag, no sandals, don’t get sidetracked on the road. Go into homes and bring peace and if my peace is not received, leave. If the wolves you encounter refuse to be sheep, leave.” With these instructions and more, Jesus sent sinful men into the harvest field to plant seeds, to bring the kingdom of God to the wolves.

God did it this way because God doesn’t do it our way.

Our way is the way of wolves. When we realize this when we are brought to see our wolfiness, we are then made to be sheep. Christ redeems us to be His sheep. It is something we continually need to realize. We are sent by Christ into the world as sheep in the midst of wolves, but truth is, this side of the new creation, we continue with wolfy habits of our own. Brothers and sisters, as those in need of Christ’s redeeming, you are wolves. There are times when we deserve to have the dust shaken off the feet of the people around us as our words wound and our actions break those around us. We come into this world as wolves needing the Action of God — the grace of God, which makes us sheep of His fold.

wolf tearAnd so what are we to do as sheep of His fold who from time to time, more often than not end up acting like wolves? Well, Paul gives us some good advice in Galatians 6 today. “If anyone is caught being a wolf among you, you who are sheep should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s wolf tendencies and so fulfill the Law of Christ.”

These words of Paul resonate with the instructions Jesus gives the disciples as he sends them two by two. It wasn’t because he wanted to remind people of Noah and the Ark (that Jesus sent them in pairs), it was because the buddy system helped them to watch each other for wolfy behaviors and to help keep each other from temptation. It was so they could bear one another’s burdens. And by doing these things the disciples were strengthened and equipped to fulfill the law of Christ.

You know the law of Christ, to Love God and to love neighbor. Together as sheep in the midst of wolves we are strengthened, recreated, equipped to do this loving. But it is not a walk in the park. It is a walk as sheep in the midst of wolves. We need to do it together.

In the May 1987 edition of National Geographic there was a feature article about article wolves. The author of the article, L. David Mech described how a seven member pack of artic wolves had targeted several musk-oxen calves who were guarded by eleven adult oxen. As the wolves approached their target, the oxen bunched in an impenetrable semicircle, their deadly rear hooves facing out, and the calves remained safe during a long standoff with the enemy.

But then a single ox broke rank, and the herd scattered into nervous little groups. A skirmish followed, and the adults finally fled in panic, leaving the calves to the fangs of the predators. Not a single calf survived.

As sheep you are to fend off the wolves alongside your fellow sheep. When we are together as the body of Christ side by side, nourished and empowered by the Word, nothing can harm us. It is for this reason Christ sent the disciples together – to keep one another strong. It is for this reason Paul tell us to bear one another’s burdens – to keep one another from being devoured. It is for this reason we return to these pews together and together hear this unchanging story of a God/man who died a bloody death in our place – to keep Satan from gaining a foothold against the Kingdom.

We see in our Old Testament lesson today that as sheep, you are fed by the Word… as a mother feeds her child. And so we return as the child to a mother for food as only a mother provides for a defenseless, powerless, incapable child. With this picture Isaiah paints for us a perfect picture of the way God feeds us with His Word. Carried on the hip of the church, we bring each other along with the Word of God, that comes, not because we pick it out of the refrigerator and grab the flavors and ingredients and toppings and verses and teachings and rules that feel good to us, but as a child receives from his mother, unquestioningly, indiscriminately, trustingly knowing that mother knows best or more accurately, not even able to know anything aside from the love of the mother. May this be our place in God’s kingdom fed constantly by his word which comforts beyond all comforts of this world.

Galatians 6:17 From now on let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Christ.

As sheep you bear on your body the marks of Christ. In a couple hours I will have the joy of saying and doing (You saw it moments ago in the baptism of Caleb) these words: “Caleb receive the cross of Christ both on your head and on your heart to mark you as one redeemed by Christ the crucified.” Paul encourages us with confident words in verse 17 of Galatians 6: “From now on let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Christ.” You along with Paul/Caleb bear these marks, You are marked in baptism as Christ’s redeemed.  You see it is in these waters that Christ’s death becomes your death to sin in order that Christ’s victory lap around the grave three days later can be your victors trot as well. Because of that cross, death has no hold over you an you know that because God tells you that baptism does this for you. Buries you, makes you, grafts you, molds you, into Christ so that you will live forever. That’s not too bad for a sheep.

Luke 10:20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

And finally as sheep your name is written in the book of life. Christ tells the disciples at the end of the Gospel account today (Luke 10:20), don’t rejoice because of these miracles I equipped you to do. Christ may’ve well be telling us, don’t rejoice because you’re running out of seating at church. Don’t rejoice because giving is up. Don’t rejoice because (fill in the blank). Rather, rejoice because your name is written in the book of life. From the moments you passed through the waters of baptism into the life of faith, the family of God, the kingdom of grace, your name has been written in that book. Don’t forget it. Look it up daily. Refer to this verse if necessary, refer to scripture regardless, because THE wolf, Satan is working overtime, yes right even now to convince you that your name is written in pencil fading away because it was written so long ago, or to convince you that it is written in washable marker that is washing away in the tears of disappointment and pain that life is causing you. Perhaps satan is trying to convince you that your name is written in crayon, big illegible letters that cannot be read because they were written when you were a child and this church thing is for kids after all. Or maybe satan is telling you your name was written in disappearing ink. Maybe satan is telling you there is a big line drawn through your name because you’re really not a sheep you’re just a big bad wolf.

Well tell you what. Put Satan in His place and let him know each day, each moment of doubt that your name is written in the book, and even better than that it is written in the blood of Christ. The blood that was shed for each and every one of your weaknesses so that you can be every strength needed for the work God has prepared you. Nothing can blot it out, cross it out, wash it out, nothing is better than the blood of Jesus.

Brothers and Sisters in Christ, you are made from wolves to sheep – Christ continually turns our wolfiness to worthiness.

It all starts in baptism… daily.

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Giving Up

1 Kings 19:13 “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 14 He said, “I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” 15 And the Lord said to him, “Go”
Luke 9:62 No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.

He was up in a cave. Our Old Testament lesson today (1 Kings 19:9-21) starts out quite unclear, but it is clear Elijah did not start out in the cave. What brought him to the cave? Well you see a bit earlier on, a couple of chapters earlier in 1 Kings we see Elijah in one of the most famous Elijah stories facing off with the prophets of baal. You know how it goes. They lost, Elijah won. Their God couldn’t bring fire to consume the sacrifice. Elijah suggested to the prophets as they were cutting themselves in agony and supplication to their non-existent god that he was in the bathroom relieving himself and too busy to answer their cries. No. Their god did not exist and when it was Elijah’s turn to bat, God took the swing and knocked it out of the park. From the sky, fire fell consuming the water soaked, moat surrounded sacrifices. Elijah’s God, your God, won the day. Elijah followed the Lord’s command and cleaned house. The prophets of Baal were put to death. Elijah’s God won. That was a bit before, but now Elijah was in a cave.

He didn’t go directly to the cave from Mount Carmel. After leaving the success of the mountain and the cleansing of the false prophets, Elijah went to the Lord in prayer and prayed for rain. You see it hadn’t rained for over three years as Elijah had warned King Ahab in an attempt to get the people to repent. It was getting a little cracked after more than three years, but Elijah prayed and God answered. It was another “in your face” answer to prayer as King Ahab saw the clouds form out of the west and become the rain they needed that baal couldn’t bring.  Yet, it wasn’t this answered prayer that sent Elijah into a spiral of depression into a cave on the side of mount Horeb.

After this prayer was answered, Elijah ran over 20 miles non-stop and beat the chariots of King Ahab back to Jezreel. And no, he didn’t end up in the cave in the side of mount horeb to recover from his impromptu mini marathon. But this is where Elijah’s story takes a turn. You see Queen Jezebel had been following the successes of Elijah (the successes of God), she was all too familiar with this man who had predicted the draught three years earlier in an attempt to turn the israelites back to God and she wasn’t too happy about all the drama he had been causing. She wanted to see Elijah dead. This is where it turns for Elijah, or should we say Elijah turns, he starts to think about giving up. This is where Elijah takes a turn from the work the Lord had called him to and instead became controlled by fear. Controlled by fear he becomes enthralled with giving up.

The fear of death led him into the wilderness where he was so distraught and depressed that he sat under a broom tree and prayed to die. The Lord wasn’t having it and he came to Elijah and gave him food in the middle of the wilderness and Elijah was sustained. But on he went cowering in fear and finally after a 40 day journey ended up in the side of Mount Sinai also known as Mount Horeb. The place where Moses received the 10 commandments from God. And unfortunately for Elijah, it wasn’t the fear love and trust in God above all things we are encouraged to do in the first commandment that landed him in the cave, rather it was the fear of death and depression that was separating him from the Lord.

The opposition and oppression became overwhelming for Elijah and he was having a nervous breakdown. He was giving up.The fear of the Lord won’t send you into a nervous breakdown — it is the fear of the things of this world that will send you over the edge. The fear of the Lord will not lead you to give up the things the Lord has created you to do — it is the fear of the things of the world that will tempt you to give up what God has called you to do. The fear of the Lord will not lead you to give up or neglect your relationship with him — the fears and distractions caused by earthly things will lead you astray from Him.

Elijah was in the cave when the Lord came to him and said, “What are you doing here Elijah?” and Elijah answered, “I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” In other words, “I can’t keep going! They’re all against you they’re all against me! They want me to die! I’m burned out!”

God knew Elijah couldn’t keep going, but God could keep him going. So God tells Elijah to go to the mouth of the cave, he had a message for him. As Elijah stood there, a strong wind came and split rocks, the earth quaked, and fire flared. This was not God’s message for Elijah. God’s message came in the way it comes to us. It came in a small voice. It came in God’s word spoke to Elijah in a low whisper. The voice again asked Elijah, what are you doing here and Elijah answered the same way, “I can’t keep going! They’re all against you they’re all against me! They want me to die! I’m burned out!”

And the small voice of God said to Elijah, “Go.”

Not, “give up” — rather, “Go.”

Dr. Karl Menninger, a famous psychiatrist, once gave a lecture on mental health and was answering questions from the audience. Someone asked him, “What would you advise a person to do if that person felt a nervous breakdown coming on?”

Most people thought he would say “Go, see a psychiatrist immediately” or something like that, but instead, to their astonishment, he said “Lock up your house, go around town, find someone in need, and help that person.”

Turns out that psychological advice is also some Godly advice. When we are at the point of breaking, at the point of giving up, we need to remember that God has done something for us. God has sent his perfect son to become our wretched failures so we can then become and do as the God has created us to do what he has prepared for us to do. And just like the small voice, actually the same voice from the three in one, we are told by Jesus, Go.

When we reach the point of giving up, we are likely focusing on things that aren’t needing our attention as much as God. When we reach the point of giving up, we need to listen to God’s small voice and go and do what God has created us to do.

And what has God created us to do? Many things, Jesus boils it all down for us in today’s Gospel lesson. In the Gospel lesson, Jesus encourages us to give up. It’s a different kind of giving up though than the kind Elijah was up against. Jesus talks about giving up a different way. Give up your home, give up your dead, give up your past, your surroundings and follow.

What does this look like? Are we to abandon our families and homes and surroundings? No. I will not in fact be giving up on my 3 day old son or four and seven year old daughters and amazing wife because Jesus has told me to not look back. That, friends is not what God has created us to do. In fact, God has created us to do those things but to do them as the work he has called us to do. So I will raise my three day old son, and my daughters as best I can, not for my sake but for the glory of the Lord, because he has gifted me to do that. In the same way, I will be the best husband I can be for my wife not so she will be happy, althogh that is a nice side effect, but it is because it is what God has created me to do. It is one of the “works prepared beforehand for me to walk in” To his glory. And so the list goes on from parenting, to being a spouse, to being a son, to being a brother, to being a friend, to maintaining my home, to being a citizen, being a taxpayer, being a pastor all to the glory of the lord. These are the plows I push daily. These are the plows I fail to push effectively and feel like turning away from, from giving up. These are the same plows I repent of not pushing perfectly or even at all at times. And most importantly these are the plows for which I am redeemed to push again. These are the places my words and actions and love will proclaim the kingdom of God.

So what are your plows to push? Figure that up and give everything else up. That is what Jesus is asking us to do in the Gospel today. Give up everything that gets in the way of him. You might think this sounds impossible. Well, with man it is impossible, but with God, all things are possible. So let God do the impossible in your life and listen to the words of Paul from Colossians 3:17, whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. When we got the name of Jesus stamped on everything we are doing, we are following him, we are proclaiming and we are fit for the kingdom of God.

We will have days like Elijah where we feel like giving up. We will have days when Satan will tempt us to give up (on God). Daily we return to the word which is still small and still not as incredible and flashy and powerful as we want it to be. But yet, through this little word, God strengthens us to carry on and to give up (on the world). Yes friends, Satan prowls, telling us to give up; but one little word can and does fell him. May God continue to speak this word to our broken ears.

In Jesus.

Amen.

 

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Holy Trinity Sunday Sermon

John 8:58,59

Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you before Abraham was, I am.” So they picked up stones to throw at him…

We are gathered together today to worship the Unity in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity; the one God, three persons, one substance; the Father, Son and Holy Spirit; three in one. For our feeble minds this is too much to fully comprehend. But thanks to the faith worked in us by this Trinity in Unity, we are able to fully believe and fully confess this Unity in Trinity as the one True God. And because of this faith given to us, we know with all certainty that we are saved by the grace of this God we cannot comprehend. We are saved in a way we would never have designed. We are saved by the Trinity in Unity – Unity in Trinity God himself … through the greatest event in the history of the world. The death and resurrection of the second person of the trinity, lowering himself to the place we deserved to be, yet loving us too much to abandon us. And this too, just as the ins and outs of the Godhead, 1 in 3, 3 in 1 is beyond our comprehension, so too, the death of the Son of God on behalf of the enemies of God is too much for us to handle, cerebrally. But faithfully, filled to the full with the faith of this one in three, three in one, we believe and confess with all certainty that we are saved. And please do not get me wrong. Do not put the cart in front of the horse. It is not because of our confession that we are saved, but because of our saving we are able to confess!

One Father of the Church, St. Augustine, studied the mystery of the Holy Trinity and although he was at his wits’ end, he still could not comprehend it. One day he was walking on the sandy beach by the ocean. There churned in his mind the mystery of the Holy Trinity. He was talking to himself: “One God, but three Persons. Three Persons…not three Gods but one God. What does it mean? How can it be explained? How can my mind take it in?” And so he was torturing his mind and beating his brains out, when he saw a little boy on the beach. He approached him to see what he was doing.

The child had dug a small hole in the sand. With his little hands he was carrying water from the ocean and was dumping it in the little hole. St. Augustine asked, “What are you doing, my child?” The child replied, “I want to put all of the water of the ocean into this hole.” Once more St. Augustine asked, “But is it possible for all of the water of this great ocean to be contained in this little hole?” And the child asked him in return, “If the water of the ocean cannot be contained in this little hole, then how can the Infinite Trinitarian God be contained in your mind?”

This Sunday in the church year is the Sunday of the Holy Trinity. This does not mean this is the Sunday in which the pastor will stand up and fully explain the ins and outs of the one God three person Godhead in whose name we are gathered. No. This is not an exhaustive treatise on the Unity in Trinity and Trinity in Unity. Nor will you find that in Pastor Carr’s Bible study. That would be foolish; just about as foolish as trying to fit the extremely voluminous amounts of water from the oceans into a small hole. The grandeur of our Godhead cannot be understood, explained and certainly not mastered by our feeble created minds. To master, to fully understand and to completely explain God would be to become that which we were attempting to explain.

There are people in the world who are completely convinced that man has created God. That God is something our creative mind has developed for entertaining purposes or whatever reason. To me, the fact that God is beyond our understanding, explanations and mastery is proof in itself that God is God. Explaining God would make us more powerful than God.

The fact that we cannot fully explain or fully know God is not just a sign that there is a God, but it is also a sign that we are disconnected from God. The fact that there are people in the world who deny the existence of God, argue against and even come up with notions that God is created by man is a sign of the separation that exists between God and man.
This separation is evident in many other ways as well. The pain we experience and cause in this world, the empty feelings that drag us down and the longing to feel needed by those around us. The feelings of inadequacy and restlessness are all symptoms of the problem. Perhaps most telling in our world this week of the separation that exists between us and God is the disaster that took place in Oklahoma. Two schools ruined. Neighborhoods flattened. Families left to pick up the pieces, sometimes missing pieces of their families while they do it. All creation groans. We groan because of the separation that exists. We are not united with the Trinity in Unity and the Unity in Trinity. In fact we are bound in the sins of the world around us rather than united to God in love for him.

Yet the Father, Son and Holy Spirit has not left us to wallow alone in our groaning disconnected state. God who created us has created us again through His Son whom He sent to save us. And He doesn’t leave us to figure this all out on our own. No! We have this trifecta of perfection working to bring us to an everlasting union with all the saints.
And this trinity has been working united from before the creation of the World. In the creation account we see one God, three persons working to create. God the father speaks and in speaking uses the Word, the Son of God … who is the Word made flesh (and is present whenever God speaks,) and we see right in Genesis 1:2 that the Spirit of God was there hovering over the face of the waters. God has been from the beginning of this earth and from the beginning of your walk with God in the waters of baptism where the Word is combined with the water and you are combined with the word made flesh into his death so that you may be united into his resurrection. And it is done in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Unity in Trinity, trinity in Unity, working to unite you to the source of all that is good.

It is clear from scripture (and creation) that God is beyond us. He is over our heads. Too much for us to grasp. The gospel lesson today shows us that it has always been too much for our feeble human minds to take in. The confrontation between Jesus and the Pharisees that we see climax in the Gospel lesson from the end of John 8 leaves the Pharisees so unable to see God right in front of their eyes, and so enraged at the audacious claims of God that they were ready to kill God with stones. Jesus speaks words that just don’t make sense to them. He tells the Jews gathered around at him, squaring off with him, “Before Abraham was, I AM” If you know just a bit about the Gospel of John you know that there are seven “I AM” statements in John. We have been holding a Bible study over these sayings on Monday nights. “I am” is actually from the Hebrew word for Yahweh, The mysterious name of God. When Moses stood at the burning bush and said, who should I tell the Israelites has sent me to release them from captivity and slavery, from the burning bush, God speaks and says, “I am who I am… say this to the people of Israel, I am has sent me to you.”

The Pharisees hearing Jesus say, “Before Abraham was, I am.” Had a number of different synaptic connections firing in their brain. #1, this man, Jesus, is saying he is older than Abraham! #2, this man Jesus is saying he is Yahweh! #3 never entered their stubborn hardened minds, they did not consider that this man was the word of God spoken in creation, made into flesh, the wisdom calling out saying, here I am the savior of the world from before the foundations were laid, before the mountains were shaped and the hill were laid he was there. He was there in the establishment of the heavens, and the hanging of the stars and his delight was to come from on high and dwell below with the children of man.

Yet just as our sinful human minds cannot, theirs could not comprehend No our minds can’t even be persuaded by acts of God in miracles of creation and life. Our sinful nature rebels against God and nails the Word to the cross. And on that cross in another mystery we cannot believe but only confess through faith, we find our door to life. In Jesus, the Word who gives us the only image of God we have, we find our salvation.

And through His Spirit working in this word, we are made worthy recipients of this life with God the unity in Trinity and Trinity in unity.

Trinity is a word we never find in scripture. Skeptics and plain old thorns in our sides might confront us saying, “why would you name your church with a word never used in scripture?” It’s the same reason why fathers are to teach the catechism to their households. The Word of God found in scripture and revealed to us in creation is vast and voluminous. The catechism takes the chief parts of our faith from the revealed word of God and simplifies it without replacing it. In the same way, when we want to summarize all the Holy Scripture says about God as our Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier, we call Him the Trinity. And so the name of our congregation is a confession on our lips and into our community of the God who creates us, redeems us and sanctifies us, the Unity in Trinity and Trinity in Unity which is beyond our understanding has come to be ours by revealing to us who he is, when he draws us to himself and gives us our faith.

This is the faith which we will now confess together in the words of the Athanasian creed. The Athanasion creed was written to counter heresies that were corrupting the early Christian church. There was an idea infecting the church that Jesus was not true God. Just as the Pharisees… couldn’t take it, Arius and followers of Arianism couldn’t believe that Jesus was God. It seemed too strange and impossible for their sinful minds
God has revealed himself to our sinful minds, breaking through and making them new. From this renewal enabled by the Holy Spirit, we now confess together the words of our faith found in the Athanasian Creed.

what is love

1 Corinthians 13 Sermon “More Than a Feeling”

What is love?

It is a question that cannot roll off the tongue for most of us without an echoing “baby don’t hurt me, baby don’t hurt me no more” following through our brains. We spend much money, much time, much tears asking this question and searching for the answer in our lives. Love is a word that we toss around carelessly — and carefully. I love a summer day. I love finding money in my pockets doing laundry. I love steak and potatoes. I also love my wife. Careless love and careful love and all the loves in between threaten to cloud out and water down the true meaning of the word for us. Worse yet loose use of the L word can lead us to forget the source of perfect love.

When Paul was writing to the believers in Corinth, they were forgetting the source of perfect love. The Corinthians were so busy throwing around the works of God that they forgot the source of love. They forgot why they were doing what they were doing. They were making so much noise doing so many things that they forgot forgot whose they were. They were like clanging gongs Paul said, or maye they were so busy “loving like Jesus” they forgot why they needed to be loved by Jesus. The Corinthians were so divided among themselves that in chapter 12 Paul even had to remind them, stop removing yourself and others from the Body of Christ! You can’t get separate yourself from the body of Christ, the Church in order to do God’s work. That is not what perfect love is at all. Perfect love does not come by removing a hand, or a foot, the head, or yourself from the heart of the body of Christ. The Corinthians had forgotten what perfect love is. Instead of perfect love, God’s love they were going around doing things with this thing they had called “Not love.”

One good way to determine what perfect love is, what true love is – is to look at what love is not. What is not love? Three times in the opening verses of 1 Corinthians 13 we hear Paul saying that there was a problem of people having “not love” What is not love?

Paul talks about this not love when he encourages them to examine themselves. He says: “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but I have not love, I gain nothing.” – All these outward things he calls them to examine.

An interesting thing about these points though is that they all seem like pretty good actions. Speaking in the tongues of men and angels, or we might say: eloquence beyond our even the best commentators. To be a better speaker then Jim Nantz or Phil Simms? (who voices you will hear in mere hours announcing the super bowl…) Prophetic powers of speaking God’s word, knowing the future, understanding everything?! Faith to move mountains?! Giving all possessions to the poor?! Self sacrifice?! These are all highly laudable actions and qualities even to this day. Even in our life as 2013 American Christian Lutherans, people under this roof. We would all brag about these things if we were doing them, but Paul calls for a check. Why are you doing it?

What is not love? What is the not love that Paul is talking about?

Not love is self serving. When we do great things but have not love, we are doing them not out of love but of self serving. A not love situation is when something benefits ourselves more than helping others. God has not called us to love ourselves by loving our neighbors but to love our neighbors as ourselves. (Mark 12:31) He has called us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. (Matt 5:43) He has taught us to turn the other cheek. Not love is looking out for number one and forgetting who has won — victory over all things. “Take heart!” Jesus says, (meaning don’t forget!) “I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 – There is no greater benefit you can have than the life I give…

Not love is based on our feelings and emotions. When we do great things because we have a feeling of guilt to do something for someone else, or when we do great things because they make us feel better about ourselves and our situations, we are not doing them out of love but for a serotonin release. God has not called us to listen to ourselves and do what we think is right. NO! He has called us to deny ourselves, take up our crosses and follow him. (Luke 9:23) He has called us to be his disciples by holding to his teaching. Then are we truly his disciples. (John 8:31) Not love is listening to our heart more and before God’s word. 2 Timothy 3:16 tells us “All scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, reproof, correction and training in righteousness.” – You want to do acts of love? Stay connected to the greatest love of all.

Not love is what we think is best. When we do great things because they make sense as part of our plan for the future, they are not love. When we do great things because they add up on paper and will leave us comfortable, or even uncomfortable in the long run they are not love. Jesus convicts us with his words when He says, “What will it profit a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?” (Matthew 16:26) We are not taught to pray, my will be done, but rather thy will be done. (Matthew 6:9-13) Not love is worshiping our plans instead of trusting in God’s plan. Psalm 33:11 reminds us: “The counsel of the LORD stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations.” – Our plans will fail they will fall, but God never changes.

Not love is Not God.

While Paul was calling out the Corinthians for Not love issues, we needing the same, also need to focus on what perfect love is. In order to see what perfect love is, the world would tempt us to find out what love feels like. Love is more than a feeling. Trust me. The winds of change will blow your feelings all over the map. But perfect love does not change. Instead of asking what does love feel like. We need to ask, what does love Look like.

Our culture is obsessed with the feeling of love. Some people are labeled as and even admit to being addicted to being in love. The feeling of love burns hot and then oftentimes burns out. Leaving the love addict searching for their next fix. They call them teenage crushes for a reason because those immense feelings often smash the ones who bear them. We fall into the trap of focusing so much on what love feels like that we forget the more important, concrete, and God given sense of sight and task of observation. It is ironic that our society which so highly exalts the sciences and praises empiricism holding it over and above and without God, yet when it comes to love defines it and finds it only in the butterflies and gushy rushy feelings. We forget what love looks like.

We know what love looks like and we know where to see that perfect love. We see perfect love described in the pages and ages of history and scripture and life of God’s people.

Love is the fulfillment of the law. In Romans 13:10 Paul tells us: “Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” We learn in the confirmation classes here at Trinity that the 10 commandments God gives us are not for us to follow so that we can get into heaven. Rather they are the guidelines God gives us for the life he intends us to live. The first three commandments are all about loving God and the 4-10 also known as the second table of the law are all about loveing our neighbor. To do these commandments perfectly we would be perfectly loving. We would have the love that paul describes in 1 Cor 13:4-6 where he says the famous words “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.”

Reading onto the next verse is where people get the false impression that love is stupid. True love is blind, the world will tell you. The cheating lover in the soap opera or sitcom will sooth his romantic partners scorned feelings asking, “but I love you baby, don’t you love me?” And Hollywood writes the wonderful endings where the spurned lovers are blind to their lovers faults. This is not the kind of love that God gives us in perfect love when Paul says: “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” This is not a blind bearing, naieve believing, ignorant hoping, or callused enduring, of all things that attempt to destroy love. Rather this is a perfect love that will never fade and never pass away as paul says: “              Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.”

Perfect love is found given and shed for you in the redemption and perfect love of Christ. In His life and death He embodied this love– bearing burdens without limit, faithful without wavering, hoping without despairing, suffering all things–the via crucis is the via caritatis–the way of the cross is the way of love. And it is a love that conquers even death itself.

The way of the cross is the way of love and the way of love is the way of the cross. We see the ultimate love in the work of Christ, the perfection we could not accomplish, the death we were not worthy to die. The love we have is not a love that starts with us. It is not a love that comes from within us. If the love starts with you it starts in the wrong spot. Thanks be to God, that “This is love: not that we loved God, but that God loved us and sent his son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” And we see in Christ no greater love than the greatest of all loves when he doesn’t just lay down his life for his friends, but he lays it down for his enemies. He lays down his live for you and for me – to make us his friends.

That friendship with Christ, that union with him is yours this day and it’s a glorious picture of an even more glorious day. Love is anything that brings the future into the now. By being buried with Christ through baptism into his death, and rishing with him again daily in the washing of renewal and regeneration. We are broken and repaired and the future is brought into the now. Paul talks about this repared brokenness we live in in the end of the passage when he says: “For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away… For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.”

In our Gospel reading today, even the demons know who Jesus is. Knowledge of the savior is not the grace of the savior. The grace is even easier than the knowing. But the grace of God comes through Jesus the Holy One of God. The one who has been set apart, from the sinful muck of this world, and set apart from the love of the father on the cross so that we would not have to be set apart anymore. We can now be with the Son of God, sons of God as the Holy one, the Son of God leads the way.

The way he has led is the way to the place and time and perfection that awaits us all. He has risen from the dead and is the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. Those who have died in the Lord and gone before us await us and that perfect union with no more sorrow and no more pain breaks into the day to day here and now through the acts of Love that the father gives us to do as his Son lives in us.

Christ living in us is God’s greatest love for us. Christ living in us means death no longer has any dominion over us. You are loved to love. Let us love one another and not forget that love is from God and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Daily remember your birth. Daily remember to know.

In the love of God which is shown to us in Christ Jesus. Amen.

More Than a Feeling Bulletin Insert

Graphic by Brian Cole from CreationSwap

Audio available here.