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Jan 26, 2020 – The Word of the Cross!

Jan 26, 2020 – The Word of the Cross!

 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

Those words remind us that the cross is the sign of commitment that God made to us in Christ. The cross, St Paul tells us in this verse, the cross is the power of God for those who are being saved! It’s the revelation of the cross as God’s source of our salvation that we commit to as Christians.

What a thing! This cross, which, as a device of torture, is a symbol of defeat and death to this world. But the cross is for us the power of God. Only those who vanquish others have the power to use a cross against the defeated. So, to this world the cross is a symbol that those who are put on it, have been conquered. And yet, that same cross, for the Christian, reveals the victory of God for our salvation.

This cross reveals to us that Christ held nothing back.  He was not restrained in His commitment to the plan of salvation for this world. From the OT lesson today, For as in the day of Midian’s defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor.

The plan of God is to shatter the yoke of sin and to remove the rod of the oppressor, Satan. That is what the cross has done, that plan has been carried out. The plan of God to bring salvation to the whole world was laid out before the world began. But it had to be properly executed, for it to be fully realized.

In today’s gospel lesson the plan included the calling of disciples, the healing of sickness and disease and the preaching of the good news of the kingdom of God. God’s plan was, and still is, that all His creation worship Jesus. He came to fulfill God’s plan of salvation by allowing Himself to be defeated on the cross and to die the only innocent death, but then to rise victorious to new life again. And in that victory, again from the OT lesson, Jesus is the one Who rejoices as people do at the harvest. Only in that way could we see that God’s passion for us knows no limits or constraints.

In our sin and rebellion, we put crushing limits not only on ourselves but also on creation. God’s plan has always been to free us from that –to shatter the yoke that burdened us. And the only thing that could reveal that to us would be His commitment that shows His victory over sin, death and the devil. Only God can break the limits we put on ourselves in sin. Sin’s power must be destroyed if those limits are to be broken. And the commitment of God to breaking us free rests in the cross alone. That, defeat in the eyes of world, is victory for us under sin.

Many years ago the bishop, of the Catholic Church in the Philippines, had to check out a young woman’s claim that she had seen Jesus in visions. The bishop told her, “The next time you see Jesus, ask Him what sin your bishop committed when he was just a young theologian” The next time he saw her, the bishop asked, “Did you ask Jesus about the sin I committed when I was a young man?” She answered, “Yes, I did. Jesus said He didn’t remember!

Whether or not the details of the story happened, the truth of this story is huge good news for us. Such is Christ’s commitment to us that He forgets our sins!! Only He can do that as He tells us in Is 43:25 & Jer 31:34. Only God can choose to forget sins, and only the blood of Jesus Christ makes that choice possible. And it’s only the commitment of Christ to go to the cross to shed His blood there that frees us from our guilt in God’s sight.

When Cortez landed his 500 men on the east coast of Mexico, he set fire to the ships that had brought them. His warriors, watching their means of return go up in flames, knew they were committing their whole life to the cause of conquering a new world for Spain.

So also with you and me. When our Lord Jesus Christ says to the disciples, and to you and I, “Come, follow me, and I will send you out to fish for people” – when the call of the Spirit sets our feet on the shores of commitment to the cross of Christ, our ‘ships’ are also burned. We are set free from all the worldly loves and loyalties that might come between us and Christ and between one another.

The commitment made in our baptism was, first from God to us. To redeem us, rescue us and to buy us back. We’ve then committed ourselves into the truth of God’s word and to the plan of what God has done for each of us. He has removed our sins from us. We are dead to them and they’re His responsibility now. As we said, He alone can forget sin, and for the sake of the blood of Jesus He does just that. We have relief in that, but for that relief to be experienced, we must trust what God has said He has done!

We think that since we cannot forget our sin, that God cannot either. What we really forget in all this is; we are not God. He has said what He has promised to do, and we tend to reduce Him to our level and say, ‘no… He surely can’t do that!’

But He can! And He does! And we now live and trust and commit to put our whole being into that truth, by following our leader Jesus Christ. The plan of following Christ is that we follow – not lead or walk our own way and indulge our sinfulness. If we do that, we deny the cross and its power to free us.

When Jesus asked the men to follow Him today that is what He was asking for, a commitment. A commitment of their life to His life. This was not simply asking them to go for a walk by the seashore with Jesus and they knew and understood that. They were being asked to follow the way of Jesus.

That meant then, and still means today, to follow in the / way / of the / cross. Jesus knew what He was asking of them even if they didn’t fully understand it. We however have an advantage; in that we know that in our commitment to following Christ we commit to the cross of Christ. And that cross ties us to God’s prior commitment, it’s His commitment that comes first and we see that in both the cross and the resurrection of Jesus as well.

God’s commitment to us – to raise us from the dead as He raised Christ, is His promise. We place our whole life in God’s hands – we trust Him to keep His promise of salvation that was made in the Old Testament lesson today. Vs 2 The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.

That’s God’s commitment to us. We’re called to die to ourselves and to then live in the light of the gospel alone. We too are called to be committed to the way of Christ, the way of the cross! And that brings us back to the verse from Corinthians. For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

The cross of Christ’s death is what we live by. And that is foolishness to this world. Our ships have been burned and there is no going back. So, we go forward. We go forward together caring for one another knowing that, in the power of Christ’s cross, God has washed away our sins and He forgets them all. We go forward together, Hearing, Sharing and Living the Gospel. In Jesus name, amen.

Sermon #1068 Rev. Thomas A. Rhodes, Pastor – Zion Lutheran Church, Bolivar, MO

Old Testament Reading                                                                Isaiah 9:1-4

9 Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan—

2 The people walking in darkness                                      as warriors rejoice     have seen a great light;                                                     when dividing the plunder. on those living in the land of deep darkness                        4 For as in the day of Midian’s defeat,     a light has dawned.                                                           you have shattered 3 You have enlarged the nation                                         the yoke that burdens them,     and increased their joy;                                                     the bar across their shoulders, they rejoice before you                                                         the rod of their oppressor.     as people rejoice at the harvest,

Epistle Reading                                                                  1 Corinthians 1:10-18

10 I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. 11 My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. 12 What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.”

13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so no one can say that you were baptized in my name. 16 (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

Holy Gospel                                                                                Matthew 4:12-25

 12 When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he withdrew to Galilee. 13 Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali— 14 to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah:

15 “Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali,     the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan,     Galilee of the Gentiles— 16 the people living in darkness     have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death     a light has dawned.”

17 From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

18 As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 19 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 20 At once they left their nets and followed him.

21 Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, 22 and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

23 Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. 24 News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them. 25 Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him.

 

Dec 22, 2019 – A Righteous Man

Dec 22, 2019 – A Righteous Man

In 1975 country singer Charlie Rich had been chosen to announce the Country Artist of the Year at the Country Music Association Awards show. The award went to John Denver, who’d not experienced a warm reception at that point in the country music community. In fact, many people detested him and his style of country rock.

When Charlie Rich opened the envelope, rather than simply announce John Denver’s name, Charlie took out a cigarette lighter, set fire to the paper bearing the winner’s name, and walked off stage… He didn’t like who was picked….  He didn’t think that John Denver was worthy of such an honor.

Picking someone to win an award is one thing; imagine God picking someone worthy enough to be the earthly father of His child. That choice comes with a greater consequence than some award show.

According to the gospel reading today God picked ‘a righteous man’ to be the earthly father of God’s one and only son, Jesus Christ. Though the man was a lowly carpenter, that didn’t exclude him from being judged by God to be a righteous man. There’s no honest vocation that excludes a person from a right relationship with God.

Our right relationship with God is based solely on faith in God’s Son, Jesus, and His work in coming in true human flesh and blood so He could live the only perfectly righteous life, sacrifice that life in death on the cross, and by so doing win for all flesh of all time; redemption. And yes, this Jesus is also the Son of this righteous carpenter, Joseph.

Since God deemed Joseph ‘a righteous man’ it would seem a good thing to look at what we know of Joseph that can teach us about what this righteous man was like.

Well, we know that he was faithful, he went up to the temple each year at Passover – we learn that later in Matthew when Jesus was left behind in the temple.

And we know that Joseph followed God’s guidance – we see that in his obedience to the messenger of God in verse 24 today which says, “when Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him…”

We know he was also a steadfast man. He did not desert Mary as many men would have in the situation of finding his fiancé pregnant.

He also was patient. When the Lord told him to take the child and His mother and go to Egypt – he went! He went and he waited… He waited till the Lord told him to return after Herod’s death. How long that was we don’t know for sure. It’s likely that the time was many months or even a few years. But during that time, Joseph remained with Mary and Jesus, and did what a righteous man should do; he looked after his young family.

So, in Joseph we see these things lived out; faithfulness, patience, trust, obedience and steadfastness. All these things tell us of the heart of this man. These things did not make Joseph perfect, but they speak of the type of man he was. And in him we have a high example to follow. We tend to take him for granted though. He did his bit and so we just file him away as a good guy and move on.

But that doesn’t do him justice. God’s word calls him righteous. And notice that’s tied to the attitude of his heart and mind. It says… Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly … he had in mind to divorce her quietly. For that to be known to Matthew, our gospel writer, Matthew must’ve had contact with Joseph or Mary. Most scholars feel this information likely comes from Mary.

Can you imagine the talks she and Joseph must have had in their years of raising Jesus together? Joseph surely at some point told her what was ‘in his mind’ to do when he found out she was pregnant and of the dream that had that convinced him to do otherwise.

Imagine also what she had to tell Joseph about being visited by Gabriel and then being pregnant? What that marriage counseling session would’ve been like: I can hardly imagine! But we’re told that a quiet divorce was what Joseph had ‘in mind’ so as not bring Mary into public shame. Which, by the way would also become Joseph’s shame. Again, we see in Joseph here an attitude of the heart reflected in the actions of the man. And that is one of the most important things we can learn from Joseph. That what is in our heart comes out in our actions.

What’s in our hearts this Sunday before Christmas? I know that this week lots of gifts are going to be opened, so let me tell you a story that can help us to remember that what Joseph chose to focus on in his heart is what came out in his actions.

The story is about identical twins. One was a hope-filled optimist. “Everything is coming up roses!” he’d say. The other was a sad and hopeless pessimist. The worried parents of the boys brought them to a psychologist. He suggested to the parents a plan to balance the twins’ personalities. He told them:

On Christmas, put them in separate rooms to open their gifts. Give the pessimist the best toys you can afford, and give the optimist… a box of manure.”

The parents followed these instructions and carefully observed the results. When they peeked in on the pessimist, they heard him complaining, “I don’t like the color of this computer. I’ll bet this cell phone is going to break. I don’t like this game. I know someone who’s got a bigger toy car than this.”

Tiptoeing across the corridor, the parents peeked in and saw their little optimist gleefully throwing the manure high in the air. He was giggling. “You can’t fool me!” he said, “Where there’s this much… manure, there’s gotta be a pony!”

The point is, that what you choose as your attitude in life – as your heart’s desire in life – is what will come out in your actions and words. I’m not talking about just choosing a simplistic, Pollyanna out-look on life. It’s not that you close your eyes to reality and plunge ahead heedlessly; No. In fact, it’s the opposite.

You keep your eyes wide open to what’s going on and realize that the gift that God has given us, in the Son of the carpenter, supplies us with the deepest reason for choosing a positive outlook on life. The abiding new-life that’s ours in a right relationship with God comes to us as His Christmas  (and Easter) gift to us and for us. His gift to us of Jesus is the reason we can choose joy.

That’s not to say we must always be joyful or happy. This is a tender time of year and  sometimes the year has brought on hurts and pains that make choosing joy more difficult. So, there’s no requirement to be happy. But there is reason to know we’ve been gifted with joy in Christmas. That’s because it’s the time when all our hurts and sorrow find a balm and a solace by the coming of our heart’s true desire, our Savior, Jesus. Our hearts and our hurts are given the comfort needed in the life, death and resurrection of the infant king, Jesus. His is the gift of peace, grace, and yes, even joy through our tears.

So, we respond to God’s gift of Jesus in how we live our lives. How we live our lives does not determine whether or not God will give us the gift of His Son, He’s already done that!

Nor will our response earn us ‘brownie points’ with God or get us an ‘upgrade’ in heaven: No  But remember, what we do with that gift of God’s grace given to us in His Son, what we do, He will judge.

That is God’s prerogative alone. He says He will do that, but we, we are not to judge each other or how others respond to God’s grace. Saint Paul reminds us of that in the book of Romans a few chapters later than where we read today. In chapter 14 verses 10-12 he writes, “Why do you pass judgement on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgement seat of God… So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.”  We will give an account, TO God, of how we handled the grace of God that has come into the world, and which has come to each of us in our baptism into Jesus, this son of Joseph the carpenter.

Joseph reflected a faithful relationship with God and God named Joseph a righteous man for his faith in God. Joseph was raised to trust that God would keep His word of a promised messiah and Joseph’s hope was in that Word of promise. Again, St Paul reminded us in Romans today in vs 1-2, “the gospel of God – the gospel He promised beforehand through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to His earthly life was a descendant of David.”  God’s promise in Holy Scripture is what Joseph; himself a descendant of David, trusted in, though until the angel came and explained things to him, he didn’t know that he would see God’s promised salvation himself.

And now he was being told that in fact, his own bride was the fulfillment of the words out of our Old Testament lesson today.

Verse 14 says “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” Joseph was given the word of God in a dream that spelled out his part in fulfilling this prophesy of God. He acted on what God told him. His actions reflected the attitude of trust that was in his heart.

Remember we started out talking about Joseph being called righteous, that he was a man of faith and his life reflected that faith. Would God pick a man whose life did not reflect a relationship with Him as the earthly father for His Son? I think not. We follow Joseph’s example so as to reflect our attitude of trust in God alone. Joseph responded to the word that God gave him. He acted faithfully and in trust. We do that same thing. We act on the word of promise God has given us.

We all think “God would never pick me like He did Joseph. God wouldn’t pick me because I’m not a righteous person.” And we’re right. But here’s the thing about God’s love and grace…

He does pick you! In Christ God has made you righteous, by Christ’s birth, by His death on the cross and by His resurrection from the grave. Through Him, God has made… and so declares you to be righteous.

And He does pick you like He did Joseph!! He… picks… you to introduce this world to Jesus. You bring Jesus to this world. You have the same joy of introducing Jesus to the world you live in, just as Joseph did in his.

God, in His Son has made us righteous and gives us the joy of Joseph. The coming of this Child, Jesus, into our lives restores us to a right relationship with God and that gift remains long after this season is over. That Gift changes our attitude to one of joy, because of the gift of faith we’ve been given and the righteousness that’s been made ours… in Joseph’s Son – our savior Jesus Christ. In His name, amen.

Sermon #1060 Rev. Thomas A. Rhodes, Pastor – Zion Lutheran Church, Bolivar, MO

Old Testament Reading                                        Isaiah 7:10-17

10 Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, 11 “Ask the Lord your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights.” 12 But Ahaz said, “I will not ask; I will not put the Lord to the test.”  13 Then Isaiah said, “Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of humans? Will you try the patience of my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. 15 He will be eating curds and honey when he knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, 16 for before the boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, the land of the two kings you dread will be laid waste. 17 The Lord will bring on you and on your people and on the house of your father a time unlike any since Ephraim broke away from Judah—he will bring the king of Assyria.”

 Epistle                                                                                  Romans 1:1-7

1 Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God— 2 the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures 3 regarding his Son, who as to his earthly life was a descendant of David, 4 and who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord. 5 Through him we received grace and apostleship to call all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith for his name’s sake. 6 And you also are among those Gentiles who are called to belong to Jesus Christ. 7 To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be his holy people: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

 Holy Gospel                                                                      Matthew 1:18-25

18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.  20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”  22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).  24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

 

Dec 8, 2019 Advent 2 – Proper Preparation

Dec 8, 2019 Advent 2Proper Preparation

Such happy thoughts for this Advent Season! In the lesson from Isaiah we hear He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked. And then we have unquenchable fire, burning chaff, winnowing forks! These are among the things that John the Baptist talked about when he was preaching repentance and baptizing people in today’s gospel lesson. John came speaking and baptizing in preparation for Jesus’ coming. True, Jesus was already among them and some of them knew Him. But John is preparing the way for Jesus earthly ministry. John is using language to stir up people and get their attention. And all that, is so he can point people to Christ.

John’s job was to tell people to prepare for the coming of Messiah, God’s holy one. Yes, people had heard this before and every time they’d been disappointed. But this time was different because this time, it was because God said it was time. It makes a difference when you prepare for the right thing, in the right time… and when you don’t.

There was one couple, Bob and Lynne, who were moved by their pastor’s message to show Christian love to your neighbors. So, when they got home from church, they saw a moving van in front of the house across the street, and decided to display the Christian love they were newly excited about. Lynn prepared some homemade bread and together she and Bob went across the street.

When someone answered the front door, Lynn said, “Hi. We wanted to welcome you to our neighborhood. Here’s some bread for you.” The woman who answered the door said, “Thank you very much for your kindness. Uh – this is embarrassing because we’ve lived here 8 years. You see, we’re not moving in. We’re moving out.

Bob and Lynn went prepared all right, but they prepared for the wrong occasion! That’s the difference in today’s gospel lesson, and what John the Baptist was about. He was preparing people for the right thing at the right time! Jesus was the true messiah of God, the Lamb of God who had come into the world…to take away the sins of the world.

Bob and Lynn’s hearts were in the right place, but they simply weren’t prepared for the proper occasion. In the gospel lesson, we read about large crowds coming to John confessing their sins and being baptized. They were preparing based on the truth that John was preaching to them. And what John preached was… repentance. That was the proper way to prepare for the coming of Christ.

And most of those who came to the desert to see John followed what he said. Most… but not all. It says that there were those of the Pharisees and Sadducees among John’s ‘congregation’ that day. When John saw them he talked of them as a ‘brood of vipers’ who’d come to flee the wrath to come.

Now listen to Genesis 3:1 when Adam and Eve were deceived in the garden; it says in verse 1, “Now the serpent was more crafty that any of the wild animals” and then skip to verses 14-15 that read in part, “So the Lord God said to the serpent, ‘Because you have done this, ‘Cursed are you above all the livestock… And I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your offspring and hers; He will crush your head and you will strike His heel.’”

Right here in Genesis, you see the snake, the serpent, the ‘viper’ that deceived Adam and Eve. I don’t think John chose that ‘viper’ metaphor out of thin air when he was speaking to the Pharisees and Sadducees. This would be something all the people would know about, and John was preparing the people for the coming of the One promised in that passage of Genesis. Jesus the coming One, was that One promised from the day of the fall of man into sin who would crush the snakes head and defeat sin.

That promised wrath was coming, John said. Sin was about to be destroyed and it was time to prepare for that. The Man promised by God in Gen 3 that would crush the snake’s head, that would kill the viper that deceived Eve and Adam, that promised Deliverer was coming. And with Him was coming vengeance against sin. Preparing for that meant the same thing then that it does now, repentance.

Yes, we are in advent and preparing for the coming of Christ as the infant. But be reminded also, that we prepare for Christ’s return as the Victor, the Conqueror over sin, and the Judge of all mankind. We need to also be prepared for that ‘right thing’. Let’s not be lulled into a sense of self-satisfaction or pride as the Pharisees and Sadducees displayed with John.

Take note that John equated his baptism with fleeing from the coming wrath of God. Baptism was presented as a form of salvation, protection and reconciliation with God. It still is!

The wrath of God has come as John said it would. And it was visited, in all its terrible consequences, on the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross. God’s wrath against sin was poured out on the head of the innocent Babe born to Mary in Bethlehem. That was done for us, in our place. And it was done in order that we might indeed have His protection from that wrath against sin. It is only in His name that we have His protection against God’s holy justice and that is why baptism is done in His name.

As John compared the leaders to vipers, let’s compare the sin we brought into the world to another creature, the “giant water bug”. The giant water bug is a beetle that eats insects, tadpoles, fish, and frogs. It has grasping forelegs that are hooked inward to seize a victim and hold it tight. The giant water bug then, with a vicious bite, injects its victim with enzymes that paralyze it. It only takes one bite, and the poison that shoots through this one puncture dissolves the victim’s muscles and bones and organs, everything except the skin. The water bug then sucks out the victim’s body, that’s been reduced to juice.

Well, like this bug, our sins can paralyze our spirit; it too can destroy us from within, and sooner or later… suck the life out of us. In order to prepare for the coming of the Lord, we do as John preached, be baptized for repentance and to produce fruit in keeping with repentance.

And when we are baptized in the name of the Triune God, the kingdom of God comes to us. And that kingdom, which comes to us in the name of Jesus Christ alone, is what we need in order to be protected from the wrath that will come when Jesus returns a second time as He’s promised to do.

He has come once to Bethlehem as promised and as John preached about in preparation for Jesus’ ministry and work on earth. And He will come again and when He does, we’re promised that it will be to judge the nations and all people. Folks today don’t like that idea. But then again, they didn’t like the idea of the Messiah coming as a baby either. There’s just no pleasing us is there!

And being prepared through repentance is also something we’d like to skip. The grandmother who stands by the front-room window watching for the arrival of her family for Christmas dinner, is not going to be nearly as ready as is the grandmother in the kitchen, basting the turkey and preparing things for the arrival of family and friends.

John was calling people to be properly prepared for the coming of the Christ. And that meant to repent, to turn from sin and all its paralyzing ways. The Pharisees were known for their paralyzing legalism and self-righteousness. The Sadducees were known for their skepticism and moral laxness, like many today who think that God’s law means nothing.

Neither of these groups came out to John to confess their sins. That is crystal clear from the context. No wonder John called them “products of deadly snakes.” They were like the rebellious Israelites who had come before them and, like the snake in the garden – they were deadly to themselves and others.

Jesus came once to deliver the world, as promised in Genesis, and Jesus is coming again. And He has delivered to us the righteousness we need that no amount of works put to us by the law, the Pharisees or anyone else can accomplish. Only the free gift that Jesus came to give us, properly prepares us. Only the gift of His robe of righteousness does that.

Dressed in God’s gift of Christ’s righteousness, we’re to demonstrate a different kind of life than unbelievers. Again, we don’t do this to earn God’s love or to impress others, but we do it to give witness to others of God’s abundant and free grace, / mercy and / forgiveness to all people.

The story is told in Spain of a father and his teenage son whose relationship had become strained. So, the son ran away from home. His father, however, journeyed in search of his rebellious boy. Finally, in Madrid, in a last desperate effort to find him, the father put an ad in the newspaper. The ad read: “Dear Paco, meet me in front of the newspaper office at noon. All is forgiven. I love you. Your father.” The next day at noon, in front of the newspaper office, eight hundred “Pacos” showed up. They were all seeking forgiveness and love from their fathers.

What a wonderful gift is forgiveness. All people crave this gift. And this gift is yours! Though you’ve strayed from the love of your heavenly Father, He seeks you out! And He will not rest until you’re safe in His arms. To make you ready for the Day of Judgment, you’ve been awakened and given a new suit of clothes. You’ve been dressed in the righteousness and forgiveness of Christ Jesus. You are ready: you are properly prepared as you live in the grace of God, given to you in your baptism. The grace of God passes over our sin and it gives us the freedom to pass sin by. That grace to us is free, and it allows Him to pass over our sin, and to pass over the sin of all the world. But grace was not free to God! It cost Him, the life of His Son, Jesus on the cross, which was the culmination of Christ’s earthly ministry.

And His gift of freedom and forgiveness is yours, right now! And you’re free to give that away to others, who like you and I, need it, because we’ve all been bitten by sin. This day and every day in Advent is a wonderful day to celebrate the love of God freely given to us in Jesus.

Advent prepares us to remember Jesus’ first coming and in so doing we’re being prepared for His promised 2nd coming. In His first coming He came, to a specific place… Bethlehem. And that is what this week’s advent candle reminds us of. It recalls for us that Jesus came in fulfillment of the promises as we spoke about last week. He came once and He will do so again. He is the new Jerusalem that will come down from heaven and call us home.

And our preparation for that second coming is always ongoing in our lives. John called the people to repentance. Luther said that repentance is the way of life for all who would follow after Jesus Christ. So, our preparation for Jesus’ return comes by following John’s words today, ‘repent for the kingdom of heaven is near’. In Jesus name, amen.

Sermon #1058 Rev. Thomas A. Rhodes, Pastor – Zion Lutheran Church, Bolivar, MO

First Reading                                                         Isaiah 11:1-10

11 A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;     from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. 2 The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—     the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,     the Spirit of counsel and of might,     the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord— 3 and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.

He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,     or decide by what he hears with his ears; 4 but with righteousness he will judge the needy,     with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth;     with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked. 5 Righteousness will be his belt     and faithfulness the sash around his waist.

6 The wolf will live with the lamb,     the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together;     and a little child will lead them. 7 The cow will feed with the bear,     their young will lie down together,     and the lion will eat straw like the ox. 8 The infant will play near the cobra’s den,     and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest. 9 They will neither harm nor destroy     on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord     as the waters cover the sea.

10 In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious.

Epistle Reading                                                             Romans 15:4-13

4 For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.

5 May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, 6 so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

7 Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. 8 For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth, so that the promises made to the patriarchs might be confirmed 9 and, moreover, that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written:

“Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles;     I will sing the praises of your name.”

10 Again, it says,

“Rejoice, you Gentiles, with his people.”

11 And again,

“Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles;     let all the peoples extol him.”

12 And again, Isaiah says, “The Root of Jesse will spring up,     one who will arise to rule over the nations;     in him the Gentiles will hope.”

13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Holy Gospel           Matthew 3:1-12

3 In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea 2 and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” 3 This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah:                                                                                                                                                  A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord,     make straight paths for him.’”

4 John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. 5 People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. 6 Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.    7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. 9 And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 10 The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. 11 “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

Dec 1, 2019 Advent 1 – Jesus and Jerusalem

Dec 1, 2019 Advent 1 – Jesus and Jerusalem

Happy New Year and a happy start to the Advent season. Today marks the first Sunday in the church new year. We begin again on that part of the church year that celebrates and remembers the earthly life and work of Jesus Christ. Today being the first Sunday in Advent, we have lit the first candle on the Advent wreath. That candle is often referred to as the prophecy candle. It’s the candle that reminds us that the coming of Christ to earth was told ahead of time.

Jesus coming was foretold so that when it came to pass, people would remember God’s promise and again be reminded of God’s faithfulness. So, we’ve lit this candle to remind us that Christ has come, and God has, indeed, kept His promise.

There’s a beautiful Hebrew legend of two brothers who lived side by side on adjoining lands.  One was the head of a large family, the other lived alone.  One night, the brother with a large family lay awake and thought: “My brother lives alone, he doesn’t have the companionship of wife and children to cheer his heart as I have.  While he sleeps, I’ll carry some of my harvest into his field.

At the same late-night hour, the other brother reasoned: “My brother has a large family, and his necessities are much greater than mine.  As he sleeps, I will put some of my harvest into his field.”  So, the two brothers went out, each carrying out his plan and each laden with harvest for the other and met… at the dividing line of their properties.  And there they embraced. The legend says that years later, at that very place stood the temple in Jerusalem, and on the very spot of their meeting stood the temple’s altar.

Of course, that legend is meant to instill the virtue of self-sacrifice. It teaches the merits of placing the needs of others before your own; of seeking the welfare of your brother above yours. And that, of course, is the very nature of what God did, in sending Jesus, our brother to the city of Jerusalem, to where the legendary brothers in the story met.

In today’s gospel, we read the story of Christ coming to Jerusalem, to the city where God meets man. It’s the place where sacrifice is made, like the brothers did for each other. It’s the place of atonement for sin. Now the context of what we read was Jesus entering Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. That’s not a time we normally associate with Christmas.

But remember we’re in Advent, the time of preparation for the coming of Jesus. And today is about the prophecy of Christ coming, as was promised, to do the work of salvation. That work was done at Jerusalem. But before that saving work was done at the end of the week that we read about, Jesus had come to Jerusalem many times before.

Jerusalem is the place where things that are absolutely core to our religion happened. But we don’t need to go there ourselves for our religion to be authentic. Our touchstone, the location of intersection between God and us is not the place where the core events happened. Yes, the place is significant, but it’s not what we need in order to worship – in order to meet God. The place of touching God, for us, has moved from Jerusalem. The place has shifted.

For us, that place of meeting God is now in the person of Jesus Christ. When Jesus came to Jerusalem, He entered as the sacrifice. He came as the Son of David, as the Lamb of God who’d come to take away the sin of the world.  He came to Jerusalem and He did that work on the cross, dying the innocent death in the place of sinful man. He came in fulfillment of the promises of God, the prophecies, as the candle on the Advent wreath reminds us of today.

And when Jesus left Jerusalem, He left it as the victor; the conqueror. He moved the place where we touch God from the stones and mortar of the temple… to the bread and blood of Himself. We don’t need to go to Jerusalem to be touched by God. That now happens for us through the person of Jesus Christ coming to us in Word, Baptism , and Holy Communion.

When you come and you take communion, you receive the fullness of the true body and blood of Jesus Christ. Jesus Himself, by His word of promise, comes here and meets you! We don’t need to go to Jerusalem, Jerusalem has come to us.

And in Jesus coming to us, in Jerusalem coming to us, we’ve been given the power to freely live life in faithful service to the One who kept His promise to us and to the world. We then strive to keep our promises of faithful living and service and love to one another as Christ has kept His promise to us. In so doing, we seek to prepare for His coming so we may all be ready with our glad hosannas.

Most of us are familiar with the fate of the city of Pompeii on the Bay of Naples in Italy.  It was destroyed in 79 A.D. by a volcano.  The ruins of the city have been carefully excavated.  It’s clear that most people tried to flee the city during the volcanic eruption, but the hot poisonous gasses overcame everyone. At the city gate, however, excavators found the skeleton of one man who didn’t try to flee the eruption.  He was a Roman guard who remained at his post with both of his hands on his weapon. Even when the ground on which he stood trembled and shook and the fiery ashes descended on the city, he remained faithfully at his post.

We too remain faithfully at our post, faithful to the work the Lord Jesus has given us to do, even if the world shakes under our feet and goes to pieces around us.  When the Lord again keeps His promise, and again comes to earth, may He find us faithfully striving to do His will and to live lives faithful to the One who has made peace with God for all people. And yet again, we do His will not out of fear or a compulsion so we may earn heaven, but to respond in joyful service so as to be prepared for His glad return.

Jerusalem, the city, has completed its role of the place where peace with God, for all people everywhere has been accomplished. Our brother, Jesus, has sacrificed Himself there for us. He came as the sacrifice. He left as the Victor. And He moved the location of where we place our trust, from the city, to Him alone.

When Jesus ascended from this earth it was not from Jerusalem but from a different mountain. That’s hugely significant. It’s not that Jerusalem was no longer important but, as we said, its importance has been overshadowed by the cross. The cross where Jesus died transferred, if you will, the place of our faith. God’s promise has been fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ not in the place of Jerusalem.

Yes, Jerusalem still plays a part, but for us it now represents what Jesus has done. He is the New Jerusalem in Revelation 21 that will return from heaven. Jerusalem has now been made perfect and complete and whole, because that is what Jesus has accomplished by coming… as prophesied and promised, fulfilling the work of the Lamb of God who came to Jerusalem to take away the sin of the world.

Remember we said that Jesus came to Jerusalem many times. Today He came as the sacrifice, yes. But before that, He came as the teacher during the three years of His earthly ministry.

He came before that to Jerusalem as a boy. Remember the boy-Jesus remaining behind in the temple after the family had gone up for Passover. Jesus, the boy, came to Jerusalem and to the temple to be, as He said, “in my father’s house.”

And Jesus also came to Jerusalem as an infant. He came on the 8th day after His birth, brought there to the temple by Joseph and Mary, to be circumcised according to the law. And in doing that, by shedding His blood in circumcision they began Jesus’ process of fulfilling the law for us all that was finished by shedding His blood on the cross. Jesus completes all the stages of the law, beginning on the 8th day after His arrival on earth. Which arrival we’re looking forward to celebrating when Advent ends, and Christmas arrives.

Advent helps us to remember that Jesus kept God’s promise and came to earth; came to Jerusalem. He comes to us still through His promise to be with us in all the stages of our lives. He promises to come to us in word, water, bread and wine.

Remember the legend of the two brothers and the virtue of self-sacrifice. Remember the value of placing the needs of others before your own. Remember the solder at his post and the importance of remaining faithful. Remember Christ has been faithful to us. And faithfulness is what God demonstrated, in sending Jesus, our brother, to the city of Jerusalem.

That’s what Advent is for us, the reminder that God keeps His promises to come to us. That’s the significance of the prophecy candle we lit today.  It reminds that Jesus keeps all His promises.

Throughout all of our days, God comes to us just as Jesus came to Jerusalem. We put our hope and faith in Him, and we pray, maranatha, come again Lord Jesus, and come swiftly. Amen.

Sermon #1057 Rev. Thomas A. Rhodes, Pastor – Zion Lutheran Church, Bolivar, MO

 First Reading                                                                                        Isaiah 2:1-5

2 This is what Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem:

2 In the last days

the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established     as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills,     and all nations will stream to it.

3 Many peoples will come and say,

“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,     to the temple of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways,     so that we may walk in his paths.” The law will go out from Zion,     the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. 4 He will judge between the nations     and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares     and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation,     nor will they train for war anymore.

5 Come, descendants of Jacob,     let us walk in the light of the Lord.

 Epistle                                                                                            Romans 13:8-14

8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

11 And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. 12 The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. 14 Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.

Holy Gospel                                                                           Matthew 21:1-11

21 As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:                                              5 “Say to Daughter Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’” 6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. 8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest heaven!” 10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?” 11 The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”

 

 

Nov 27, 2019 Blessing Upon Blessing

Nov 27, 2019 Blessing Upon Blessing

A happy thanksgiving eve to all!

A doting grandmother, against her daughter’s wishes, took the daughter’s little boy to the beach one day. Grandma thought to herself, I can take care of him— yes indeed! But in one unguarded moment the boy waded into the water, and the tide carried him out to the ocean and toward certain death. The grandmother prayed for a miracle.

Then a wave, greater than any she had seen, splashed across the sands, broke in front of her, and deposited the little boy safe and sound at her feet. Did the grandmother lift her voice in grateful thanks? No! Rather, lifting her angry eyes toward heaven, she hollered,  “OK, God, You brought my grandson back to me! But where’s the cap he was wearing?”

Have we ever blamed God for the lost ‘caps’ in our lives and at the same time failed to thank Him for the ‘little boys’ who were saved? This grandmother sounds like she could be one of the nine in tonight’s gospel lesson who didn’t come back to give thanks to Jesus for their healing from leprosy.

Like grandma, the 9 missed out on the blessing that comes from giving thanks to God. Oh true, she wanted the blessing of the returned grandson alright, but she wanted to dictate other blessings as well. Tonight’s gospel lesson is about the blessing upon blessing that comes to us because God chooses to give it. Not because we demand or presume upon it.

Listen again to verses 15-18. “One of them, when he was he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him – and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, “were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?”

I know we talked about this guy and his 9 buddies last month, but tonight with thanksgiving being tomorrow, we need to look at this again from a bit different perspective. You’ve heard me say this before, that I think this foreigner, this Samaritan, who comes back to thank Jesus was a Lutheran. In fact, I’m rather sure he was Lutheran, don’t you? No, not because he returned to Jesus crying out in a loud voice… heavens, that would never do for a Lutheran! But it was because he returned to Jesus to give thanks.

The only reason he would’ve done this is if, if, after noticing he was healed, he’d asked himself the good Lutheran question that we all learned in catechism, “what does this mean?”. What does this cleansing mean; he must’ve asked himself. What does it mean that this man, this Jesus, answered our cries for healing?

There’s only one answer to that; Jesus had to be the Son of the living God of heaven! That could be the only explanation. These 10 men all cried out, like the grandmother on the beach, for a miracle from God. And like grandma, they received it… simply… by… asking.

With His words, “Go and show yourselves to the priests” Jesus answered their prayer. Luther has said of this episode of Jesus, that ‘leprosy wasn’t a sin, but that it signified sin.’ That’s important to remember. Leprosy was… no… sin.

That’s not to say that this man wasn’t a sinner, but rather that neither Jesus nor this man attributed his having the disease to anything other than simply… having the disease!

And in that way, this man’s leprosy does represent sin. Sin is something we all have and we all have need to be cleansed of. And sin is the disease that Jesus cured, on the cross, for everyone… for-ever. Jesus spoke – and these 10 men were physically cured. Jesus healed, by His divine word of power, power that our ‘Lutheran’ Samaritan friend recognized as the power that could only be from God. This man realized that and so returned to give glory to God.

In the same way, Jesus spoke our healing as He was dying on the cross. He spoke the words, “it is finished”. And those words, those words are our healing from sin. With no less power than when He said, ‘go and show yourselves to the priests’, Jesus spoke our healing from sin as something fully completed as He did His healing work for the world on the cross.

A friend of mine wrote, “In a world filled with a ‘fix yourself mentality’, Jesus is a refreshing truth. Some things you just can’t fix yourself! Jesus knows there’re things in our lives, things that we’ve done, and things that have been done to us, that / we / just / can’t / fix.”

That, of course, points to sin in our lives. We just can’t fix that ourselves. So, Jesus comes to us with His healing and forgiveness and He acts before we even ask. He comes to us in the words of absolution telling us, “You are forgiven…go in peace”. And with His words He sends us, like the lepers, on our way; restored.

The Samaritan got it, while the rest missed it. And since he did and went back and returned thanks, he received this blessing that Jesus gave to just to him: “Rise and go. Your faith has made you well“. In returning to give thanks for the work of God’s healing in his life, the Samaritan received a blessing missed by the other 9. The guy who came back to say thanks, got blessed yet again. Even our giving thanks is an opportunity that God can use to bless us. Giving thanks is always a good thing.

A doctor decided to write and thank a boyhood schoolteacher for awakening in him a love for English poetry. Weeks later the woman wrote: “I want to let you know what your note meant to me. I am an old lady in my eighties, living alone in a small room, like the last leaf on a tree. I taught fifty years, yet in all that time yours is the first letter of appreciation I have ever received. It came on a blue, cold morning and cheered my lonely heart as nothing has in many years.”

From that time on until his death, the Dr. wrote thank-you notes to many people for the little things and many favors shown to him over the years.

Perhaps as you share thanks around your thanksgiving table tomorrow, you can come up with a few people from your life that you can write a note of appreciation to.

Remember our ‘Lutheran’ Samaritan friend returned to express appreciation for God giving him new life; a restored life that, up until then had been lost to disease. We too give thanks to God that our lives, lost to sin, have been restored by His gracious work and His powerful word of forgiveness.

My prayer for each of us is that, as we thank God tomorrow for His many blessings to us, that we would remember that our guilt has been cast aside in the shadow of the cross and that we would, like the Samaritan realize that only the power of God could accomplish that miracle. So, we too return thanks to Him and open our eyes to the further blessing upon blessing of an even closer relationship with God that He longs for us know. In Jesus name, amen.

Sermon #1056 Rev. Thomas A. Rhodes, Pastor – Zion Lutheran Church, Bolivar, MO

Old Testament                                                               Deuteronomy 8:6-11

6 Observe the commands of the Lord your God, walking in his ways and revering him. 7 For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land – a land with streams and pools of water, with springs flowing in the valleys and hills; 8 a land with wheat and barley, vines and fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey; 9 a land where bread will not be scarce and you will lack nothing; a land where the rocks are iron and you can dig copper out of the hills.

10 When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you. 11 Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day.

Epistle                                                                                                    1 Timothy 2:1-4

1 I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone – 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

Holy Gospel                                                                                    Luke 17:11-19

11Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance 13andcalled out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”

14When he saw them, he said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.

15One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him – and he was a Samaritan.

17Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?

18Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”

 

 

Nov 24, 2019 Paradise – It is about religion!

Nov 24, 2019 Paradise – It is about religion!

Associated Press –Nov 1st. 2010 BAGHDAD – Iraq’s dwindling Christian community was grieving and afraid on Monday after militants seized a Baghdad church during evening Mass, held the congregation hostage and triggered a raid by Iraqi security forces. The bloodbath left at least 52 people killed and 67 wounded — nearly everyone inside.

Outside Our Lady of Deliverance church, a Syrian Catholic church, a man leaned against the car carrying his cousin’s coffin, waiting for the police to let him bury him on church grounds. “It was a massacre in there.” he said Monday morning. “We Christians don’t have enough protection …”

A cryptically worded statement posted late Sunday on a militant website, allegedly by the Islamic State of Iraq, appeared to claim responsibility for the attack. The group, which is linked to al-Qaida in Iraq, said it would “exterminate Iraqi Christians” if (2 specific women in Egypt the group claims) as Muslim were not freed.

In their message Sunday, the militants called on the Vatican, which held a meeting last month to discuss the fate of Christians in the Middle East, to release the women. It said “We direct our speech to the Vatican and say that as you met with Christians of the Mideast a few days ago to support them and back them, now you have to pressure them to release our sisters, otherwise death will reach you all“.

Why do I read this 9 yr old news article on the last day of this church year? /// Because what we do here, why we gather each week, of each year here, is important. It is about religion /–/ what you believe about God to be true, will be reflected by how you act each day and in each circumstance.

Christians are told in this report the al-queda promise, that death will visit them, unless al-queda’s demands are met. Do the extremists not realize that we don’t fear death? Do you realize that you don’t fear death? The threat of death is nothing as compared to the threat of apostasy, which is the turning away from God and His promises and thereby a means to deny our religion. God said in the Old Testament lesson today, And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.

Those who do not serve God, who are apostate, do not have God’s promise for themselves. His promise of life is what we trust in. No human promise or threat of death can turn us from believing in God’s promise of life and redemption in Jesus.

Like I said last week, that Sunday will be a memorable one. But again, what makes it memorable are Jesus’ words, heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. That’s still true this week. His words of hope and promise, like He made today to the thief on the cross; those words of Jesus remain. He said to the thief, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

It is openly and publicly holding to the hope that we find in those words of Jesus, which has brought persecution and hardship to the Coptic Christians in Egypt, the Syrian catholic Christians in Iraq and Syria, and to most all Christians everywhere in the Middle East.

This brings us again to the Old Testament  lesson. God makes clear there that when Jesus returns – it will be seen how God deals with the apostate and with the non-believers. God’s vengeance will be terrible, and righteous, and just, and devastating, and overwhelming in its totality.

And when we ponder that and its fearful implications, we must remember that is what Jesus suffered for us on the cross as He died in our place. All the consequences of the terrifying totality of God’s vengeance on sin is what Christ endured in His death! And then triumphed over in His resurrection to give us the covering, by His blood, of eternal life. And those who refuse His covering will have no escape in the Lord’s return. That terrible and holy day that God promises will come, and come to all people.

And then it will be seen by all, how God deals with the unbeliever and believer. How the faithless and the faithful are truly different. They’re different because, and only because, of the grace of God that comes only in the name of Jesus Christ.

God’s treasured possession spoken of in Malachi are what we are purely because of the holy, innocent, and righteous blood of Christ shed on the cross. There is comfort and strength in knowing that. Being His treasured possession is what we share together with those who are suffering persecution in the middle east and elsewhere, for clinging to that high holy promise.

Their struggle in the face of frightful oppression should give us pause in our struggle with choices and the circumstances we each find ourselves in daily. Their realities give us some perspective on our lives when we have these brothers and sisters literally under fire for the faith we share with them in the words of Jesus.

Do they fear death? Certainly, they fear the dying process, as we all do since we know our own mortality. In the narrow sense it’s healthy to fear death. No one welcomes the pain or suffering that comes with it, especially when it takes the form of terrorism. By its very name terrorism is to be feared.

But in the wide sense: No. We Christians do not fear death for deaths sake. And that’s where the terrorists get it wrong. In their fear of the annihilation of their religion, they believe that we also fear annihilation. But we have the words of Jesus from last week and this week that remove that fear from us. In His words to the thief on the cross this week, again Jesus speaks the words that promise us hope. Those words of Jesus assure the thief, and us, that we will be with Jesus in paradise.

Jesus is the heart of paradise for us because He is the resurrection and the life for all who trust in Him. And the promise of God is that all who believe in Jesus will never perish but have eternal life. Paradise is about religion

We do not perish as those who have chosen apostasy – the turning away from the words of Jesus.  ‘The posture of the Christian, is hope – not realization’ (X2) so said a preacher friend of mine. We don’t expect to see the realization of paradise in our earthly life. Our ‘posture of hope’ comes from the words of Jesus alone. In them we have life, not death. The words of Christ are words of life, of the truth that paradise, is being in Jesus’ presence in heaven.

I can say that because we trust in the God

who made the promise in the epistle lesson from Colossians For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. Can we say that promise of peace through the blood of Jesus applies to those persecuted in Syria, Egypt and Iraq? Yes, but that doesn’t mean persecution is easy for them to bear, here’s the rest of the article:  On Monday, Iraqi authorities took extra measures to protect Christian neighborhoods and churches in Mosul, Kirkuk and Baghdad. “This is more than a tragedy,” said Iraq’s Human Rights minister, Wijdan Mikheil, who is a Christian. Choking back tears as she spoke with reporters outside Our Lady of Deliverance church, she said: “What is happening to Iraqis in general and Christians in particular is an attempt to push them out of the country…”

Karim Khalil, a 49-year-old Iraqi Christian, said he moved to Syria with his family last year because he felt his religion made him a target in Baghdad.

“Iraqi militias threatened me, saying I was on the side of the Americans because I am Christian,” Karim told the AP. “They said I would be killed if I stayed in Iraq.” Now he lives in Damascus with his wife and five children. “I have left behind my house and everything to escape with my family,” he said.

Many other Iraqi Christians living in Syria refused to speak to the Press. They said they fear militias may exact revenge on their families in Iraq.

Their persecution is a part of our world. It impacts us because we are fellow believers with them by the words of Jesus. We can learn from them to persevere. We gain a sense of hope and even gratitude by praying for God’s care for His treasured ones in the Middle East. We can support them by remaining faithful here in our daily lives, to the words of Christ that give us all a hope and a future.

That future is secure and safe with Jesus because He went to the cross willingly and died the death of a thief. And that’s because Jesus too is a thief. He came to rob Satan of his power over people to bind them under sin and to beat upon them with the law. Jesus is a thief after all. He came to steal away the hearts that Satan had bound under the penalty of sin… which is death. That’s why Jesus had to die between two thieves; He is the thief that steals away every heart who trusts in His word, as we do.

That word is what we gather together each week to hear and to be refreshed in. We believe that His word alone will save us. èWe believe that in Him alone is hope and life. And because of Him and His word, our religion directs that we act according to His promise and not according to any pressures we face.

And though this is the last day of the church year and next week we being anew with advent and looking forward to Jesus’ second coming, we remember this day that no matter what comes our way, no matter what trials or struggles or persecutions are faced by Jesus’ followers  – through it all will remain the words of Jesus, which promise, as He said to His fellow thief, that we will be with Him in paradise. In Jesus name, amen.

 

Sermon #1055 Rev. Thomas A. Rhodes, Pastor – Zion Lutheran Church, Bolivar, MO 

First Reading                                                                              Malachi 3:13-18

13 “You have spoken arrogantly against me,” says the Lord. “Yet you ask, ‘What have we said against you?’ 14 “You have said, ‘It is futile to serve God. What do we gain by carrying out his requirements and going about like mourners before the Lord Almighty? 15 But now we call the arrogant blessed. Certainly evildoers prosper, and even when they put God to the test, they get away with it.’”

16 Then those who feared the Lord talked with each other, and the Lord listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the Lord and honored his name.

17 “On the day when I act,” says the Lord Almighty, “they will be my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as a father has compassion and spares his son who serves him. 18 And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.

Second Reading                                                                          Colossians 1:13-20

13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Holy Gospel                                                                                            Luke 23:27-43

27 A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him. 28 Jesus turned and said to them, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. 29 For the time will come when you will say, ‘Blessed are the childless women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ 30 Then

“‘they will say to the mountains, “Fall on us!”     and to the hills, “Cover us!”’

31 For if people do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?”

32 Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. 33 When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. 34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.

35 The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.”

36 The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar 37 and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.”

38 There was a written notice above him, which read: this is the king of the jews.

39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”

40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”

42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

 

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.”