Friday, August 31, 2012

Well, when you play the state champs.....

It was a rough week for MLS football.  We knew going in that Ithaca would prove a steep challenge.  They were.

Ithaca                                   30
Michigan Lutheran Seminary   0

Since the score at half time was 24-0, we take solace in a much better 2nd half.  Ithaca did not score their final TD until the last minute of the second half.

MLS also staged one of the strangest first downs I've seen.  With the ball somewhere around their own 40, MLS threw an interception.  It was returned close to the goal line where the Ithaca player was hit from behind.  He fumbled.  MLS recovered.  The play resulted in an MLS first down deep in their own territory.  I don't think that's exactly how they drew that one up.

Michigan Lutheran Seminary  14
Ithaca                                     62

We went to Ithaca's beautiful stadium, complete with a newly installed jumbotron which you could only see from the home team's stands.  The visitors had to turn around and crane our necks upward only to see the screen from a bad angle.  The townsfolk made it clear to anyone who commented on the stadium improvements that all funding came from the community (including one generous donor) and not from tax money.  I guess winning the state championship two years running produces some strong community pride.

This game hurt.  It was a tie score at the end of the 1st, 14-14.  Nathanael had even scored on a 20 yard -- give or take -- TD pass.  (Sorry, no photos because I had no battery in the camera.)  After that, it was all Ithaca.  And then a long ride home.

No volleyball until Sept 8. 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

What does a pastor do on vacation?

Our vacation covered a whole host of things.

Camping at Sleepy Hollow State Park (north of Lansing).  Catching some bluegills and pumpkinseed fish.  Watching MLS football games.  Then down to Indiana for a family wedding.  Visiting with Laura's sister and parents.  Walking around downtown Indianapolis.  Touring Lucas Oil Stadium.  Oh, and hanging out at Peyton Manning's old locker.

Now, back to work......

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Neil Armstrong (1930-2012)

Neil Armstrong died at the age of 82.  I suspect that very few can grasp the courage of Armstrong and others who made the trip to the moon and back based on nothing but the crunching of numbers.  While twelve men have taken those steps, Armstong was the first and will be forever remembered for that.

You can watch the first moon walk here:

Another nice tribute to Armstrong can be seen here:

Are you ready for some FOOTBALL???

Football season has begun with mixes reviews.

MLS at Carson City-Cyrstal

Thursday saw the debut of Andrew's first game of JV football.  Andrew did kickoff returns (shown at left) and punt returns, as well as playing safety for the entire 2nd half.

A late score brought MLS to within two, but that's where it ended after an onside kick attempt was recovered by CC-C.

Final score
Michigan Lutheran Seminary   28
Carson City-Crystal                 30 

Carson City-Cyrstal at MLS
The result on Friday, August 24 was dramatically different.  Nathanael's first varsity game was a convincing 41-6 win.  Nathanael scored a TD with :00 left in the first half.  This, following a defensive holding penalty on the last play -- which was called, then waved off, then finally assessed after CC-C had bolted into the locker room.  CC-C came back out for the final play, which ended with a pass interference call.  So the REAL last play of the first half was Nathanael's TD catch (as shown).

 Final score
Carson City-Crystal                  6
Michigan Lutheran Seminary 41


Scheduling did not allow us to see Faith's volleyball tournament at MLS.  She told us the result was not what they wanted, coming short of bringing home a trophy.  Faith is seen here, clearly not fond of the smell of a postgame Nathanael.
Laura and I are enjoying all of the WOO-HOO's of the fall sports schedule.  We are not enjoying the Cha-CHING's at the gas pump.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Samson, Archaeology, and Biblical Truth

This 11th century seal from Beth Shemesh shows a person next to a leonine figure. The site and chronology have led some to associate the seal with the Biblical story of Samson. Photo by Raz Lederman, from Ha'aretz

Recently, archaeologists unearthed a coin that depicts a man fighting a lion.  It was found near the Sorek River, which is the border between Israel and Philistia.  It was also dated roughly 1100 BC.  All of these details suggest that the coin depicts the account of Samson slaying a lion with his bare hands (Judges 14:5,6).  You can read an article about it here:  (This is also the site for the above pictured coin.)

As you would expect, lines have been drawn up by those who are convinced that this coin is all about Samson vs. those who are convinced that this coin proves nothing.

While archaeology can produce many significant finds that can be corroborated with the Bible, it is dangerous to put much stock in these findings.  We do not need a coin to prove that the account of Samson is real.  We take the Bible at its word.

Those who are skeptical of the coin being reflective of the Samson account in Judges 14:5-6 need not be dismissed or ridiculed.  Perhaps the coin is in honor of someone else.  If it had contained an inscription of Samson's name, that would have removed a whole lot of doubt.  But Samson was not the only man to have ever slain a lion.  King David did too (1 Samuel 17:34-36).  Surely others did.  So, is the coin referring to Samson or not?  We can only guess.  Even if we are convinced that we are right, it is still only a guess.

The emotion reactions to this discovery and what it represents are as interesting as the discovery itself.  Skeptics and critics will always be skeptical and critical.  That does not mean they are automatically wrong.  Christians can get way too creative in finding ways that some discovery proves the Bible to be true.  Sometimes these "proofs" can be embarrassing.  Christians do not do themselves any favors by concocting such theories.

Is the coin about Samson?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  If it is, cool!  If not, oh, well.  It doesn't matter.

I still believe that Judges is the word of the Lord, that Samson is a real, historical figure, and that he slew a lion with his bare hands.  I believe it not because someone found an ancient coin, but because the Bible says so.

Archaeology may vindicate what the Bible says.  Sometimes archaeology may seem to vindicate the Bible, and only later do we discover that the findings prove nothing.  Or that the findings are fraudulent (though this coin seems legit).  It doesn't matter.  The Bible stands on its own.  It is truth, no matter what men think or argue or find under layers of earth.

Hat Tip:

Monday, August 20, 2012

Sermon -- 12th Sunday after Pentecost (August 19, 2012)

EPHESIANS 4:30 – 5:2

In the name + of Jesus.

     St. Paul encourages you to do something that is impossible.  And yet, he encourages you to do this all the same: “Be imitators of God.” (Ephesians 5:1)  Why?  Because you are children of the heavenly Father.  Because Christ has loved you and has given himself as a sin offering for you.  Because the Holy Spirit dwells in you.  Because you will inherit a place in heaven on the day of redemption. 
     Be imitators of God, as dearly loved children. (Ephesians 5:1)  This has always been God’s intention for you.  When God first made Adam and Eve, they were remarkably different from the rest of creation.  While God simply summoned everything else into being by commanding it to be so (“Let there be light,” and there was light – Genesis 1:3, etc.), the man and the woman were different.  God did not summon the man and the woman into existence.  From the dust of the ground, God formed the man.  From the rib of the man, God crafted the woman.  But God set them apart especially in this way: God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” (Genesis 1:26)
     Adam and Eve were created in the image of God.  They knew what God’s will was.  They wanted to do God’s will.  They could do God’s will.  They were cheerful, willing, and perfect imitators of God.  Although we only hear of the one command that God had given to them, the Ten Commandments were in effect for them, too.  Adam and Eve feared, loved, and trusted God above all things.  They had no intention to lust, to covet, to hate, to harm, or to lie.  And as perfect imitators of God – although briefly – they lived up to their intentions.  They joyfully lived in God’s image.  They happily dwelt under God’s law.  They dutifully kept God’s commands.  And they gratefully received all of God’s blessings.  That is the way God always intended his world to be.  It is what he still desires.
     Over the past number of years, I have heard Christians say that they are disenchanted and even disgusted with the Lutheran church because we have not given much direction in Christian living.  I suppose that there is an element of truth in that charge.  Since we know that we are not saved by our good works, perhaps we give the impression that they are useless or unnecessary.  But good works are God’s will, so they cannot be useless.  Following God’s will is necessary.
     Still, the criticism comes: “We know that Jesus died for us.  We want to know what is next.”  Well, if you are asking what God expects of you in your new life, this is it: Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.  Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.  Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.  Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.  And walk in love… (Ephesians 4:30-5:2) 
     This is the life God wants you to live.  Be imitators of God.  You might strive for this, but you still fall short.  Way short.  It is not just that your deeds are evil.  It is that your heart is evil.  When Adam and Eve sinned against God, the image of God was obliterated in man.  You may know what God wants.  But you cannot do what God wants.  Often times, you don’t even want to.  You are bitter toward your co-worker.  You have slandered your friend.  You have no patience to be kind and tenderhearted to that jerk in the crowd.  You do not walk in love; for you would rather seek your own good than that of your fellow man – and sometimes at the expense of your fellow man. You will only forgive them once they prove that they are worth it – which is surely not how Christ forgives anyone.  This is surely not the image and likeness of God.  The Lord himself assessed mankind, in whom the image of God has been lost.  The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. (Genesis 6:5)  If the heart is wicked, the deeds that flow from it will be wretched as well.  Your sin has made you a foul stench in God’s nostrils.  You walk about with the smell of death on you.    
     And yet, Paul’s word stands: Be imitators of God.  This is not optional; this is God’s command.  Do not be deceived by those who complain, “We know that Jesus died for us.  We want to know what is next.”  These people think they can keep God’s Law, which certainly does give direction.  But God’s Law always accuses.  It tells you what you should do, and highlights that you have not.  Your problem is not ignorance; it is your heart.  It cannot be cured.  It must be put to death.  Do not be deceived.  Do not seek anything beyond Jesus Christ.  There is no life outside of Jesus.  Cling fervently to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.  That is the only place where you remain alive.
     St. Paul says: Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.  And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:1-2)  St. Paul connects your life to Jesus Christ.  Jesus’ innocent life and holy obedience makes him a sweet aroma, pleasing to the Father.  But Jesus Christ offered up that holy life as a fragrant sacrifice for you.  This offering has pleased God Almighty, and he has given his approval of Jesus’ sacrifice by raising him from the dead.  The risen Savior, who had been buried in 75 pounds of myrrh and aloes, appeared on Easter Sunday reeking of incense.  The sweet smell of our crucified and risen Lord covers over every odor of sin and evil. 
     Jesus Christ has washed you in baptism.  You are covered in Christ, and therefore, you have become a pleasing aroma to the Lord, holy and blameless before him.  You are a new creation in Christ Jesus, renewed in the image and likeness of God, with a clean heart and a right spirit.  You have been granted the status as children of God.  And now St. Paul urges you to have your life and behavior reflect your status in all that you think and say and do.  You do not do this to become more pleasing to God.  He regards you as holy and blameless – how can you improve on that?!  Rather, as children who bear God’s name, you have been created to do the works God desires.
     Therefore, be imitators of God.  Do not find excuses for your evil.  Repent, and rid yourself of all evil.  Flee from temptation.  And pursue what is good and right.  Yes, you will be fighting against worldly attitudes and actions, even against yourself!  You will surely stand out as one who is different.  But then, you are, aren’t you?  You are no longer children of the world or offspring of Satan.  You have been redeemed.  You are children of God and brothers and sisters of Christ.  It is your desire to walk in love.  It is your joy to serve the Lord.  It is your daily work to follow God’s will.
     No matter how hard you work to be imitators of God, you will still find that your sins get the best of you.  Striving to do good works and follow God’s commandments will lead to frustration, because you will never be as good as you want to be.  But remember, there is no life outside of Jesus Christ.  You will always need Jesus’ righteousness and forgiveness.  Do not look for anything that is supposedly “next.”  Your life is hidden in Jesus alone.  Just as Jesus was put to death and then was raised to life, so it is with you.  First, you put to death your sin and your filth by daily contrition and repentance.  Then, God shall raise you up anew, forgiven, pure, and blameless, that you might serve him in joy. 
     Your imitation of God will never be perfect in this world, but your status before him surely is.  Jesus has redeemed you.  The Holy Spirit dwells in you.  As you continue to be fed by Word and Sacrament, God will continue to renew you in his own image.  This is how Jesus remains in you.  In this way, the Holy Spirit will not be grieved, but will continue to dwell in you and work through you.  And while you give up your life in service to God by whatever works you do, rejoice that Jesus has given up his life as a fragrant offering for you. 

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Sermon -- For the wedding of Paul Scarbrough & Kaitlyn Hamlin

August 18, 2012
PSALM 127:1-2

In the name + of Jesus.

     The Lord is the one who built the heavens and the earth and all that is in it.  He also created man and woman.  After creating each, he brought them together as husband and wife.  In doing this, the Lord established marriage.  Through marriage, the Lord blesses a man and a woman to fulfill their sexual desires with one another exclusively.  The husband and the wife get to cherish and support one another.  They find their highest earthly delight in one another.  Marriage also provides a stable place for children to come into the world and to be raised and loved and disciplined by their parents.  The Lord had established marriage in a perfect world, and it was built to bring stability and blessing to each home the Lord would be pleased to establish through it.
     We do not live in a perfect world any longer, however.  You are sinners.  You have proved it to each other, and you will continue to prove it to each other.  In fact, you will sin against each other more than anyone else, because you will deal with each other more than anyone else.  Satan will use sin and temptation to try to destroy your house and your marriage, just as he destroyed the relationship of Adam and Eve with the Lord when they sinned against him.  All creation fell under God’s curse.  Adam and Eve could not fix that.  God had to fix it, and he did through Jesus Christ. 
     Jesus Christ purchased and won you from all sin – both the sins that you commit against others and the sin that dwells in your heart.  Jesus, the Bridegroom, betrothed to himself his Bride, the Church.  To make the Church his own, Jesus had to pay the bride-price.  The cost was his life, gladly given to redeem you from all of your sin.  By his life, Jesus has satisfied his Father with holy obedience to the Commandments.  By his death, Jesus has stilled his Father’s anger.  Jesus took your curse and endured your punishment.  The curse has been lifted.  The debt has been paid.  Your sins are forgiven.
     Jesus has brought you into God’s family through your holy baptism.  Since you belong to Christ, you not only bear his name, “Christian,” you also receive his benefits.  You are children of God, saints in his kingdom, and heirs of eternal life.  The Lord has established his house.  He has made you members in it.  Unless the Lord had done this, your whole life would be in vain.  But now, you are God’s children.  You are part of the Church, the Bride of Christ – with all the benefits that come with it.
     Today, you are establishing your own house through marriage.  The Lord intends marriage to reflect the love between Jesus Christ, the Groom and his Bride, the Church.  This is how the Lord shall establish your house, making it a place of joy and harmony.  Only the Lord can provide such grace and blessing, as King Solomon reminds you, Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. (Psalm127:1) 
     Paul, hear the word of the Lord: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…” (Ephesians 5:25)  Our Lord has sacrificed his very life so that the Church could be saved.  And our Risen Savior continues to comfort, encourage, care for, and feed his Church.  All that Jesus does is for the benefit of the Church because he loves her.  The Lord shall surely establish your house well as you love and serve Kaitlyn for her good.
     Kaitlyn, hear the word of the Lord: “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.  For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church…” (Ephesians 5:22-23)  The Church submits to Christ for one simple reason – she receives good things from him.  By submitting to Christ, the Church receives blessings, salvation, and all the benefits Christ has to give.  Kaitlyn, by submitting to Paul, you are not making yourself his slave.  Paul wouldn’t want that, anyway.  But you get to receive the blessing of his care, protection, and devotion.  The Lord shall surely establish your house when you submit to Paul in this way, as you love and serve Paul for the good he brings to you.
     Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. (Psalm127:1)  What God joins together, let no one separate.  And when the Lord Jesus is your foundation, not even Satan can destroy it.  That is not to say he will not attack.  But just as the Lord has forgiven you for all of your sin, so you also get to forgive one another, encourage one another, and comfort one another.  This is the love that will continue to build up your house.  For, love is not seen in what you get from one another.  Love is revealed in how you give to one another, in how you serve one another, and in how you are merciful to each other – just as Jesus Christ is to you.
     As long as the Lord builds your home, as long as the Lord remains the foundation of your life, and as long as you are clinging to his word and receiving his sacraments, your house will stand.  For, Satan cannot overthrow Christ.  His kingdom stands forever.  His house is always secure.  And you are members of that household and citizens of his kingdom.  Therefore, rejoice.  You bear his name.  You receive his benefits.  He will continue to love you as your Redeemer, and he will surely establish your house.

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Grenada to USA: Take THAT!

While Americans are proud to take more medals than any other country in the Olympics (I mean, your life is better now, right?), it looks a little different if the medal count is done per capita.  Check it out here.

All of a sudden, the number one nation in the world is Grenada with their 1 medal.  That is one medal per 110,821 people in Grenada. 

In comparison, the good ol' USA comes in at #49, 1 medal per 3,013,288 people.  It will take some doing to catch up to Azerbaijan.

Rounding out everyone at #85 is India with 1 medal per 206,915,326 people.


Sermon -- 11th Sunday after Pentecost (August 12, 2012)

JOHN 6:24-35

In the name + of Jesus.

     After the feeding of the 5,000, Jesus dismissed the crowds.  Jesus went up a mountain by himself.  Shortly thereafter, Jesus returned to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, to the city of Capernaum, with his disciples.  Some of the people found him in Capernaum and were eager to see him again.  Jesus noted that they were eager to see him for the wrong reason.  Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.” (John 6:26)   Jesus wanted them to recognize that many of God’s gifts provide only momentary value.  That does not mean the gifts are worthless.  It just means that they are temporary.  Jesus wants us to keep our minds on things eternal more than things temporary.
     The crowds, then, followed this up with an important question.  They said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” (John 6:28)  The people were not opposed to religion and obedience.  Few people really are.  Even atheists understand that there is some kind of standard of right and wrong, even if they will not credit God for setting that standard.  So, what does God expect?  How much does God demand?  When will finally make him happy?  What must we do, to be doing the works of God? 
     These questions are not mere theory.  The answer to these questions is what settles consciences.  The answer soothes troubled hearts.  The answer silences fears of death and hell.  If you want to be at peace, then you ought to ponder the question and know the answer, too.  “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” (John 6:28) 
     All kinds of people have attempted to answer this question.  In general, most answers boil down to some version of this: “God wants you to be good,” or “God wants you to be loving.”  Those expressions are vague enough that it is hard to disagree with them.  Who is going to dispute encouragements to be good or to love others? 
     So, what is the good that you should do?  That is a more specific question, but it still receives vague answers.  Are the good works volunteering at a charity or serving in the community?  How often – once a week?  A hundred hours a year?  How long – just a year?  Five years?  Life-long?  And what kind of love are you to show?  How is love supposed to express itself?  Is love the unquestioning acceptance of all people regardless of their attitudes, actions, or speech?  Are we to embrace people who are rude or abusive?  Can you make judgments about obscene language or crooked business practices?  Must you donate to every charity that asks?  “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” (John 6:28)  And when is God finally pleased with us for doing these things?  These are the questions that plague all people, whether they are Christian or not.  For God does not merely promote good works, he demands them.  The good words of God have to be done.
     That is why you are still frustrated and fearful of your life as well.  Your conscience never fails to testify that you have not done the good works you need to do.  Forget about finding new ways to do good works; you have not even done the good you are supposed to do in your home, amongst your friends, and at your job.  Your love is corrupt.  For, love is not inconvenienced when you can good to your spouse, your children, and your neighbor.  Love is not annoyed when you can demonstrate patience for the reckless driver, the overbearing boss, and the neglectful relative.  Love puts the best construction on things.  You don’t know what pressure your boss is under.  You don’t know if the reckless driver is racing to the hospital to see his mother who just had a heart attack.  You don’t know if that relative neglects you because she is consumed by thoughts and prayers for her bullied child.  Love endures such things.  Self-importance will not tolerate them.  You have not done the good God desires or shown the love God seeks.  Repent.
     The crowds asked Jesus that question: “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” (John 6:28)  The way almost everyone answers that question is to tell you to do more, to try harder, or to follow extra Commandments.  If you can’t keep Ten Commandments, how will extra ones help you?!  Jesus’ answer is the only answer that soothes troubled hearts and fearful souls.  Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” (John 6:29)  
     If you believe in the one whom God has sent, it first of all means that you take God seriously when he demands that you love him above all and love your neighbor as yourself.  It means that you recognize that you have not done these things, and so you need a Savior.  It also means that you recognize that you are not excused from the obedience God demands.  The good works of God have to be done.  Love is the fulfillment of the Law, and so love needs to be demonstrated to God and shown to one’s neighbor.  This Jesus has done.  The good works of God have been done.
     Jesus first of all heeded and followed all of God’s Commandments.  He did not invent new ones; he fulfilled the word which was already perfect.  Now, just as no one can read or know your heart, neither can anyone see Jesus’ heart or gauge Jesus’ devotion to his Father.  Jesus’ loving obedience, then, is seen in how he loves his neighbor.  And this Jesus demonstrated not merely in healing the sick and feeding the multitude, but in living for all people and in suffering and dying for all people.  Jesus lived honestly for the crooked, chastely for the obscene, mercifully for the abusive, kindly for the rude, and humbly for the self-important.  The good works of God have been done by Jesus.
     Jesus also demonstrated his love by suffering and dying for his neighbor.  Jesus suffered and died for all mankind – from those who judge and despise all others to those who tolerate and accept every behavior and attitude.  Jesus suffered at the hands of the crooked, the obscene, the abusive, the rude, and the self-important to pay for these sins.  Jesus has done all the works, and therefore, it is all covered.  Jesus has loved all and has done good for all by his sufferings and death for the sins of all.
     The good works of God have been done.  The Law has been fulfilled.  Your sins are forgiven.  God is pleased.  So put your heart at ease.  Do not let your conscience plague you any longer.  The good works of God have been done.  The demands have been met.  The peace of God is yours.
     They said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?”  Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” (John 6:28-29)  It is by faith that you are saved.  And just as Jesus demonstrated the love of God by his love for you, so also your faith will not sit by idly.  Though you are not under threat to serve your fellowman with love, mercy, patience, and good works, neither do you have to be convinced that this is God’s will for you.  You have been rescued from evil.  How could you go back and live in it?  Therefore, you will love your neighbor and serve him in his needs.  You will love what is good and despise what is evil.  In everything you do, you will strive to do what God says is good because that is what faith does.  It believes Jesus who has made you a new creation.  You are saints who are pleased to do good works.  Faith rejoices in loving God and serving one’s neighbor.  And faith clings to Jesus, trusting that he has done all the good works God requires.  Therefore you may serve and live without fear.  The good works of God have been done.  Go in peace and live in joy; for God is pleased.

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Sermon -- 10th Sunday after Penteocst (August 5, 2012)

JOHN 6:1-15

In the name + of Jesus.

     The Lord is the Maker of heaven and earth.  He not only created all things, he also sustains all things.  He richly and daily provides clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, cattle, and all that we own.  The Lord knows that you need your daily bread, and he supplies it without fail.  We have experienced a significant drought in our land this past summer.  Farmers have lost crops both in the fields and on the fruit trees.  And still, the grocery stores are open and the shelves are stocked.  Your food this year may be more expensive, but it will still be provided.  Even in a bad year, the Lord is good.
     The Lord was also good to the crowds who had come to see him.  Thousands had swarmed in the wilderness because Jesus was there.  But in their enthusiasm to see Jesus, they did not come prepared.  They ran into the wilderness without food. 
     Jesus recognized the impending problem.  Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread that these people may eat?” (John 6:5)  Philip must have been thinking, “You’re putting this on me?!  Where am I supposed to come up with food to feed thousands??”  Philip responded to Jesus, “Two hundred denarii would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” (John 6:7)  The apostles did not have the funds to buy bread for the people to have hors d’ourves, much less to feed them a meal.  Andrew offered some help, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish….” (John 6:7).  But he also recognized that his help was practically useless: “But how far will they go among so many?” (John 6:7) 
     Jesus highlighted the problem, but Jesus also had said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do. (John 6:6)  Jesus knew what the crowds and the disciples needed.  It was not just food that they would need.  Jesus could have just told them, “There are a lot of people and we are going to need a lot of food.  If you thought healing the lame was big, just watch this!”  But the people did not need a show, and Jesus was not there simply to astound and amaze the crowds.  Jesus supplies the needs of all people, and what these people needed was to learn to rely on Jesus for all things.
     He who created the earth and sustains all its creatures would provide all that was needed.  Rather than produce fields of grain and boatloads of fish, Jesus simply multiplied the final products.  After he blessed the food, he continued to distribute to the people, as much as they wanted.  The leftovers of Jesus’ blessing were greater than his original sources.  Jesus supplied all their needs.
     The lesson is not that Jesus feeds your belly and satisfies your cravings.  That is what the crowds concluded from Jesus’ miracle.  But Jesus would have none of it.  Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself. (John 6:15)  He does not come to feed your bellies, to stuff you wallets, or to bring social justice and world peace.  Those are the promises of politicians, and you don’t really believe them.  Jesus is not a worldly king.
     You will never appreciate your need for a Savior until you feel the pain and guilt of your sins.  You will never crave eternal life until you recognize not only that death is what you will face, but also that hell is what you deserve.  You may not pray to the Lord until he removes every support you have.  Sadly, it is not until the doctor says there is no hope that people say in desperation, “Well, I guess now all we can do is pray.”  It is to say, “Well, now that we have tried all we can think of, there is nothing left but to throw our concerns to the all-powerful, all-loving, and all-wise God.” – as if that is the last thing to do instead of the first thing you should do.
     Jesus may let you fall to the point of utter weakness and hopelessness just so that you will recognize that all of the things you count on are never things that should be counted on.  Jobs can be lost.  Homes can be destroyed.  Friends can forsake you.  Even family can turn on you or be taken from you in death.  While the Lord usually provides you with strength, comfort, and sustenance through these means, they cannot replace the Lord who gives them.  They cannot save; therefore, do not put your trust in them.
     Jesus had asked Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” (John 6:5)  Philip saw the problem, but he had no good answer.  Andrew found a boy with five loaves and two fish, but he knew it was a pitiful solution for a problem so great.  And so it is with all of our solutions to supply our needs regarding sin, death, and judgment.
     Where are we to find the righteousness we need?  Where are we to find the solution to take away our sin and guilt?  We could say with the Israelites, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.” (Exodus 24:7)  You may even try to do it, but you do not.  Like Philip, we only see the gravity of our problem.  Like Andrew, we only see how pathetic our solutions are.  Our sin still sticks.  Our judgment is deserved.  We still need deliverance from sin, from death, and from judgment.
     Jesus came from heaven to supply what is lacking before God.  If you desire to set foot in heaven, then you need to be holy.  If you want to be preserved from the torments of hell, then you need to be free of all sin.  If you want to escape the grave, then you need a refuge in death.  Jesus supplies your every need, and he gives you all that you need.
     Jesus continually did all the deeds that God’s Law demands.  Jesus’ holy, obedient life supplies the righteousness we need.  Jesus included you in the new covenant.  In baptism, Jesus sprinkled you in his blood and bestowed upon you that righteousness God demands.  If God sees you as righteous, then God is pleased with you.  Jesus supplies your every need. 
     But Jesus’ innocent life did not end up with praise and reward.  It ended with a cruel death.  More than that, it ended with a cursed death.  Jesus was crucified with our sins heaped upon him.  Sins don’t just go away.  They must be punished.  Jesus supplied your every need.  He was condemned for you – for your love of the world, for the cravings of your belly, for your discontent with God’s gifts and your lust for more.  Jesus suffered what he did not deserve so that you would not get what we deserve.  And why?  Because you needed it.  Your sins demand punishment.  You needed to have your sins taken away, and so Jesus has done it.  The blood he shed to pay for your sins was poured over you at your baptism.  Therefore, your sins are forgiven.  There is no condemnation for you.  You need a refuge in death and judgment, and Jesus that refuge.
     Jesus supplies your every need.  Jesus has – is! – the solution to all of your needs.  While he supplies you with your daily bread, he is not a king who simply fills your bellies and your homes with stuff.  He comes to deliver you from a world where all is dying, decaying, and disappointing.  He will deliver you to an eternal dwelling in heaven.  You could never earn it or buy it – anymore than you could feed a small town with a picnic basket full of food.  But Jesus supplies your every need, just as he supplied thousands with the meal they needed.
     You may have times of difficulty, struggles, and even desperation.  But you never fail to have a Savior-King who knows and loves you.  Jesus always gives enough.  His gifts are always good.  You always need them, and Jesus is always pleased to supply them.

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Sermon -- 9th Sunday after Pentecost (July 29, 2012)

Here's the first of (God willing) many to come.

MARK 6:30-34

In the name + of Jesus.

     There is no doubt that the devil’s handiwork can be obvious.  St. Paul spelled out what that will look like as the world draws near its end.  In the last days there will come times of difficulty.  For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. (2 Timothy 3:1-5)  Such actions and attitudes are seen in a society where God’s order for marriage is turned on its head and people who uphold that order as the only divine order are vilified for doing so.  It is also seen when a deranged individual goes into a theater and opens fire on the people who simply wanted to be entertained by a movie.
     But don’t get the idea that Satan’s handiwork is only seen in acts of violence, perversion, or cruelty.  Most people who are under Satan’s domain we would not consider to be violent, perverted, or cruel.  Most people know how to behave.  Most people are decent, law abiding citizens who go to work, pay the bills, take their kids to little league, and sit harmlessly in the movie theater.  They are not monsters, but they are captives.  They do not even know they are bound and claimed by Satan because Satan has deceived them.  They figure that as long as they pay the bills, see Junior get a hit, and get settled into the theater seating before the previews start, all is well. 
     But they are lost.  They may only recognize it when life turns tragic.  It does not take much to upset our world.  Sin and sorrow and death affect everyone, so eventually people discover that they are lost.  They are alarmed to learn that they live life without hope, without foundation, and without peace.  When evil comes and unravels the fabric of your life, only then do you discover whether or not your life is founded on something that is solid, dependable, and real.  The only source of real, reliable, and rock solid hope is Jesus Christ.  Jesus has compassion on the lost.
     Jesus and his apostles had set out for a retreat.  They sailed from the western shore of the Sea of Galilee to a quiet place on the eastern shore.  But the crowds saw where they were going, and they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. (Mark 6:33)  While Jesus was moved by the size of the crowds, it was not from an ego trip that such large numbers had come running to the middle of nowhere to see him.  It was from seeing so many people who were lost.  He had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. (Mark 6:34)
     Sheep are helpless, and that is the way it is with sinners.  You cannot stop yourself from sinning.  You cannot save yourself from dying.  You will not escape God’s judgment.  When you are tormented by the guilt and the shame of your sins, when you are haunted and terrified by the reality of your death, when you are tormented and taunted by Satan’s temptations and accusations, you will find no comfort in saying, “Well, at least the bills are paid.  At least Junior’s team won his game.  At least there’s a good movie playing tonight.”  These are no solutions at all.
     Even God’s flock feels harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  Your conscience highlights that you still do not live as you should.  You still sin.  You will die.  Being one of God’s people does not make these things go away.  Satan’s handiwork is still seen in the solutions he tries to sell you.  He wants to deceive you into thinking that you can use forgiveness as an excuse to embrace attitudes and engage in behavior that God condemns.  He tries to deceive you into thinking that there is no harm in neglecting God’s word and sacraments and prayer.  He wants you to believe that it is enough to be nice, behave, and be productive.  God’s command is not “Be productive,” but “Be perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)  You may not be perverted, violent, or cruel, but neither are you holy.  Repent. 
     Jesus knows that all men are guilty.  All fall under God’s judgment.  All will die.  And all are haunted by these things.  Such fears and woes cannot be avoided, but they can be silenced.  So when the crowds came to Jesus, he began to teach them many things. (Mark 6:34)  Jesus proclaimed the word of the Lord which silences the fears of sinners, silences the accusations of Satan, and even silences the threat of the grave.  Jesus has compassion on the lost, so Jesus began to teach them many things.  Jesus’ words also deliver you from Satan’s handiwork.
     You are no longer a lost sheep.  You are under Jesus’ care.  Jesus delivers you from God’s curse to God’s blessing, from death to life, from hell to heaven.  Jesus’ compassion for you is not merely sympathetic words.  It is demonstrated in his life, death, and resurrection.  God’s curse does not simply go away.  Jesus suffered it and absorbed it for you.  Death does not just disappear.  Instead, Jesus’ resurrection has overcome it for you.  Hell and Satan do not willingly give you up.  Therefore, your risen Savior descended into hell.  He marched right onto Satan’s home turf, proclaimed his victory, crushed the serpent’s head, and has rescued you from their grasp. 
     Jesus has compassion on the lost.  No longer are you lost.  You know the way to heaven, which is Jesus Christ.  He has brought you into God’s kingdom.  He comforts you with divine words.  Jesus’ words overrule everything Satan says to you.  Jesus’ words expose Satan’s lies so that he will not deceive you.  Jesus’ words guide you so that you do not stray.  Jesus’ words do not merely talk about forgiveness; they give it.  Jesus’ words console you so that fear gives way to peace.  Jesus’ words are added to water which has washed, cleansed, and sanctified you of all shame and disgrace.  Jesus’ words are added to bread and wine through which Jesus gives you his body and blood and by which you ingest all of the blessings of God. 
     Dear children of God, do not be deceived into thinking that being nice is enough to be saved.  The devil’s handiwork is all over such deception.  It is why people think that avoiding violence and cruelty is enough to please God.  But no one works his way into God’s kingdom.  It is only Jesus who delivers you there.  He reveals the way through divine words and promises.  It is only by hearing that you know of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.  It is only by sitting at Jesus’ feet that you receive divine mercy, salvation, and forgiveness.  It is only by faith in these promises that you are saved.  That is why Jesus taught many things and proclaimed many promises.  This is where Jesus claims the lost and reveals to them the way, the truth, and the life.  This is where the redeemed continue to find comfort and care through their loving shepherd.  This word is where Jesus’ compassion is revealed.  It is where sinners are rescued from the devil’s handiwork and are delivered into God’s loving hands. 

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

And so it begins....

After avoidance, with trepidation, kicking and screaming all the way, I have submitted myself to starting a blog.  Who knows how well this will go?

Fears:  It will be a time killer.  I will prove myself an idiot.  It will be a distraction from duties that really matter.  Time in the cyber-world will drag me away from the real world and life and such.

Benefits:  It is an outlet for my sermons.  It is a new venue for Good Shepherd's defunct newsletter.  It is another means of contact for family, friends, members, and seekers/lurkers.  It may even produce new friendships.

Oh, well, here we go, off into the fray.  May God bless my efforts, and you as well, dear reader, whomever you may be.