All posts by Pastor Rhodes

Nov 17, 2019 – The Words of Jesus!

Nov 17, 2019 – The Words of Jesus!

Today’s going to be a day that this congregation long remembers. But why? What will each of us most remember about this day? For some what may be remembered is the music. For some, it may be remembered as the first day they’ve heard, heard, the gospel and its message of freedom, grace and forgiveness in the blood of Jesus Christ from the cross. For others, this day may be the last time they ever hear the gospel before going home to heaven.

So, what will determine what you remember of this day? How about this. Let the last words of Jesus from the gospel lesson be remembered. Let those words ring in our ears throughout today and for always. Say these words with me please. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

Heaven and earth will pass away Jesus said. And looking at the other scriptures today, along with the whole gospel lesson, we see lots of destruction and passing away talked about, don’t we? In the Old Testament lesson God talks about bringing total destruction on the land. That’s truly frightening – that God, the creator – would bring total destruction to His creation. That, that is something to fear.

But let’s go back to those words of Jesus. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. In Jesus’ words we find comfort, not anxiety. Though heaven, and all that we see and know of this earth will be destroyed, yet in Jesus’ words we have life and hope simply because / those / words / last. They endure. They triumph. Only Jesus’ words and His words alone are what we hope in.

And why is that? Because of the total destruction that Jesus Himself endured for our sakes. That’s what the cross of Christ was about, the total destruction of our sin. And lest you think I’m talking in the abstract, remember His death was real.

Jesus died the death we each deserved for our sin. And He did so willingly. He did that so that we have the forgiveness we absolutely needed, to be restored to God in heaven above. That needs to be in our minds this day. Remember that what Jesus suffered for us was not in the abstract; but real, true, pain and death. This was for us so that what we read in psalms 98 is not in the abstract either.

Among other wonderful things, the psalm says, The Lord has made known His salvation; He has revealed His righteousness in the sight of the nations. His salvation is our salvation in the gift that the Lord has made known to us by His everlasting word. Jesus died /// and rose again that we might live in the righteousness He won for us. And that righteousness elicits in us, a desire to become more Christ-like. But how does that happen for us.

It comes by ‘creative destruction’. We – our sinful nature we’re born with – we are destroyed in the death of Christ in our baptism and we rise to a new life in Him just as He was resurrected from the dead. We were reminded last week that we are a child of death, as well as a child of the resurrection. Think of it like a jeweler who cuts diamonds. In order for the beauty of the diamond to be exposed it undergoes a destructive process by the way a jeweler uses his hammer, chisel, and abrasive tools. Only through such destruction can the beauty be seen.

But how does that happen for each of us? It takes t i m e to become the people God calls us each to aspire to in this life. It takes God filing away the rough edges and smoothing out the harsh things in us, then rebuilding us by the grace of Christ. That grace is the forgiveness won by Jesus on the cross.

A few years back we had the joy of seeing Dana’s nephew Chris get married. When I do premarital counseling one of the key things I talk about is, the glue that holds a marriage together. That glue is – apologizing and forgiving. I talk about the fact that we have an endless supply of forgiveness because that is what Christ gives us. Forgiveness doesn’t come from what we do but what He has done. So, holding a marriage together is done with the forgiveness that God supplies to us.

I bring this up because Satan always works to remind us of our sins in our marriages, in our other relationships and in our relationship with God. He’ll always try and turn us away from repentance to instead, remind us of our sin.  I’ve told you the story before of when Martin Luther had a vision of Satan coming to him and unrolling a scroll that showed Luther all his sins, and Luther began to quake in fear. But then he remembered that in his baptism, all of his sins were covered under the blood of Christ.

And Luther picking up an inkwell hurled it at Satan and shouted ‘Yes those are my sins, but you have forgotten that I’ve been baptized, and all my sins have been washed clean in the blood of Jesus.’ The ink stains on the wall of the Wartburg castle are still there so I’m told.

I’m reminded by this story of a little-known song by Christian artist Nicole Nordeman. The song is called Rolling River God. And it has to do with baptism and how we are given totally new life in Christ in our baptism. I’m giving each of you a smooth stone so that we can be reminded that it takes time to smooth away the rough places in our life and live the new life in our baptism that God has gifted to us. And while that new life is given to us immediately, it takes us time to adjust to it and learn to live in that life. So, to teach us that, that it /takes /time /to smooth away the edges and rough places in our life, the song lyrics say this:

Little Stones are smooth – Only once the water passes through… So I am a stone, rough and grainy still. Then it goes on to say, I know that time brings change and change takes time. And toward the end of the song  she writes to God, my prayer would be just one, that you might pick me up and notice… that I am… just a little smoother in your hand. When you notice that I’m not as smooth as I should be or when your lives are still rough and not yet as smooth as we should be, I’d ask you to pick up this stone and rub it a little and be reminded – that change takes time. We all need time in this life to be smoothed out in the cleansing waters of God as we all seek to be more Christ-like: We are still being shaped by the Master Jeweler.

Let us all remember this day – the glue that binds us together, that it’s the everlasting words of Jesus, His words of healing and hope, of renewal, of restoration and / forgiveness / words that forever remain. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. In Jesus name, amen.

Sermon #1054 Rev. Thomas A. Rhodes, Pastor – Zion Lutheran Church, Bolivar, MO

First Reading                                                                                Malachi 4:1-6

4 “Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and the day that is coming will set them on fire,” says the Lord Almighty. “Not a root or a branch will be left to them. 2 But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays. And you will go out and frolic like well-fed calves. 3 Then you will trample on the wicked; they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I act,” says the Lord Almighty.

4 “Remember the law of my servant Moses, the decrees and laws I gave him at Horeb for all Israel.

5 “See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. 6 He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction.”

Second Reading                                                                  2 Thessalonians 3:6-13

6 In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers and sisters, to keep away from every believer who is idle and disruptive and does not live according to the teaching you received from us. 7 For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, 8 nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. 9 We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate. 10 For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”

11 We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies. 12 Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the food they eat. 13 And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good.

Holy Gospel                                                                                                                  Luke 21:20-33

20 “When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near. 21 Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city. 22 For this is the time of punishment in fulfillment of all that has been written. 23 How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! There will be great distress in the land and wrath against this people. 24 They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

25 “There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. 26 People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. 27 At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

29 He told them this parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees. 30 When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near. 31 Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near.

32 “Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

 

Nov 10, 2019 – Child of Death / Child of Life

Nov 10,  2019 – Child of Death / Child of Life

In Jesus’ answer to the Sadducees about the resurrection in the gospel lesson, He gives us some bold and profound things to consider. Look at verses 35 – 36 and read those verses with me please. “But those who are considered worthy of taking part in that age and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, 36 and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God’s children, since they are children of the resurrection.

There are at least three things that Jesus teaches us in those two sentences. 1 That there is resurrection from the dead. 2 That there are angels and that people in heaven share with angels, immortality. And 3 the resurrection life is proof of being God’s child.

So, consider this; what difference does what Jesus says here about the resurrection make to you? What difference does knowing that you have new life, eternal life, life forever with God, as His child, make in your day? Let me suggest a few things.

One is that you’re no longer tethered to the things of this earth. They can no longer bind your heart and mind when you know that what you are and what you have in Christ is eternal and that what surrounds you here and now is only temporary. All the stuff of this earth is ours only for a short time and sometimes people put to much value on it.

Like this guy out where I lived in southern California. He was driving down the road in his bright red convertible BMW when suddenly an earthquake hit and split-open the road he was driving on. His sports car was swallowed into the ground. The man jumped out in time to save his life, but before he could get completely away the car rolled over and cut off his left arm. As he sat on the ground looking into the pit, he cried, “Oh no, my car! My car!” A man passing by stopped and said, “How can you be crying about your car? You just lost your arm!” In shock, the man looked down where his arm should be and said, “Oh no, my Rolex! My Rolex!”

That’s a guy who had his mind too focused on the things of this earth. So, one difference by knowing you’re a child of the resurrection makes is, that you’re no longer enslaved by the things of this earth.

Another thing is that you have the presence of God in your life right now. By His grace through faith in the work of Jesus dying on the cross and rising to new life again, you are now the possession of God . And that doesn’t just affect you – you are transformed by that because it is from God. The sermon title says child of death / child of life. That is, you.

Because of your baptism you were made a child of death as St Paul says in Romans 6:4 “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” And according to this same verse, baptism grants us new life. And again, in today’s gospel lesson as we said, the resurrection life shows us to be children of God, children of life. As God’s children He is always, always with us.

Most of you know that my father died when I was 18. But to this day my dad is with me. I’m still his son and not a day goes by that I don’t remember that.

The same is true with our heavenly father. Just as my dad is always with me, because I’m his son, so also God is always with me because, by right of baptism into Jesus Christ I was made a child of God. And so are you.

Ok so, let’s recap, so far, you know that you are a child of God (meaning a child of life) and a child of the resurrection, therefore you have the presence of the God of heaven in your life; and,,, you are no longer tied to the things of this earth. Now to the third thing, that the resurrection can make a difference to in our daily life.

You have, each day, in your possession the weapons you need to resist temptation to sin that comes your way. That is extraordinary power! You have the power to resist temptation! Remember that temptation is not sin! Temptation is not the same thing as sin. Temptation can lead you to sin, but temptation is not the same as sin. Don’t confuse those two.

Temptation has only the power you let it have. But remember, being free of the claims this world tries to put on you and, also having God’s presence in your life, by those two things, you have been given the strength required to put up a fight against the temptation to sin. Like it says, temptation is everywhere but so is God! Now here is one real benefit of having eternal life isn’t it? This can truly impact your day.

But for some reason people try to minimize the impact of God in their life. We like temptation. We can even invite it. That way we think we have an excuse when we ‘fall’ into sin. People try to hold back the tide of transformation that comes with the presence of God in a person’s daily life. Even Moses in the Old Testament lesson today shows us this.

Look at the two questions Moses asked God when God called him and did him the favor of telling him exactly what God wanted him to do. First Moses protested that he was of no account in the eyes of the pharaoh – the mighty king of Egypt.

And what was God’s answer? I will be with you. It’s as though God is saying that His presence alone in Moses life is all that Moses needs. It’s God’s being with Moses that will allow Moses to accomplish what God has called him to do, regardless of who Moses must face. Up to and including pharaoh.

So he struck out asking God about pharaoh. Then Moses takes another tack and asks God to explain who Moses should tell the nation of Israel it is that sent this outcast and murderer to them to lead them away from pharaoh. And again God answers Moses. And He does so by giving Moses the most powerful thing He can. He tells Moses His name. The name that is the most holy. Moses is told to say, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’

That leaves Moses with no more excuses. He cannot resist the power of the great I Am. God promises to be with Moses when he comes before both pharaoh and his kingdom and before the nation of Israel.

There is no one Moses will encounter in doing the work God has called him to do, either a pharaoh of this world, or the people of Moses own nation of Israel, no one, who can remove God’s presence from him because he has God’s own high and holy name. And with giving Moses this name, this identity, God is making clear that how and why Moses acts is only under the transformative power of the true God of all creation.

Holding back God’s power to transform us by His presence is not something Moses could do, nor is it a part of who we are at Zion Lutheran Church. According to our mission statement we are here doing what? Hearing, Sharing and Living the Gospel, right. We do that because we are transformed by the presence of God in our daily life through the name of God’s only begotten son, Jesus Christ. We don’t want to limit that transformation and power of our Heavenly Father’s gift to us of His holy presence within us to resist temptation.

One of the popular notions of our day is that it doesn’t matter which god you worship, as long as you sincerely worship some god.  That’s like telling the sky diver: “It doesn’t matter what you stuff in that parachute pack on your back, as long as you sincerely stuff something back there.”   Or the scuba diver: “It doesn’t matter what kind of gas you fill your scuba tank with, as long as you sincerely fill it with some kind of gas.”  A proper parachute for the skydiver and the right gas for the scuba diver are essential for survival. The right presence of the only true God: our creator Triune God- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, His presence in us by grace through faith alone, is the presence that matters. His presence is the only one that leads to life eternal.  Many very sincere and very religious people today blindly seek after false gods, to their eternal destruction.

That is not us. We have had the One true God explode our lives open by granting us the guarantee of eternal life in the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ. That guarantee can’t be taken from us or be denied to us by anyone or anything on this earth, just like Moses. Jesus Christ, by His death and especially by His resurrection, is the guarantee of that promise of God to us.

And that comes to the world in no other God or any other way than through the name of Jesus. Being a child of the resurrection is a spur to our mission of sharing the Gospel. Knowing that resurrection power transforms, and brings us God’s presence and gives us power over temptation, don’t we want others to know and have that also? Yes, we do.

The power of the resurrection is for everyone to have. In fact, it is already theirs, they just need to learn that. Without someone telling them, they will not have what you have, life now and life everlasting.

Let me suggest this, try sharing John 3:16 in a very personal way. When it says, ‘for God so loved the world’, try replacing ‘the world’ with the persons name. Try it here right now with someone sitting next to you. Turn to them and take the sermon notes you have and where the underlines are with the word, NAME in it, say John 3:16 to them putting their name in the places indicated. Try it now.

“For God so loved Name that he gave his one and only Son, that Name who believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

It’s wonderful to hear that the holy God of all creation loves you by name. I’m not suggesting you go down the street and do this with strangers. But you might find you can adapt it and it’s something you can do in quiet moments with a friend or loved one who needs to hear for their life what you know to be true in your life. You don’t have to get the quote exactly word for word, but use their name and let them know why God loves them as you know He loves you.

You know that you are child of death and a child of life. You know you are no longer tethered to this world and that the power of the resurrection is yours through the blood and in the name of Jesus Christ. You have been transformed by Christ, go and share that; in Jesus name. Amen.

Sermon #1053 Rev. Thomas A. Rhodes, Pastor – Zion Lutheran Church, Bolivar, MO

Old Testament Reading              Exodus 3:1-15

3 Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. 3 So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.”

4 When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”

And Moses said, “Here I am.”

5 “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” 6 Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.

7 The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. 8 So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. 9 And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. 10 So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”

11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”

12 And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.” 13 Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”

14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”

15 God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’

“This is my name forever, the name by which I am to be remembered from generation to generation.

 Epistle Reading                2 Thessalonians 2:1-17

2 Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers, 2 not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already come. 3 Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. 4 He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.

5 Don’t you remember that when I was with you I used to tell you these things? 6 And now you know what is holding him back, so that he may be revealed at the proper time. 7 For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way. 8 And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming. 9 The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, 10 and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.11 For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie 12 and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.

13 But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. 14 He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

15 So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.

16 May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, 17 encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.

 Holy Gospel                                Luke 20:27-40

27 Some of the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Jesus with a question. 28 “Teacher,” they said, “Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, the man must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. 29 Now there were seven brothers. The first one married a woman and died childless. 30 The second 31 and then the third married her, and in the same way the seven died, leaving no children. 32 Finally, the woman died too. 33 Now then, at the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?” 34 Jesus replied, “The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. 35 But those who are considered worthy of taking part in the age to come and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, 36 and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God’s children, since they are children of the resurrection. 37 But in the account of the burning bush, even Moses showed that the dead rise, for he calls the Lord ‘the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ 38 He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.”  39 Some of the teachers of the law responded, “Well said, teacher!” 40 And no one dared to ask him any more questions.

Nov 3, 2019 – Victorious Saints

for full sermon video click ( https://www.facebook.com/Zionlutheranbolivar/videos/419405055410490/ )

Nov 3, 2019 – Victorious Saints

Today is the Sunday we celebrate All Saints day. Now, that may sound a little too Roman Catholic to us Lutheran folk. But before we dismiss this too quickly, let’s think about what a saint is.

During family devotions, a father asked his children, “What is a saint?”  His little daughter remembered the beautiful stained-glass windows in her church portraying Jesus and the Disciples.  She answered her father, “Saints are those people at church that the light shines through.”

She’s exactly right isn’t she? A saint is a person who lets the Light shine through. Vs 4 of the hymn we just sang calls this to mind, we feebly struggle, they in glory shine! The light of God in Jesus Christ shines through those who’ve been redeemed by the shed blood of Christ. A saint is anyone in whom Christ now lives and who lets Christ’s light shine through him or her.  Christ provides the light. Remember that, we are not the light; we simply let His light shine through our lives out onto the dark world around us.

We so often restrict the meaning of saint almost beyond the bounds of scripture when we use the term only to refer to such dead Christians who once led exceptionally holy lives and / or performed miracles. The Bible speaks of all Christians as sanctified people – as saints. Saint Paul, for just one example, addresses the Corinthians:  “To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints” (1 Corinthians 1:2 ).

Christians are saints despite the fact, the fact, that they’re still sinners also. I’ve seen a list of Latin phrases every Lutheran should know. And from last week, we already know 3: sola scriptura, sola fide, sola gratia. And here’s a fourth, Simul iustus et peccator, or, ‘simultaneously justified and a sinner’. Another way to translate that in a more memorable way is ‘at the same time sinner and saint’.

The word ‘saint’ comes from the Latin word sanctus, which means holy or sanctified or consecrated. Consecrated is the idea of; being set apart for specific use. So, a saint is one who is chosen by God for His specific use. That’s all. And that’s each of us.

In the reading from Revelation today it says, “Salvation belongs to our God!” You’ve not been set apart for God’s use by your choice but because of God’s choosing you to be set apart for Him. The blood of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ accomplished and completed our being ‘set apart’. Saints are saints, not because they’re sinless but because, by the blood of the Lamb, all their sin is forgiven. As such, God declares them just and holy in His sight. They are sanctified – set apart – and now lead a new life of faith in Christ.

If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation” Saint Paul teaches in 2 Corinthians 5:17. Saint Paul also urges those who are declared holy by faith, to serve God with holy works in every day of their lives. These are not works, however, that save or redeem a person. You can’t “do” your way into heaven. But these are works done to express thanks and joyful obedience to God for His choosing you. Because the Holy Spirit has called us by the Gospel, enlightened us with His gifts, and given us faith, we too are now saints. His set apart ones.

One of the things we’re ‘set apart’ for, is telling others about Christ. We share Christ, so that others also may know that they are sinners, made saints. That they too are people who’re redeemed by the blood of the lamb. A saint is a person, just an ordinary person, set apart by the extraordinary God of creation so that God’s light can shine through them to others.

Blasé Pascal has been quoted as saying, ‘There are two kinds of people in the world: (1) saints, who know they are sinners, and (2) sinners, who arrogantly think they are saints.’ Saints are those who know that they’re sinners who need a Savior to take away their sins. And then there’re the sinners, who feel no need for a Savior from sin – they simply reject what God has said is true of them. The sinners who turn from God’s grace, are ignorant of the truth that they’re now without hope. It is easy to want to reject what God has done because we think… we’re pretty good on our own. That we’re doing better than most, after all I’ve not anything that too bad.

It is dangerous to linger over such thoughts. Indulging such an attitude can lead us right out of God’s grace and into His judgment and wrath. We can put ourselves in danger of hell.

However, sinners who know they need a savoir find their salvation only in the name of Jesus Christ the Lamb of God. He has taken away the guilt of our sin. He has made us saints.

He has made us to know our need of a savoir. And has saved us by grace through faith alone. But saints in the classic sense are also known for what they do. We live the gospel in the community not because we’re so civic minded, but because in that way others learn that we’re no different than they are.

Saints are also known as the children of God. The epistle lesson today teaches this. The first verse says, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!

Children are known to take after their parents. So, what does God do that we as His children take after? God loves; so, we love. God acts; so, we too act. We are called the children of God only because of God’s love for us. By what reason do we know we are loved by God?

We know that God loves us because of the work of Jesus Christ on the cross. That work, that righteousness of Christ, is put on us in our baptism and marks us as God’s own children and saints. We are not of this world anymore; we’re not trying to look and act like the world. We’re now the ones with the light of Jesus.

But a saint, one who lets the light of God shine through them, does so by what they do. Ever heard of Saint Ambrose? If you look at hymn number 332, that hymn was written by Saint Ambrose in the late 300’s! The late 300’s! And we still sing it today usually around advent, which is coming soon. It’s a beautiful hymn of praise to the Son of God, coming into this world to live and then to die on the cross and rise again to make saints. St Ambrose let the light of God shine through in his life. But what do you know about Ambrose?

Well I can tell you before he became bishop of Milan he worked in the government. He was a roman prefect, a governor of sorts. This guy, whose hymn is in our hymnal, was a government employee some 1800 years ago! Saint Ambrose was well schooled, and he was brought up in a Christian home, but he served the public good before he became a bishop.

Saints do their work on earth with a heavenly purpose (X2). Saints do what they do for the sake of God’s love. They are simply people, regular people, who are acting IN the faith God has gifted to them and in that way, God’s light does shine through them. His light shining through is what happens because of who God has made you in Christ.

Let me tell you about someone else who many people today consider a saint because of what she did. Mother Theresa. A reporter once watched Mother Teresa bind the disgusting wounds of a leper. He whispered to another reporter, “I wouldn’t do that for all the money in the world!” Mother Teresa’s hearing was better than he thought. She whispered to the reporter: “Neither would I!” She was willing doing this ‘disgusting thing’ for the Lord who has so dearly loved her. Through her also, shone the love of God.

What about us here? We’re also living out the gospel; with the love with which God has first served us. Today, we have communion served to us. It is God who comes and serves us and puts into our very mouths, His forgiveness and restoration in this holy meal. And as we receive this meal, we proclaim that God’s Son, Jesus, has died on the cross for us and shed His blood to redeem us. That’s the love that God has showed us. And that’s the love that shines through us to our community, friends, and family.

I want you to take this piece of paper home with you. If you’ll cut off the bottom portion and then overlap the sides and tape them together, you can put a votive candle in a glass in the bottom and let the light shine through the people at the Last Supper where Jesus instituted Holy Communion. Like the little girl said to her daddy, saints are those the light shines through. We come to communion and receive again the refreshment and nourishment for our souls that renews the light of God in us.

We believe that God has drawn us together at Zion Lutheran Church to let His light shine through each of us. What form that takes for each of you I can’t tell you, but I can tell you that His light will shine through each one of you because He has set you aside to do that very thing – whether you think about it or not!

Just being His child, you bear the family name of Christian. So, whatever you do is made holy by His holiness living in you.

Remember our Latin phrase for today, we are ‘simul iustus et peccator’ – ‘at the same time sinner and saint’. After all, as we come to confession and communion, we know we leave here made saints by the light of His love and forgiven of our sin. That light goes with you, the saints of God, wherever you go. It’s just who you are. In Jesus name, Amen.

Sermon #1052 Rev. Thomas A. Rhodes, Pastor – Zion Lutheran Church, Bolivar, MO

First Reading                                                                             Revelation 7:9-17

9 After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10 And they cried out in a loud voice:

“Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”

11 All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying:

“Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!”

13 Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?”

14 I answered, “Sir, you know.”

And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15 Therefore,

“they are before the throne of God     and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne     will shelter them with his presence. 16 ‘Never again will they hunger;     never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat down on them,’     nor any scorching heat. 17 For the Lamb at the center of the throne     will be their shepherd; ‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’     ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’”

Epistle                                                                                   1 John 3:1-3

3 See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 3 All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.

Holy Gospel                                                                                          Matthew 5:1-12

5 Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 2 and he began to teach them.                                                                                      He said:                                                                                                                                     3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit,     for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed are those who mourn,     for they will be comforted. 5 Blessed are the meek,     for they will inherit the earth. 6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,     for they will be filled. 7 Blessed are the merciful,     for they will be shown mercy. 8 Blessed are the pure in heart,     for they will see God. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers,     for they will be called children of God. 10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,     for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.                                                                                                                                                  

11“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

 

Sept 15, 2019 – Rejoice!

Sept 15, 2019 – Rejoice!

Since 2001, 9-11 is unfortunately,  not a day we as a country associate with rejoicing and for good reason. Under the devastation and death of that day we could see little reason for rejoicing. Instead we were shocked, indignant, and angry. And now, even these 18 years later most of us still have that sense of outrage and anger well-up when we think back to that day.

And we’re still in the fight against those who would yet like to attack us and tear us down. We do not forget those who died and those who struggled against their captors. So why do I bring up the subject of rejoicing on this day? Because as we have remembered those who fell that day and continue to honor them, we also honor the words of the text of the scriptures today. We remember that we gather in the freedom we have in America to practice our religion and here, in church, we find comfort, peace, and yes, even joy in the words of the bible.

And those words do call us to the topic of rejoicing. Today’s scripture readings are what cause us to focus on rejoicing. So let me ask you…What causes you to rejoice? Name some things that spring to mind for you when I say the word ‘rejoice’? Those are good things aren’t they? They give us feelings of joy, and perhaps fun and excitement.

In the gospel lesson today that’s what Jesus is saying, ‘Rejoice with me. Rejoice with God’. And that ‘God rejoices over you!’ We do what the shepherd did over his lost sheep and the woman with the lost coin did – we go / and / seek. We bear fruit in keeping with the repentance Jesus speaks of regarding sinners. That’s so that we may spread the good news of Jesus Christ having died on the cross and risen again for our restoration to God. And when someone joins us in worship, we rejoice.

That’s where Jesus calls us to focus on; on the joy that comes from all whom Jesus calls and brings into His flock; that’s we and all those who were lost and have been found – by the love of Jesus.

Notice that this is in great contrast to the Old Testament lesson today where there is much said about how God was unhappy, ‘un’-joyful, if you will. He was un-joyful over the state of things with His lost, scattered and uncared for sheep and how He Himself will take care of them and bring about justice and salvation for them. In just those 13 verses in Ezekiel, 18 times God says, ‘I will’. It’s all about what God will do. Not the sheep.

By the way, notice that all that the sheep do is muddy the water, trample the grass and push and shove aside the weak, injured and lame. The sheep are not so good with the justice, mercy and care. That’s all in the hands of the shepherd, of God, who says what He will do. Listen to the list of things He will do, He will: search and look and rescue. He will: bring and gather and pasture the sheep. He will: tend the sheep and bind up the wounded and strengthen the weak. That is what He has promised to do.

And that is what God has accomplished, in the wounds, works and words of Jesus, the Chief Shepherd. He has done the work of calling the lost and scattered. And through the innocent death of Jesus Christ on the cross and by His resurrection from the grave, God has done and accomplished all that He said He would do in the Old Testament lesson.

The Lord wants to draw all people to Himself – we know that. And He does that through His word / the bible / and through the sacraments He’s given us – baptism and communion. Through these He grants to us the sure promise of His grace and the fulfillment of the promises He made in Ezekiel. Those sacraments are His work of gathering and feeding, of caring for and binding up our wounds.

God, seeking out the lost and scattered is what we focus on here at Zion. We spend time in the Word so that we can give an accounting of the hope that is ours to anyone who asks us. We spend time building each other up here through, Sunday school, the LWML, the various groups that meet here, the Tuesday bible study, the preschool, the council and elders, and Worship on Wednesdays. All of these efforts are what we do to care for one another and to nourish each other ultimately on the word of God.

If we’re not here for the Word of God, then we’re really not ‘here.’ The Word of God is what gives us all that God has promised us – life and hope and faith through Jesus Christ. That Word is what we gather around and what we’re fed and watered by.

You’re like a water tower. If you keep opening the spigot at the bottom of the tower to give water, without filling the top of the tower with fresh water, you soon run dry. Then you can quench no one’s thirst for the love of God which you can share. We do well to take advantage of the classes and Bible studies and worship that refresh us with gospel so we, in turn, can supply that gospel in the dry and desert world around us.

Remember in the two stories Jesus told today there was much rejoicing. The rejoicing came because that which was lost had been found. That’s in keeping with the Old Testament lesson today, where God Himself said He will do all that’s necessary to seek and save the lost.

Let me close with a story of my own instance of rejoicing. Most you’ve never seen this ring. It was my father’s ring that he earned for many years of safe driving for the Frito-Lay Company. I used to wear it all the time. But then one day I lost it. In fact, when Dana I were packing-up to move from Albany Oregon where we’d been for a few years, I thought I’d find it but never did.

One day, about year or so after we’d left Albany, I got a call from the pastor I’d worked for there as his youth director. He said he found something that was mine and it turned out to be this ring. Pastor Anderson was mucking out the stalls where they kept the horses they raised. And there on the end of the pitchfork in a pile of fresh manure was this shiny object, my ring.

You see 2 years before, when they were on vacation, Dana and I looked after their horses. And that meant carrying heavy buckets of water. Well, I’d taken off my ring and put it in my jeans pocket as the bucket handles pinched my hand where the ring was. It turns out I’d missed my pants pocket and the ring apparently ended up on the stall floor where one of the horses ate it. You see it’s bent on one side and what with it having been found in the manure, and not on it, Pastor concluded that it had gone through the horse’s intestines over the 2 years.

So yes, I rejoiced to have that which I’d lost returned to me, even though it took some time for it to get through its ‘unique’ journey. I’d given it up for lost but when it was returned to me, I had such a sense of wholeness and peace and joy, which could only come from having what was missed, restored.

This ring is you and I. We’ve gone missing from God; we’ve been lost among the muck of our sin. And we know in our own hearts how dreadful or shameful is the sin we carry around, much of it silently. My terrible wrongs are nothing I want spoken aloud and it’s a safe bet you don’t want yours spoken either. Those are the things we’re most ashamed of, terrified of, and so very deeply troubled by. We feel that we should be saying, instead of Paul, that we are the chief of sinners.  And yet /// Jesus has come and found us, He has called us to repent of our sin. And by His mercy we are separated from that sin and all the guilt that goes with it. And by His blood alone, Jesus has wiped away completely, all of our secret sins and wrongs and He has made us clean and whole and new, and He has restored us to God. He kept His promise in Ezekiel. He has saved us from our separation from God. As St Paul said today, Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. And because of what Jesus has done to accomplish that, God rejoices over you and me. We are the sheep that God rejoices over because He has done for us what He said He would do: search and look and rescue: bring and gather and pasture: tend and bind-up and strengthen. All this He’s done for you and I through Jesus Christ; rejoice in His name, amen!

Sermon #1045 Rev. Thomas A. Rhodes, Pastor – Zion Lutheran Church, Bolivar, MO

First Reading                       Ezekiel 34:11-24

11 “‘For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. 12 As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness. 13 I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land. I will pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in all the settlements in the land. 14 I will tend them in a good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel will be their grazing land. There they will lie down in good grazing land, and there they will feed in a rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. 15 I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign Lord. 16 I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice.

17 “‘As for you, my flock, this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will judge between one sheep and another, and between rams and goats. 18 Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture? Must you also trample the rest of your pasture with your feet? Is it not enough for you to drink clear water? Must you also muddy the rest with your feet? 19 Must my flock feed on what you have trampled and drink what you have muddied with your feet?

20 “‘Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says to them: See, I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. 21 Because you shove with flank and shoulder, butting all the weak sheep with your horns until you have driven them away, 22 I will save my flock, and they will no longer be plundered. I will judge between one sheep and another. 23 I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he will tend them; he will tend them and be their shepherd. 24 I the Lord will be their God, and my servant David will be prince among them. I the Lord have spoken.

 Second Reading                   1 Timothy 1:12-17

12 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me trustworthy, appointing me to his service. 13 Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. 14 The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.

15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. 16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. 17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Holy Gospel                           Luke 15:1-10

15 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. 2 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

3 Then Jesus told them this parable:

4 “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

8 “Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? 9 And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ 10 In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

 

Sept 8, 2019 (worship in the park) – Terms of Peace!

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Sept 8, 2019 (worship in the park) – Terms of Peace!

On a trip to Hawaii I got to spend some time on the deck of the battleship Missouri. On that ship is the place where, 74 years ago last Monday, the document was signed ending WWII in the Pacific. The terms of peace involved the unconditional surrender of the Japanese to the allied powers in the Pacific Theatre. There was no negotiation that was involved in arriving at this.

It’s really a very straightforward document that was signed that day. You can read a copy of it in a case next to the spot on the deck that has a bronze marker at the place where it was signed. Those terms of peace brought to an end the fighting, death and destruction that many of our fathers, mothers, grandfathers, and grandmothers endured for the years of struggle to get to that point.

Without those terms of peace being met, the fighting and death would have continued. But in agreeing to the unconditional surrender, the Japanese government made it possible to end the war. They laid down their arms, took up the pen, and signed the agreement. In doing that they satisfied the terms of peace.

In the gospel lesson today, Jesus outlines the terms of peace needed to end the hostility between God and us. Jesus spells out in plan language that those who wish to follow Him, and thereby put an end to the fight with God that has been going on since Adam and Eve, that these terms must be agreed to. Vs 33, in the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciple.

Those are the terms of peace. Those terms are what must be met in full for us to have peace with God. And these terms echo what we heard in the Old Testament lesson today where God, speaking through Moses said in vs 16 For I command you today … to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase

The terms of peace encompass all of life. There is no part of our lives that God exempts from obedience in order to have peace with Him.  Again, in the Old Testament lesson He says, This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life… that is what God says to do. There is no negotiation.

Just as with Japan in WW II the surrender was unconditional so also the demands of peace with God are unconditional. The problem for us however is this; we simply cannot agree to those terms and so lay down our weapons, lay down our sin and rebellion, our waywardness and deceit.

We’re like some of those Japanese soldiers who, after the instrument of surrender was signed ending the war, they could not or would not give up fighting and instead killed themselves. They refused the terms of peace. That’s what we’re like. In our fallen human nature – we, each of us, reject God’s terms of peace. We refuse to obey the commands given to us as those Japanese soldiers did.

And so, God did for us what we cannot or will not do for ourselves. He sent His only Son to meet all the demands of peace. Jesus came to earth, becoming fully human, one of us, and having done that, He then accomplished what we could not. In the words of the Old Testament lesson today, Jesus did, walk in obedience, and kept his (God’s) commands, decrees and laws.

There is nothing that God required for the terms of peace to be met, that Jesus did not do. And in so doing, Jesus did what He said in the gospel lesson today must be done. Those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciple.

That’s exactly what God did to satisfy those terms. He gave up everything – gave up His only Son – to death, in order that, by Grace, we might have peace with Him.

Toward the end of World War II, in a Japanese concentration camp in the Pacific, the guards learned that the American army was fast approaching. Fearful for their lives, they unlocked the gates and fled into the woods. The prisoners, however, were unaware of this, so they stayed in their compounds, even though no one was guarding them, and the gates were wide open. When the American liberators arrived on the scene, they simply announced to the prisoners that they were already free. That was good news to those prisoners; they / were / free. And though they were already free, they didn’t know it and they had to have it announced to them.

That is what the good news of the gospel is for us. God telling us we are free. We are free by the righteousness of Christ’s life and sacrificial death having been credited to us by grace alone. The gospel is the announcement to us that the terms of peace have been met in full. We no longer live in the prison of the demands of the law – the demands we could not meet for ourselves.

And now, in turn, what God has done with the gospel is what we get to do with the good news of Jesus. We get to announce to those whom we know that they are free! They simply don’t know it yet!

We’re called to do that, as St Paul said in his letter to Philemon today in verse 6, “I pray that your partnership with us in the faith may be effective in deepening your understanding of every / good / thing / we / share for the sake of Christ.

Having a good understanding of everything we have in Christ calls for us to share that good news. What we possess in Christ is freedom from sin, death and Satan. To keep that to ourselves is the height of selfishness. So, we share this good news of God’s great grace.

How do we apply that grace of God to our lives? And how do we let others know that the terms of peace with God that applies to you, apply to them as well?  That’s what Jesus is saying today, that we’re to live with those peace terms as our own. As He has given His all for us, we too give our all for Him. But, again, how do we do that?

Just as the United States, their allies and the Japanese took on responsibility for living in peace and forging a new way forward after the instrument of surrender was signed, so we also find a way forward in our own lives to live in God’s peace here and now. The Japanese had to make fundamental changes in their culture and way of life if they were to abide by the peace terms. That’s what, only by the power of the Holy Spirit living in us, we do.

We too find a way to live here and now in the peace that God has bought for us at such a huge and painful cost. Our life, our personal culture, is changed by the power of the Holy Spirit here and now. So how will you live in the peace that has been given you by the grace of God?

Again, no, you didn’t earn it, and no, you didn’t do anything to make that peace happen. Jesus did all that was necessary for the terms of peace to be met when He died on the battlefield of the cross. He spilled His holy blood to secure the ultimate and complete victory that was demanded for the terms of peace to be met.

That He did. And then, by the power of the Holy Spirit He ascribed  that victory to you. It is yours. That peace with God is complete and can never be taken from you. But how you live as a result of it, that is in your hands.

There’ve been stories of Japanese soldiers found months or even years after the war who were still fighting, still manning their posts faithfully and diligently. They continued to fight on, without knowing that peace was theirs. And some of them after being discovered and told the truth, some would not accept that peace as their own. They refused to live with the peace they had been freely granted. How many of us are like those soldiers who refused to acknowledge what had been done for them?

God has given you peace with Him – the gates of your prison have been opened for you. How will you share that news with those in your family, in your neighborhood, and school and work?

You, you bring the influence of God to them by the peace that He has given to you. Have you ever known someone who had a tremendous influence on other people, someone who could influence others simply by being in the same room?  Bishop Eivind Berggrav was such a man.

He was the leader of the Norwegian Lutheran Church during WWII.  The Nazis feared his influence, so they made him their prisoner during the war.  Very quickly they learned that they had to constantly change his guard.  It didn’t take long for a guard to be drawn under his strong spiritual influence and even converted. The Bishop is one example for us in how we live in, and share with others, the peace of God.

All of this is summed up in Jesus’ words today, in the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciple. We have been made His disciples by the peace won for us on the cross, now we live our lives in the freedom He has died in order for us to gain.

Let me close with this very important reminder. It is true that how we live is important but how we live does not change the fact that what God alone did for us is the only thing that gives us peace with Him. As your pastor I make mistakes. As you go through your day and life, you too make mistakes. My mistakes and sins, and your mistakes and sins, do not change the mistake-free, sin-free, life of Jesus Christ. That is the life He sacrificed to make our peace with God.

Our peace with God does not change based on how we live. That peace is guaranteed because of the sin-free life that Jesus lived and gave up for us on the cross. And it’s because of that that we do try to live to honor Him the best we can. And when we fail, as I so do often, we are forgiven.

That is where we live. We live… live in that forgiveness, in that peace … here… and now!! My mistakes and sins do not reduce or diminish my salvation. And neither do yours. We live forgiven and set-free from our bondage, not because we’ve done anything to deserve it, but because our Liberator came and defeated the power that held us captive.

The terms of peace, that have been met by our liberator Jesus Christ, never change because of how we act. No, how we act is changed because He has liberated us. We are free according the peace of Christ, which is ours in His Word. In Jesus name, Amen.

Sermon #1044 Rev. Thomas A. Rhodes, Pastor – Zion Lutheran Church, Bolivar, MO

Old Testament Reading     Deuteronomy 30:15-20

15  See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. 16 For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.

17 But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, 18 I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess.

19 This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live 20 and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

 Epistle Reading                             Philemon 1-21

1 Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother,

To Philemon our dear friend and fellow worker— 2 also to Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier—and to the church that meets in your home:

3 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

4 I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, 5 because I hear about your love for all his holy people and your faith in the Lord Jesus. 6 I pray that your partnership with us in the faith may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ. 7 Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people.

8 Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, 9 yet I prefer to appeal to you on the basis of love. It is as none other than Paul—an old man and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus— 10 that I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains. 11 Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me.

12 I am sending him—who is my very heart—back to you. 13 I would have liked to keep him with me so that he could take your place in helping me while I am in chains for the gospel. 14 But I did not want to do anything without your consent, so that any favor you do would not seem forced but would be voluntary. 15 Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back forever— 16 no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother. He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a fellow man and as a brother in the Lord.

17 So if you consider me a partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. 18 If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me. 19 I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand. I will pay it back—not to mention that you owe me your very self. 20 I do wish, brother, that I may have some benefit from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in Christ. 21 Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I ask.

 Holy Gospel                                Luke 14:25-35

25 Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. 27 And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

28 “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? 29 For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, 30 saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’

31 “Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? 32 If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. 33 In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.

34 “Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? 35 It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out.  “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”

 

Sept 1, 2019 What an Honor

Sept 1, 2019 What an Honor

Menelik, a former leader of Ethiopia, was a good leader who accomplished many things for his country. However, he was a bit of a religious fanatic with strange ideas. He believed the Bible was a magical book with healing powers. When he felt sick, he would eat a page of scripture. One time he felt really sick, so he ate the entire books of 1&2 Kings. The “magic” didn’t work of course. The autopsy revealed that he died of an intestinal obstruction.

In order to be truly healed the leader of Ethiopia would’ve been better served to seek healing from the pure living word of God who is Jesus Christ. Instead he treated the word of God superstitiously. That’s what the world does, and as false teachers do.

In the epistle lesson today, v9 says  Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings. Under the dominion of darkness, such teachers do not allow people to see the true healing and wholeness that God provides through Jesus Christ alone. Though the world doesn’t want us well and healthy, Jesus disregards this world’s standards and does us the honor of healing anyway. As we just sang twice, Jesus is the source of life and truth and grace. Jesus wants us whole and pure. The Old Testament lesson says today Remove the dross from the silver, and a silversmith can produce a vessel.

Jesus produces vessels by His righteousness and His healing power. Today, in the gospel, Jesus does His healing in spite of the Pharisees, in spite of what this world thinks is right or correct. It’s not the standards of the world that Jesus has come to meet. Those are low and false anyway.

Jesus came to meet the standards of holiness and righteousness set by His Heavenly Father. That standard is perfection and pure righteousness.

It’s only the pure in heart, like pure silver, who will have the honor to stand before God. And there’s no other way to be pure than to be purged of all the dross – the sin, the filth and false humility that we so easily possess. And sometimes we even forsake the false part of humility and we pursue our own agenda or seek to promote ourselves above others.

This is pointed out in all three lessons today. All of them speak of not seeking the highest place for yourself but rather letting the host come and find you and He brings you up to the place of honor where He would have you be. If we’re honest, we see in our sin and pettiness that we indeed have no reason to think we deserve any honor anyway. I have only to look into my heart and life to realize and be in terror of my sinfulness. Heavens!…

Not only do I have no standing to seek a place of honor, I don’t even deserve to be at the banquet! The stain and shame of my sin is as the wickedness of the wicked officials in Proverbs that keep the King’s throne from being established in righteousness. That’s me, that wickedness is what I am.

How often – just using the things in the epistle lesson – how often do I love money / am immoral / or refuse to show hospitality? And how often, when I do give any thought to those in prison, is it a self-righteous thought that, well, they deserve it anyway. Truth is that’s where you and I belong in our sinfulness. We belong in prison for eternity.

And what about those who’re mistreated? Again, how often do I even give them a thought, let alone seek, in some small way, to help them. And then it’s more out of guilt rather than gratitude that I do even that! No, I am not fit to be at the banquet.

However, and that’s a huge ‘however’, however by what Jesus does with the man in the gospel who was misshapen, so my misshapen form under my old nature – the old man – the sinful self that I was born with – is changed. I am given grace to be made, not just acceptable, but pure and righteous. I’m given a new form and a new nature. And the nature I am given, is that of Jesus.

It’s New Life that He gives me. It’s only by His mercy and grace that I’m not just spared, but by His doing, I’m given a totally new life. It’s an honor given to me that I don’t deserve.

Honor is something you don’t take for yourself, honor is given to you. The rumpled, brown‑paper package was addressed simply to “Monsieur Kipling.” Rudyard Kipling, celebrated British author and Nobel Prize winner, opened it, his curiosity was aroused by the painstaking scrawl on the package. Inside was a red box containing a French translation of his novel, ‘Kim’. It had been pierced by a bullet hole that stopped at the last 20 pages.

Through the large bullet hole, tied with string, dangled the Maltese Cross of the Croix de Guerre, France’s medal for bravery in war. The book had been sent to Kipling by a young French soldier named Maurice. He explained in a letter that had this book not been in his pocket when he went into battle, he would have been killed. Maurice asked Kipling to accept the book and medal as a token of gratitude. Kipling felt more moved than he had been by any other honor he’d received. Through him, God had spared the life of this soldier.

Like this soldier, so we too have been given new life from a Book. It’s the Word of God that gives us life. And like the honor given to Kipling, it’s a pure gift. It’s an honor bestowed to us by grace and not because of anything we’ve done or said. It is pure gift. And it’s not from being superstitious like Menelik.

Jesus gives us, in spite of this world and its desire to block our healing; Jesus gives us New Life – that restoration to wholeness that puts a new nature within us. At the baptismal font and the banquet of Holy Communion and by the gift of faith, Jesus gives us purity and true holiness.

Again, as the epistle lesson says, Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. His blood shed, outside the city gate on the cross, that alone, is what changes me. That blood and perfect sacrifice was done so that, like the man healed in the gospel lesson as everyone was watching to see if Jesus would do it, I too am healed. I am healed through His gift of faith to me. At the font and at the altar rail I am healed with everyone watching. No, not watching me but watching to see what Jesus does here (pointing at the font) and here (at the altar) and here in our hearts.

Remember in Hebrews, God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” 6 So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?

Who cares if the world watches? The Lord is our helper! We cannot be constrained by the world, the devil, or our own sinful flesh – the Lord is our helper. Say it with me, the Lord is our helper!!

Knowing that, living in that, and allowing that truth to fill us, we then can hear vss 15 and 16, Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. 16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.

We are free of the world, free to do good and to share with others. Though the world watches us and even judges us, just as they did with Jesus, it’s the thanksgiving of our hearts for being made holy and pure that now flows from our lips and in our actions.

That praise flows from our lips because Jesus is the One who has exalted us. He alone has brought us up to the highest place of honor. We’ve been brought into the wedding feast of the lamb in the kingdom of God. By the blood of that same Lamb of God, He has taken away our stain and shame of sin and He has exalted us by His grace and mercy alone.

So what will we show to the world, the world that seeks to hold us down and drown us in our sin? As they watch, what will we show them?

We have the great honor to show them good and to share with them the healing, wholeness and restoration that we, though underserving, have been gifted with. We go from here today in Jesus name truly Hearing, Sharing and Living the Gospel, amen!

Sermon #1043 Rev. Thomas A. Rhodes, Pastor – Zion Lutheran Church, Bolivar, MO

First Reading                         Proverbs 25:2-10

2 It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings. 3 As the heavens are high and the earth is deep, so the hearts of kings are unsearchable.

4 Remove the dross from the silver, and a silversmith can produce a vessel; 5 remove wicked officials from the king’s presence, and his throne will be established through righteousness. 6 Do not exalt yourself in the king’s presence, and do not claim a place among his great men; 7 it is better for him to say to you, “Come up here,” than for him to humiliate you before his nobles. What you have seen with your eyes 8 do not bring hastily to court, for what will you do in the end  if your neighbor puts you to shame?

9 If you take your neighbor to court, do not betray another’s confidence, 10 or the one who hears it may shame you and the charge against you will stand.

 Second Reading                   Hebrews 13:1-17

13 Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. 2 Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. 3 Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.

4 Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. 5 Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

6 So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?”

7 Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. 8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

9 Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings. It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace, not by eating ceremonial foods, which is of no benefit to those who do so. 10 We have an altar from which those who minister at the tabernacle have no right to eat.

11 The high priest carries the blood of animals into the Most Holy Place as a sin offering, but the bodies are burned outside the camp. 12 And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. 13 Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore. 14 For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.

15 Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. 16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.

17 Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.

 Holy Gospel                             Luke 14:1-14

14 One Sabbath, when Jesus went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee, he was being carefully watched. 2 There in front of him was a man suffering from abnormal swelling of his body. 3 Jesus asked the Pharisees and experts in the law, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?” 4 But they remained silent. So taking hold of the man, he healed him and sent him on his way.

5 Then he asked them, “If one of you has a child or an ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull it out?” 6 And they had nothing to say.

7 When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honor at the table, he told them this parable: 8 “When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. 9 If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. 10 But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all the other guests. 11 For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

12 Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. 13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

 

Aug 25, 2019 Nice Discipline???

Aug 25, 2019  Nice Discipline???

A group of 40 Hell’s Angles roared into the parking lot of a church in Concord, California, just before the worship service was to begin.  One of the bikers got off his bike, walked into church, and sat down in the back.  The whole congregation watched fearfully, wondering what would happen next.  But the rest of the bikers just stood by their bikes in the parking lot and smoked their cigarettes, waiting for the service to end. When the service was over, a few brave members talked to the bikers and invited them to stay for coffee.  The bikers accepted the offer.  Then the members learned why the one biker had sat through worship.  He had broken their ‘code’ in some way and, as punishment, had to go to church.

Sitting in church, for that Hell’s Angel, was meant as a correction for some wrong done against the code of that group. He was obliged to go to church as a consequence for his behavior in the group. By going to church he was enduring a type of punishment (not, of course, like any of you!).

His going to church was intended as punishment, though hopefully the sermon gave him the gospel! Punishment and discipline are related, but they’re not the same thing as payment or atonement. That comes out in a couple places in today’s epistle lesson from Hebrews, that we’re focusing on today. In one place it actually comes out of Proverbs chapter 3 originally. The writer of Hebrews is quoting God from the book of Proverbs in verses 5 and 6 today. Look at those verses with me please and read them out loud together.

My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, 6 because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.”

Now don’t miss that earlier in vs. 5, the writer of Hebrews says that this discipline is a word of encouragement. And it is encouragement direct from God. God is addressing His family, His children, with these words and actions we’re told. That’s great news because that means we’re being told that God’s discipline is meant to benefit us. Can there be such a thing as ‘nice discipline’?

Discipline is meant to teach, to correct wrong behavior, so that a person improves who they are and how they act in the world. It’s about learning to act in helpful ways. It’s meant to teach proper actions. And I can think of no discipline that’s easy to endure or pleasant to get through. Punishment, however, is done to teach that actions have consequences and require justice. But don’t confuse that with atonement. Punishment is not the same thing as atonement – which is payment for the guilt of sin.

That’s important for us as Christians to be sure we’ve got a good handle on. We never want to think that God is demanding atonement from us for our sins. God doesn’t do that. He does not demand that we now pay for the guilt of our sins in any way and so justify ourselves to Him.

I heard someone say that when we sin, God might just ‘punish’ us to make up for it – to make us pay for our sin – by having something bad happen in our lives. That is just not right. That’s called karma and that’s not Christian. If it were, then Jesus died on the cross… for nothing. God may use punishment for our discipline, but never ever for atonement or justification on our part.

Consider Leland Wangs’ mother. Leland Wang, a Chinese evangelist, tells of an incident in his childhood which vividly illustrates the work of Christ. Once Leland had been very naughty and his mother, with a stick in her hand, called him to her to be punished. But he ran off, taunting his mother because she couldn’t catch him. She had little chance of catching her small, lively son.

So she stood still and said, “I feel ashamed of myself that I have brought up a boy who is not willing to be disciplined by his mother when he does wrong, so I must punish myself,” and she began to whip her bare arm. This so touched Leland’s heart that he ran back to his mother, threw himself into her arms, and pleaded with her not to hurt herself, but to punish him. But no further punishment was necessary.

Mr. Wang says that, as he grew older, this memory helped him to understand the great love of the Lord Jesus Christ who willingly took our place in death on the cross. It was Christ’s work, and His blood that made atonement, that paid the complete price, not just for each and every one of our sins but for our sinful nature!

His work on the cross, met the demands of God’s justice totally and completely. His innocent blood, shed on the cross in your place, is better than the shedding of your own guilty blood for your own sins. It’s true that blood needs to be shed to obtain forgiveness – atonement – and blood has been shed, just not yours.

The word of God in Hebrews today tells us that Jesus’ blood was shed so ours wouldn’t need to be. Vss 23-24, You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood

When God’s love claims us, we become God’s followers, and we are to live in obedience to Him and His word. To help us in that, God gives us, along with the Holy Spirit and His many various and marvelous gifts, He also gives us His discipline. And in truth God’s discipline is ‘nice’. Now, I don’t mean that the correction we endure is pleasant, but it is ‘nice’ in that God treats us as His children when He disciplines us.

So, when it says in verse 6 that we are punished, that is said in the context of discipline and does not stand alone to mean that we are made to pay for or atone for our own sins. If that were true, then Jesus death on the cross would need our effort to help satisfy God’s demand that we be righteous. That is one of the errors roman catholic teaching. No, God’s demand of payment for sin has been met in full in Jesus’ death on the cross in atonement for all sin.

But, God’s discipline is something none of us, unfortunately, ever outgrow the need for. It’s one of those things I always hoped I could get past or beyond. But in order to grow as an obedient Christian I need to be corrected by God in how I live. Correction is what comes through His discipline slash punishment. Correction – not atonement.

A father sits in his lawn chair, watching his young daughter play in the yard. Her friends are across the street. She steps to the curb and runs, never looking either way, never seeing the on-coming car. Father is out of his chair like a shot. He grabs her and scolds her, then puts her in her room for an hour despite her many tears and excuses. He explains that he doesn’t want to see her get hurt. Several days later the father again sees his little girl start across the street. This time, though, she stops, looks both ways and crosses. He smiles. The discipline has worked. It was hard on her at the moment of her punishment, but so much better for her welfare in life.

Her actions were changed by the discipline of her father. Her father didn’t punish her in order for her to make-up for some offense to dad. This was correction. For her, for that hour in her room apart from her friends, she perceived her own suffering, but in truth she was learning to correct her behavior to keep herself safe.

God’s correction of us is never meant to replace the suffering of Christ on the cross for our sin. We do not make-up for our sin, or pay any of the price for our sin by means of God’s correction – however harsh it may seem to us. It may be hard to endure God’s correction, but it’s important to bear in mind that this discipline is because we are God’s own children. We are God’s family and as such we get the benefit of ‘Dad’s’ wisdom.

It’s out of His heart of love that His correction is sometimes visited on our backsides. This isn’t done because God’s mad at us. He cannot be. His anger and wrath and vengeance and malice toward our sin have been poured out on and paid for in the cross of Jesus.

But that doesn’t mean that we don’t still have much to learn in what it means to be His obedient children. And God’s discipline is meant for that reason and for no other. We together here are God’s children and with one heart we care for one another and help one another when we each endure God’s loving affliction that’s for our benefit and growth. We do not get to heaven any easier by what we suffer on earth. And we do not suffer because of God’s anger.

Think about what you’re going through in your life right now. What training and discipline is the Lord taking you through that perhaps not too many other people even know about? What street are you trying to cross that Jesus is holding you back from so you won’t get smacked by the car that you can’t even see coming?

Maybe asking God why, “why am I going through this” is not the only question to ask Him. Perhaps in addition you can ask Him; what? “What are you teaching me?” “What training are You giving me in what I’m going through right now?”

Compare what you’re going through with the little girl and with the biker. The biker was being punished and the little girl was being disciplined. They were being trained to act correctly. What you may be going through might be meant to correct behavior or perhaps to give you a different form of training in new ways, but it’s never to exact payment.

And also remember Leland Wang’s mother and what she teaches us about Christ, taking our atonement on Himself. Bear in mind, you can never sin and make God angry so that He wants atonement from you. Our sin, all our sin, has been paid in full on the cross. And never doubt that our Father’s correction and discipline will be given to us for our benefit and training in righteousness. Discipline never comes from God in anger… but in love.

His discipline is ‘nice’ because it reminds us that we are His true children. And according to verse 11 only His discipline, for the sake of Christ, produces in us a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. In the name of Jesus, the One who took the guilt of our sin away, we pray, amen.

Sermon #1042 Rev. Thomas A. Rhodes, Pastor – Zion Lutheran Church, Bolivar, MO

First Reading                         Isaiah 66:18-23 18 “And I, because of what they have planned and done, am about to come and gather the people of all nations and languages, and they will come and see my glory.

19 “I will set a sign among them, and I will send some of those who survive to the nations—to Tarshish, to the Libyans and Lydians (famous as archers), to Tubal and Greece, and to the distant islands that have not heard of my fame or seen my glory. They will proclaim my glory among the nations. 20 And they will bring all your people, from all the nations, to my holy mountain in Jerusalem as an offering to the Lord—on horses, in chariots and wagons, and on mules and camels,” says the Lord. “They will bring them, as the Israelites bring their grain offerings, to the temple of the Lord in ceremonially clean vessels. 21 And I will select some of them also to be priests and Levites,” says the Lord.

22 “As the new heavens and the new earth that I make will endure before me,” declares the Lord, “so will your name and descendants endure. 23 From one New Moon to another and from one Sabbath to another, all mankind will come and bow down before me,” says the Lord.

 Second Reading                    Hebrews 12:4-24

4 In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says, “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, 6 because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”

7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? 8 If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. 9 Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! 10 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.                                                                           12 Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. 13 “Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.

14 Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. 16 See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. 17 Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. Even though he sought the blessing with tears, he could not change what he had done.

18 You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; 19 to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, 20 because they could not bear what was commanded: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned to death.” 21 The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, “I am trembling with fear.”                                                  22 But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, 23 to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

Holy Gospel                              Luke 13:22-30

22 Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. 23 Someone asked him, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?”

He said to them, 24 “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to.

25 Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’

“But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’

26 “Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’

27 “But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!’

28 “There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out. 29 People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. 30 Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last.”

 

Aug 18, 2019 – Roots!

Aug 18, 2019 – Roots!

Do you like wine? I like wine. Wine is good. Medical reports tell us of the benefits of drinking wine – in proper amounts – as being good and healthy. But do you know what makes healthy wine? Good grapes. And you know what makes good grapes? Healthy vines. And do you know what makes healthy vines? Good roots. When a vine is planted in soil that nourishes a good root structure, you get grapes that produce good wine, which is healthy for you. That root structure is a blessing to the wine.

Speaking of a good root structure, in a news article some years ago former senator George Allen from Virginia disclosed that his maternal grandfather is Jewish. This became a story because Allen seemed to be unaware of that in his last campaign, when a reporter had asked him about it. Since then it has come to light that his mother had sworn him to secrecy after telling him as an adult, of his Jewish heritage. Rabbi Efraim Mintz confirmed that Allen was invited to deliver the keynote address to about 600 people attending the National Jewish Retreat in Reston Virginia. “George Allen is interesting to the American Jewish community especially because of his discovery late in life of his Jewish ancestry.”

I bring this up because I want to make it clear to all of us that we too, like Allen, share a Jewish heritage. Our roots as, Christians, are also Jewish and we need to be clear about that. In the epistle letter today, written to Jewish Christians in the 1st century, (that’s why it’s called the book of Hebrews), we learn, about some of the God-given roots of our sacraments. We see that both baptism and communion have a Jewish heritage. Listen again to verses 28 & 29. By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel.  By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land.

We see that in their passing through the waters of the Red Sea, the Jewish nation went through a baptism of God’s grace. By passing through the sea, by going ‘under those waters’ so to speak, they came through the other side only by the grace of God. That ‘baptism’ saved them, like our baptisms remind us that, we too, are saved by God’s grace alone.

And yet in the gospel lesson Jesus speaks of the baptism He was still to go through. It’s a baptism mixed with fire as spoken of both in the gospel and in the old testament lesson

Is not my word like fire,” declares the Lord, “and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces? And the cross upon which Jesus died, that is the hammer that breaks apart the sin that seeks to keep us trapped under its crushing weight. Jesus endured that punishment of crucifixion in our place. If we reject that, if we refuse to acknowledge that it is in His name alone we have redemption, then we remain under that same crushing weight of God’s anger on sin and His eternal wrath. And so, Jesus’ baptism of death of the cross was filled with all the wrath of God in it, so that we may indeed have a baptism unto life in His name.

And in these same verses from Hebrews our Jewish roots are exposed in holy communion as well. That’s because it’s in the Passover that’s spoken of there, that the blood of a lamb was sacrificed. In that way, on the night the deadly destroyer came through Egypt, the children of the Hebrews would be ‘passed over’. And that’s a blessing for us, since it’s in the shed blood of Jesus, the Lamb of God, that we partake of in the sacrament, that we’re spared from the death we deserved by our sin.

Sacraments are the core blessing for us. Our joy comes from them – they’re like the roots of a grape vine; they give us, who are the branches, our foundation. Those roots nourish us and feed us with the food of God. They’re our root blessing.

And as we’ve pointed out already the sacraments are Jewish as well. That is, by being Hebrew in nature, they’re a ‘both-and’ sort of thing not an ‘either-or’. They are both an end in themselves and they’re a means to an end.

They’re an end in themselves in that they do indeed deliver to each person who receives them, God’s grace. That can’t be overstated. God touches each of us in an uncommon way, with common things. Water, bread, and wine. But the sacraments also, in addition to standing alone, are a means to an end.

Think of sacraments like this; while they’re made of common and ordinary elements, they deliver God’s extraordinary heavenly grace and promise to us. So, with and by God’s word, they stand as the means by which God delivers to us His full and free pardon. In that way they’re both Jewish-earthly and heavenly. In dying on the cross and rising to new life, Jesus won for us pardon and redemption, the forgiveness for sin. And sacraments are the means Christ uses to deliver that redeeming gift to us.

Along with this, we use them to guide and strengthen us daily. Again, like a grape vine, we’re given nourishment for our daily growth by the sacraments. So, while they deliver to us the security, the foundation of our heavenly future, they’re also the guide and root of all we do each day, each moment.

We’re never far from our baptism. Each day as we pray and repent of our sins, God’s baptismal grace touches us and reminds us that we are His own child. Having gone through the waters of baptism we’re made clean in the repentance of our sins by the promise delivered to us, that forgiveness is ours. And we then live each day in that grace and mercy given to us at the font.

And communion ties us regularly to the death and resurrection of Christ so that we remain grounded in Him. Again, like a grape vine that has its roots well grounded, that’s what we learn from today epistle lesson. Our grounding is both Jewish-earthly and heavenly. Our roots are planted in Jewish and heavenly soil.

One of my favorite movie scenes helps to illustrate this. A man, who makes wine, gives a glass of wine to a girl and asks her to describe it. She yammers on about it being ‘bold and fruity’ but she obviously doesn’t know what she’s talking about. He then takes out a box that has vials of various herbs and other things, like rosemary, mushrooms, currants and the like; all things that grow in the soil around his vineyard. And after explaining this he opens each individual vial and asks the girl to sniff them. He then gives her back the glass of wine to drink, and now she beings to understand. She understands that the wine’s aroma and flavor is totally influenced by the soil in which grow the roots of the vine that grew the grapes that made the wine.

We are like that wine; we take in, from the ground where we’re planted, the influence, flavor and character of the soil. And our soil is both Jewish and heavenly. In the epistle lesson we learn that, among other influences from the Old Testament, baptism and communion have in their background the Passover, the exodus story.

It’s enough today, to see what Jesus Christ has done for us, scorning the shame of the cross, and what He bestows on us through the sacraments, which carry a Jewish flavor, our Jewish-earthly roots. We’re tied to those roots and we take in the aroma of the Passover meal when we come to communion.

And we’re rooted to heaven as well. We have the nourishment of the grace of God alone through these sacraments that He’s given to us. In baptism the word of God pours life into that water so that we are changed. And any time we come to communion, bear in mind that we are being fed with heavenly food. The common earthly things of water, bread and wine are made uncommon and holy by the word of God. As such, our roots are strengthened as we run the course through this life laid out for us in Jesus Christ – In His name we pray, amen.

Sermon #1041 Rev. Thomas A. Rhodes, Pastor – Zion Lutheran Church, Bolivar, MO

First Reading                                                                                                         Jeremiah 23:16-29

16 This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you; they fill you with false hopes. They speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord. 17 They keep saying to those who despise me, ‘The Lord says: You will have peace.’ And to all who follow the stubbornness of their hearts they say, ‘No harm will come to you.’ 18 But which of them has stood in the council of the Lord to see or to hear his word? Who has listened and heard his word? 19 See, the storm of the Lord will burst out in wrath, a whirlwind swirling down on the heads of the wicked. 20 The anger of the Lord will not turn back until he fully accomplishes the purposes of his heart. In days to come you will understand it clearly. 21 I did not send these prophets, yet they have run with their message; I did not speak to them, yet they have prophesied. 22 But if they had stood in my council, they would have proclaimed my words to my people and would have turned them from their evil ways and from their evil deeds.

23 “Am I only a God nearby,” declares the Lord, “and not a God far away? 24 Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them?” declares the Lord. “Do not I fill heaven and earth?” declares the Lord.

25 “I have heard what the prophets say who prophesy lies in my name. They say, ‘I had a dream! I had a dream!’ 26 How long will this continue in the hearts of these lying prophets, who prophesy the delusions of their own minds? 27 They think the dreams they tell one another will make my people forget my name, just as their ancestors forgot my name through Baal worship. 28 Let the prophet who has a dream recount the dream, but let the one who has my word speak it faithfully. For what has straw to do with grain?” declares the Lord. 29 “Is not my word like fire,” declares the Lord, “and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?

Epistle Reading                                                                                         Hebrews 11:17-40; 12:1-3

17 By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, 18 even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” 19 Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.

20 By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future.

21 By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff.

22 By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions concerning the burial of his bones.

23 By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.

24 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. 25 He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. 27 By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible. 28 By faith he kept the Passover and the application of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel.

29 By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned.

30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the army had marched around them for seven days.

31 By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.

32 And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. 35 Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. 36 Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— 38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.

39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, 40 since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Holy Gospel                                                                                                                  Luke 12:49-56

49 “I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! 50 But I have a baptism to undergo, and what constraint I am under until it is completed! 51 Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. 52 From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. 53 They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”                 54 He said to the crowd: “When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say, ‘It’s going to rain,’ and it does. 55 And when the south wind blows, you say, ‘It’s going to be hot,’ and it is. 56 Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky. How is it that you don’t know how to interpret this present time?

 

Aug 11, 2019 – Treasure Seeds!

Aug 11, 2019 – Treasure Seeds!

A preacher friend of mine tells the story of a young lady come to his office in Seattle for counseling some years ago. She moaned about how difficult life had been for her; she didn’t have this, and she didn’t have that. It was all about the possessions that others seemed to have. She also moaned about her job, her relationships, and her family. Then suddenly her face brightened, and she said: “At least I can thank God that I’m not greedy or materialistic.” Was she wrong! She was as greedy and materialistic as anyone could be.

Greed has nothing to do with the number of your possessions; it has everything to do with the condition of your / heart. And a heart, greedy for the things of this world, will always be disappointed.

But in the gospel lesson today Jesus says that a heart that’s hungry for God’s word is a heart that’s satisfied by true treasure. That kind of hunger, that kind of ‘greed’, so to speak, is a good thing. It can be good to be greedy… as long it’s for God’s word.

Read with me please Luke 12:34. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” There your heart will be also. Our heart is connected to our treasure.

It’s true, that what we value most, tells us something of who we are. Where our heart is, is where we find our treasure. Think of it this way, what do we stand for? What we are willing to do anything to gain? Put another way, what are we willing to sell ourselves for?

If we want hearts that grow in faith and strength toward God, then we lay aside our own desires and allow the heart of Christ to fill us. To seek what He says is valuable, that’s what we want our hearts to be set on. And today Jesus tells us that the kingdom of heaven is the only thing worth trading our hearts for. Only the kingdom of heaven is worth that. He proved that by bringing the kingdom of heaven to earth in His own very body.

He brings the kingdom of heaven near to us and He even puts it in us when we take communion. In communion we take His kingdom into our very mouths. That kingdom says we are worth the broken heart of Christ on the cross. He was willing, and He broke His heart for us so that we would see of what great worth we are to God. God was willing to give His heart, to gain you and I for Himself as His people. In the cross, in the sacrifice of Christ for our sin on that instrument of death, there we see how God’s heart treasures us. There, by the death of His only Son, we see that He has set His heart on us.

So, what can we possibly seek on earth, here and now, that’s greater than God’s kingdom? ‘Yes’, we might say, ‘of course I’ll be glad to go to that kingdom in the sweet by and by’. That’s nice… but today Jesus doesn’t tell us to wait for it, No. He brings that kingdom to us now. He does so by His actions / and by His word.

By His actions Jesus brings us the kingdom of God. His first action on earth for us was His coming to earth as the infant, the seed of Abraham, promised long ago as we read in the Old Testament lesson today. He came and lived the perfectly obedient life to the demands of God’s law. He came to us and met the requirement we couldn’t. And He came then to the cross and to His bloody death that should’ve been ours. That torment was our torment, for our sin. He came and He took that agonizing death on Himself. But then there’s one more way Jesus comes to us in His actions; and that’s in His coming forth from the grave and rising triumphantly over death. In all these Jesus comes to us and brings us, the kingdom of God.

And by these actions of His, He is then able to give us His righteousness in exchange for our filth and our unworthiness. That He does again, in is His coming to us, through His work in our baptism. Through His action at the font, He brings us into citizenship in the heavenly kingdom, right now. That action is His coming to us through the healing and life-giving water combined with His Word to deliver us into His kingdom. And that brings us now to the inheritance Jesus has left to us … His Word.

It’s in His word, in the Bible, that we can, right here and right now, begin to grow and be nurtured in that kingdom that He has made ours. It is both now and yet to come. But, it seems that what God wants to give us in His Word we so often turn away from.

Luther has said– ‘Ah, how impious and ungrateful is the world, thus to condemn and persecute God’s ineffable grace! And we, we ourselves, who boast in the gospel, and know it to be God’s Word and recognize as such, yet we hold it in no more esteem and respect than we do Virgil or Terence. Truly, I am less afraid of the pope and his tyrants, than I am of our own ingratitude towards the word of God.’

It’s odd how we act with what God gives to us. God has given us His Word to learn from, to grow in and to benefit by. And yet we so often think God is trying to force something on us, when the opposite is true. God is giving us what is best for us, in and through the seed of His Word.

We’re the ones who gain the benefit when we plant our hearts firmly in and on the Word of God. How much scripture do you have memorized? How much do I have memorized? How many hours or minutes a day are spent on bible study in your life? How many hours a week? How would someone know that you have set your heart on heaven? Jesus indicates today, that one of those ways is by the time you spend on growing and maturing in the Lord. And the other is – in how we treat the poor.

We’re called to grow in God’s grace. We’re to live that grace day-by-day. We don’t mature in grace by simply owning a bible. We’re told in many places in the bible to grow, to mature and to become stronger in faith. One of the things we hold each other accountable to here at Zion is ‘hearing the Gospel’. We’re to store up treasure in heaven through the study of God’s Word here on earth.

You may have heard this supposedly true story before of a ship that, many many years ago, wrecked on a South Seas island early in the spring of the year. Fortunately, all the passengers were saved, together with enough food for many months along with several sacks of seed for springtime planting. But the people had hardly reached shore when someone discovered gold.

They began to eagerly dig up gold, heaping it up for themselves, dreaming of the day when they would be rescued and arrive home with this great treasure. They forgot all about the seed and the need to plant and harvest. They continued to dig out gold from the ground as the fall winds began to blow, and then the cold of winter settled in. Sometime later they were discovered – dead, from starvation. And surrounded by their useless treasure.

How much do you trust God? Are you willing to put other things – the things of this earth, of this island in the universe – are you willing to set those things aside to grow in the way God would have you grow? Are you willing to trust Him and give over your time to mature in the faith He has given you as His gift? As Jesus says today, God knows what you need of the things of this earth regarding food and clothes etc. It’s not those things we’re to be greedy for is it? No, we’re called to seek after His kingdom, to be greedy for that.

The kingdom of heaven is given, given for us to live and grow in, here and now. Will we ever get it all right, here and now? No. But that’s no excuse to not seek to grow and mature in the faith. It’s easy to live off milk, but milk is for babies. Milk’s great for growing bones and bodies, but it’s not food for the mature. Only by learning to develop a taste for the richer things of God’s word can we grow by the meat of scripture.

So, let me leave us with this challenge. We’re often tempted to not read scripture and it’s easy to give into that temptation. But this week, fight back against that. Let’s give ourselves permission to resist that temptation and see what happens as a result of it. When the temptation comes to ignore scripture, stop and think about that.

Stop and recognize what’s happening, and ask yourself; am I being greedy the right way? Remember that a heart that’s hungry for God’s Word is a heart that is satisfied by true treasure.

Take the packet of seeds you were given and set them where you can be reminded of the people shipwrecked on that island. Remember what’s important for life now. Time spent planted in God’s Word, yields a harvest of life for us. This isn’t a matter of earning points with God; it’s a matter of storing up the true treasure from the seed of God’s Word.

And perhaps do one other thing; memorize a new verse this week. Just one. Memorize just one new verse and see what comes of that. After all His Word of grace is what we treasure most for life now… and for life everlasting. In the name of Jesus, the living word of God, amen.

 

Sermon #1040 Rev. Thomas A. Rhodes, Pastor – Zion Lutheran Church, Bolivar, MO

First Reading                          Genesis 15:1-6

15 After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision:  “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.”

2 But Abram said, “Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3 And Abram said, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.”

4 Then the word of the Lord came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.” 5 He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”

6 Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.

Second Reading                   Hebrews 11:1-16

11 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. 2 This is what the ancients were commended for.

3 By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

4 By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.

5 By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: “He could not be found, because God had taken him away.” For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. 6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

7 By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith.

8 By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. 9 By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. 11 And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise. 12 And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. 14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

 Holy Gospel                             Luke 12:22-34

22 Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. 24 Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! 25 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? 26 Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?

27 “Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 28 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! 29 And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. 30 For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.

32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

 

Aug 4, 2019 – Above, with Christ

Aug 4, 2019 – Above, with Christ

Fifty years ago, it was the biggest news on earth. And this summer there have special tv reports and documentaries on it. It was captivating and incredible back then and still is.  50 years ago, on July 24, 1969, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Mike Collins returned safely to earth after walking man’s first steps on another heavenly body, the moon… and they were the toast of planet earth! For a brief time, the entire human race was on the same page, together looking beyond the wars and distrust, beyond the economic worries and such down here to gaze up and dream about something way up above.

As Christians though, living in this sinful fallen world, we have things ‘above’ to which we can always look—and we’re not just talking about heaven. Unlike the world’s focus on the first moonwalk, our focus as Christians isn’t primarily on a place. Our looking ‘to things above’ is looking to a person, Jesus Christ. That means we can always be looking above, every day, with hope and joy. With hope for the future… and joy for the now.

The problem is, we forget that. And when we forget, we forfeit so much of the daily joy God has for us. In our text this morning, St. Paul encourages us: set your hearts on things above, where Christ is. Doing that keeps the things below, here on earth, in the best light, the best focus for us.

Christ, by His death – lifted up on the cross – and by His rising from the grave, has given, gifted and guaranteed heaven for us. Therefore, we can enjoy God’s blessings here on earth now. But, and this is important, in light of today’s scripture readings, if we set our minds on the things the things of earth, then not only is heaven lost to us, but also lost is the joy of the Lord here and now. Only by keeping our mind set on Jesus, Who is seated at the right hand of the Father in heaven, will we be able to daily enjoy the blessings from God here on earth.

In the Old Testament reading today it says, A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment? To the man who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness,

And in Christ that is what we’ve been given.

We get to enjoy life here, because Christ has fully prepared for our life there. So, we can live now, free of fear for our future. Our future is secure and locked away for ever with Christ in heaven, where He is seated above all earthly things.

If that weren’t true, then our future would indeed be something frightful and fearsome. If, by unbelief we reject God’s gift of Jesus, and His work of redemption on the cross, we condemn ourselves to be separated from God forever in the depths of hell.

But again, by God’s mercy, He calls us through His word and His gifts of faith and life-in-Christ, so we do now have a future that is secure with Christ in heaven above. And more than that we are now free to enjoy the earthly things that God brings our way.

I’m not talking here about boats, cars, or the newest computer or gizmo for our homes. Jesus said in the gospel lesson today, A man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.

Rather it’s richness toward God in Christ that our life consists of. That primary relationship is what frees us to daily enjoy the relationships that God brings our way. The Preacher in Ecclesiastes said we’re to enjoy the work of our hands and the food and drink that we earn. Is there a better way to enjoy such things than to share them? And especially to share them with those in need. We’re built for such relationships and not for isolation.

We’re made to, first, have a relationship with God. That’s why He created us. When we remember that, that we’re created first and foremost for a fervent and loving relationship with God – then all the earthly cravings that surround us are seen for they are – a hollow imitation of that which truly satisfies – a relationship with God. Sin is like that, it’s a hollowness in life without God through Christ. And That relationship is what brings us true joy. Then we’re free to build earthly relationships, not with things, but with family, friends, and strangers to reflect to reflect our primary relationship with God.

The people and circumstances that He directs our attention to are what we’re free to delve into here with gusto. That’s what we’re doing here in Hearing, Sharing and Living the Gospel. Paul tells us to seek things that start from where Christ is, at the right hand of God. Christ has been seated at God’s right hand after His ‘giant leap for mankind’.

First came His ‘leap’ from heaven to live among us, down here on planet earth. And then all those small steps He took as a man that included His perfect keeping of the Law, to the tiniest degree, and finished with those painful and stumbling steps to the cross where He died the death we owed. And finally, His huge leap from the grave to His resurrection and ascension back to heaven.

He is the one Man who has gone where now every man and woman and child can go – through death to heaven. We go by grace, through faith in Jesus alone. His destiny is now our destiny – to be with God. By our Baptism, we died to this world and our old nature was drowned, and we have now been raised to a new nature, and a heavenly life.

Baptism teaches us that a new heavenly man or woman has risen from those waters. Baptism grants faith in Christ, and all who believe have a place in heaven without taking the smallest step on their own behalf. Now it’s for us to live life remaining focused on Christ above where we will one day be with Him according to His words and works.

Living daily the life of ‘things above’ is something we do nowhere.  It’s like an unborn baby: It’s not a “potential life” or a “life-to-be.” He or she is a life in the fullest sense, but just hid from our eyes. Like that unborn baby, we are living the life of things above right now, though they too are hid from our eyes. Those things have been ours ever since our Baptism and coming to faith. We just can’t yet see those heavenly things.

So, we’re called to make that life, that heavenly life that is fully and completely ours – we’re to participate in making that life as visible as possible, to others here with us below. And to that end we live life different from lives that are lived only for the things here below. We gladly spend our lives in daily praise and worship to God and in giving away to others the hope that is ours with Christ above.

You know before Matthew left for the Navy, he and I went to Oakland and walked the deck of the aircraft carrier Hornet. On that deck are painted the footsteps that Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins first took after arriving back here on earth from the moon. To follow those steps is to touch a bit of our history.

But – to walk following the steps of Christ is to touch eternity, now. Our baptism opens our eyes and God’s word lights our way on that path. And by faith we walk this earth where Jesus leads us here and now, knowing that in Him, the things above are already ours. In His name, amen.

Sermon #1039 Rev. Thomas A. Rhodes, Pastor – Zion Lutheran Church, Bolivar, MO

First Reading    Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12-14; 2:18-26

2 “Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.”

12 I, the Teacher, was king over Israel in Jerusalem. 13 I applied my mind to study and to explore by wisdom all that is done under the heavens. What a heavy burden God has laid on mankind! 14 I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind…                                                                                                                                                18 I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me. 19 And who knows whether that person will be wise or foolish? Yet they will have control over all the fruit of my toil into which I have poured my effort and skill under the sun. This too is meaningless. 20 So my heart began to despair over all my toilsome labor under the sun. 21 For a person may labor with wisdom, knowledge and skill, and then they must leave all they own to another who has not toiled for it. This too is meaningless and a great misfortune. 22 What do people get for all the toil and anxious striving with which they labor under the sun? 23 All their days their work is grief and pain; even at night their minds do not rest. This too is meaningless. 24 A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, 25 for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment? 26 To the person who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.Cross references:

 Second Reading                Colossians 3:1-11

3 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8 But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

 Holy Gospel                           Luke 12:13-21

13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”

14 Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” 15 Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”

16 And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’

18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’

20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’

21 “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”