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Apr 19, 2019 – love love love love

Apr 19, 2019 – love love love love

When you leave here today you will not be the same as when you came in. You will be living life differently. You will be thinking differently about yourself and your congregation. You will never be the same again. Of course, the reality of that’ll be up to you.

If you don’t want to be different or changed you don’t have to be. That’s always true when we come to God’s word. We can choose to ignore it and

go on our merry, or not so merry, way.

Speaking of God’s word –how’d it go this week? Remember I said there might be a quiz? Were you able to use any of the 6 suggestions about how to see Christ as the Lamb of God through reading scripture every day?

This week in God’s Word we’re looking at how that Word, which reveals Christ, the Lamb of God, how that same Word of God’s love changes us and our actions. We’re looking at how the love of God is what makes us different than we were before. How will we be changed by that love? Well, I can’t give you your own specifics, but I can tell you that you will know about love in a new way. And that knowledge will either change you and allow you to see your life and how you can live it differently – or not. That’s your part. I know you’re not used to hearing things like this from me, are you? You’re not used to hearing me say that ‘things are up to you’.

Usually it’s about how you are different because of what God has done for you, not what you can do differently. Well that is also true today. Both things are true. Because you can only be different because of what God alone has done for you! And if you do choose to learn something new about love, that can guide you in changing how you live. In today’s gospel lesson Jesus says. 34 A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

So, let’s talk about this love Jesus speaks of a few moments and learn something about it. You remember me talking about C. S. Lewis a while back, he wrote the Chronicles of Narnia.  Well he also wrote a book called the Four Loves. It’s a wonderful book about the four words in Greek that all get translated into our language as the one word, love. Each Greek word has its own unique meaning and none of those meanings has to do with Madison Ave telling you; you’ll love this car, or you’ll love that dish soap. The four loves are eros, storge, phileo, and agape.

Let’s deal with eros first. That one sounds like another word you know, erotic. And eros is generally about that sort of love. It’s self-seeking and sensual and usually sees the other person as just a means to please one’s self. But eros is the one of the 4 Greek words for love that is, interestingly enough, not in the New Testament.

So, eros is not what Jesus is talking about today. Neither is He talking about the word storge. But storge, or forms of it, are found in scripture. Storge is used to refer to family-type love. It’s the natural type of love that families share. This is the affection that cousins, uncles, moms, dads and grandparents express. It’s a strong and powerful bond. But this too is not the love that Christ speaks of today either. It’s seen a few places in scripture as we said, but not here.

Then there’s phileo. And this one may sound familiar too. Ever heard of Phila-delphia? It’s known as the city of … that’s right brotherly love. Now phileo is often used in the gospels and in the New Testament. This is the deep love of a true friend. It’s a close and binding sort of thing. In the Old Testament the story of David and Jonathan is a good expression of this sort of love.

Phileo is used by the crowds when they saw Jesus weeping over Lazarus’s tomb and talking about how Jesus ‘loved’ or ‘phileo’d’ Lazarus. It’s also the expression that Peter uses when, after Jesus’ resurrection and they are walking by the sea, Jesus asks Peter if Peter loves him, and Peter uses this word phileo, in reply. So phileo is a strong and potent expression of care, of embrace, of bonding-affection.

In fact, this word can also, in certain contexts, be translated as ‘kiss’. Not in the erotic sense, but in the affection of one person for another sense. When you hear in the New Testament to ‘greet one another with a holy kiss’ like in Romans 16:16, that’s a form of this word phileo. But again, this isn’t the word Jesus uses in the gospel lesson today.

Are you ready? Some of you know this word for love; this is the word, agape. This is the word that speaks of selfless love; this word describes love that is the opposite of self-seeking. This is love that seeks the best for the other. This is love that chooses and decides to act in the best interest of the beloved. There was a man who one day made such a decision and his choice is a good picture of the love we’re talking about.

It started with a fire. Both parents died in a tragic fire on the first floor of the house, where they slept. Upstairs the couple’s young son leaned out the window, crying for help. Suddenly, out of the watching crowd came a man who climbed up the side of the house by hanging on to the gutter pipe, even though it was red hot from the fire on the first floor. He saved the boy and then was gone. Since both parents were dead, there was a court hearing to decide who should have charge of the boy. A neighboring farmer offered a good home. A wealthy man promised to give the boy whatever he needed. Then in came the man who had saved the boy. His only claim was his scarred hands. As soon as the boy saw him, he rushed to hug him. The hearing was over.

The man had chosen to make a sacrifice solely for the benefit of the boy and that act of love demonstrates the kind of love that changes a person.

That’s the kind of love Jesus was talking about in the gospel lesson today. That’s the love that Jesus speaks of when He gives a new command. Again, read aloud 34“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.’

The new command of Christ to His followers is His marching order so to speak. This command needs to be seen by us also in the context in which it is given. This command comes within hours of when Christ goes to the cross and will there show – the disciples, us, and the world what / true / selfless / love looks like. And that selfless love is what Jesus says when He says, in verse 35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. He isn’t using the word love as it’s used by Madison Avenue when talking about soap or a car like we said. It also isn’t romantic love. It also is not talking about family love, like between brothers and sisters. And it’s beyond even the love of a close friend.

Earlier in this same chapter Jesus has done the work of a servant for the disciples. He’s washed their feet. He did this to demonstrate this agape love, the self-giving love, that’s willing to do what is needed for the other. Agape love is love in action. It’s not flowery emotions or deep ‘feelings.’ Agape love is restless until the one upon whom love is being shown has all that they need.

It’s a love that is kinetic, that is, it moves and acts and is seen by being demonstrated. Like the man who rescued the boy from the fire. Agape isn’t confined to talk. It’s not defined by emotions. Agape love is what Christ commands in vs 35. And it’s what He has shown in the foot washing, and it’s what He will show on the cross. He will go to the cross and do, and do, what needs to be done in order that the world, which Jesus loves, will have what it needs, and that is – reconciliation with God the Heavenly Father.

Jesus rests in the grave only after that work of full and complete atonement is done, finished and accomplished. Until then Jesus doesn’t stop acting in love. And after His resurrection He continues to act in agape. And today we are given the command to do likewise. Not that we can redeem the world, that’s ridiculous.

But we’re given the order to love  one another as Christ has loved us. That means action, movement, going, doing, participation. It means seeing that each other’s needs are met.

It’s the foot washing that another person needs. Jesus says that if we want the world to know that we follow Him, then love is what we’ll show to one another. The mark, the sign and signal to others that we are of Christ and that He claims us as His followers is, that we act in agape toward fellow believers.

I saw two examples of this in our congregation just on Friday. One was how the women came together to celebrate Desiree’s upcoming wedding. This was an act of love done for the benefit of that particular someone our congregation has embraced in love.

And the second act of love was watching Hank mowing the grass here. Again, he was doing love. He was acting for the benefit of the rest of us, in love. Both of these were acts of ‘foot-washing’ of sorts. They were doing to benefit others, not the giver. Jesus says that in this way the world will take notice and will know that we are His.

Agape is the badge of the disciple, of the follower, of the man Jesus Christ. The Christian knows the love Jesus has for him. Because Christ is risen… And the love of disciples for one another is not merely edifying, it reveals the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and Their love for the world.

Agape-type love is the identity we bear. It’s that, which makes us different as we leave here today. This is the self-sacrifice that Christ shows and that is what shows us to be different to the world around us.

That’s a hard thing for us since our society tells us to be our ‘own’ person. Create our own reality. Be a selfmade person. But Jesus instead, calls us to be the people, the followers, the disciples that He has sacrificed to make us to be. We’re to be people that demonstrate we follow Him – and not ourselves. We are followers. If we’re not, if we choose to not show agape-love, then we’re leading people away from God and toward death and hell. That’s where the devil wants us to take people by selfishness and sin.

But in the doing of love, in showing agape, to one another, the world will see and wonder at it. We don’t want them to follow us; we want them to follow the One we follow, Jesus Christ. Only in Him is life and hope and salvation. As we follow Him then, we are serving one another by reflecting His love as He has loved us.

History tells us that Alexander the Great would often hold court on the battlefield to try offenders on the spot. Once a young man, a mere boy still too young to shave was brought before him on the charge of desertion. He was accused of hiding in a ditch to avoid the battle. Alexander the Great asked the soldier, “What’s your name?” The young man replied, “Alexander!” Alexander the Great came down and stood face to face with the young man. Then extending his arms, he took the young soldier by the shoulders and shook him and said to him: “Either change your name, or change your conduct!”

Either we reflect, imitate, and witness to our risen, living Lord Jesus Christ, or we don’t. We don’t act that way to earn His agape-love, which is impossible, but rather we do that to reflect His love which is poured into us through baptism and by His Holy Spirit.

What you do with that love is your choice. You know now you are given agape love by God and so you are now different. That He loves you is beyond your choosing, because He has already chosen you; He has chosen to agape you and to give you life eternal in the name of His son Jesus Christ, in whose name we act and in whose name we pray. Amen.

Sermon #1028 Rev. Thomas A. Rhodes, Pastor – Zion Lutheran Church, Bolivar, MO

First Reading                                         Acts 11:1-18
11 The apostles and the believers throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. 2 So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him 3 and said, “You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them.”

4 Starting from the beginning, Peter told them the whole story: 5 “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. I saw something like a large sheet being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came down to where I was. 6 I looked into it and saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, reptiles and birds. 7 Then I heard a voice telling me, ‘Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.’

8 “I replied, ‘Surely not, Lord! Nothing impure or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’

9 “The voice spoke from heaven a second time, ‘Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.’ 10 This happened three times, and then it was all pulled up to heaven again.

11 “Right then three men who had been sent to me from Caesarea stopped at the house where I was staying. 12 The Spirit told me to have no hesitation about going with them. These six brothers also went with me, and we entered the man’s house. 13 He told us how he had seen an angel appear in his house and say, ‘Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. 14 He will bring you a message through which you and all your household will be saved.’

15 “As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning. 16 Then I remembered what the Lord had said: ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17 So if God gave them the same gift he gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way?”

18 When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, “So then, even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life.”

 Second Reading                                      Revelation 21:1-7
 21 Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

6 He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. 7 Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children.

 

Holy Gospel                                         John 13:31-35
31 When he was gone, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him. 32 If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once. 33 “My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come. 34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

May 12, 2019 – Recognizing the Lamb of God EACH DAY

May 12, 2019 – Recognizing the Lamb of God each day

4 Reasons Jesus Wants You to Unclutter Your Space – Man With Jesus Tattoo Wanted In Tattoo Artist’s Shooting – Tamar Braxton says Jesus is fine with her wearing lingerie during tour – Jesus Would Have Been Cool with Weed, Says ‘Christian Cannabis’ Pastor – My Mom Was the First Person to See Jesus in a Tortilla, and It Changed Our Lives –

All of these are actual headlines from news sources on-line just in May. The name Jesus is used to grab readers’ attention and pull them in. Yet not one of these headlines is helpful for anyone in recognizing Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Not one of these stories directs us to the truth that / Christ is risen!… That indeed, Jesus is the Son of the living God of heaven. People today as they were in Jesus day, are curious about Jesus.

His power, teaching and works attract people to Him. But for what reason? Why is it that people are drawn to Him? What is it that they seek in Him? When Jesus, as He did in today’s gospel lesson, tells people plainly who He is, they often times don’t want to hear His answer. People want Him to be what they seek and what they desire to use Him for, and not for who He truly is or what He freely offers.

What we need to be careful about when others learn that we’re Christians is that we need to be very careful to tell them plainly Who we follow and who He truly is. Being a Christian is about being a follower of the Lamb of God, Jesus. It’s about Him not us. It isn’t up to us to make Jesus palatable to others. It’s not up to us to ‘package’ Jesus in a more acceptable form for them. Jesus isn’t a ‘widget’ that we’re selling. He’s not an ‘old’ product that we need to market in a ‘new’ way.

We’re called to be His witnesses, not marketers; His servants, not salesmen and His sheep, not His shepherd. He makes clear who He is and for that, the Jews of His day and the majority of people today, reject Him. He says plainly He is the Son of God, and that’s one of the reasons that the Jews of His day put Him to death. And that’s also why so many today reject Him. But that only happens when we are honest about Who He is.

When we try and put forward an image of Jesus that is less than He is or other than who He is, sure we can make Him sound “PC” and publicly acceptable. Why not, look at all He’s done? But that’s not fair to those we’re called to speak to. It’s Jesus as both God and man that we’ve all had to grapple with and by His grace we’ve been given His Holy Spirit to receive that truth. Don’t shortchange that for others.

Let them have that holy struggle for themselves that only God can resolve. We have all had to face the stumbling block of His divinity, of Jesus being, at the same time God and human. He’s called us and granted us faith to believe in Him as the holy one of God come to earth to give His life on the cross for the sake of the lost and condemned… for us. We’ve been given faith to accept Him as He is, on His terms, not ours.

Trust that God will do that for those we speak with also in His time and His way. But remember that can only happen as we’re honest about whom Jesus is. As He said today, I and the Father are one. What Jesus truly is, is what changes a person, not just what they or we think He is.

Jesus is not a holy trickster. He’s not merely a good teacher or prophet or leadership guru. He’s not about the ‘basic principles’ of anything… He is God… in the flesh, come to earth to bring the forgiveness of God to the world that has rebelled against Him in sin. We’re the sheep that have wandered off in our ignorance and self-centered ways. And He’s the shepherd that’s come to draw us back to the safety of His flock. When we try and picture Him as something other than what He has revealed Himself to be, we cheat Him, others and ourselves. That’s something that St Paul addressed in the first lesson today. He said (20):

You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house. 21 I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus…

In repentance everyone comes before God Paul says. Repentance, remember it’s two parts, sorrow for sin and trust that for Jesus sake we are forgiven, that is what St. Paul teaches is true for all people. We cannot alter that for anyone or reduce that in anyway. And besides, having faith in Jesus as the Christ, teaches us that we can go no place else for the forgiveness of sins. St Paul goes on to say (24),

However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace… 29 I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock.

And there’s the task left also to us, to testify to God’s grace. Testify to it; not change it, not ‘dumb’ it down or make it anything less than what Jesus has bought with the cost of His holy blood shed on the cross for us. We’re of the flock of Jesus Christ that Satan attacks from without and from within. Our testimony is always being tested and tried.

Remaining faithful to God’s Word and hearing only the voice of our good shepherd will keep us steadfast in the face of such trials. And that’s the only way for others to know the good news. The good news that… Christ is risen!… One last thing from St Paul, (32) “…Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up

What do you do to make the word of God present in your life – first to you and then to others? In other words, how do you recognize Jesus, the Lamb of God, in your life, daily? That’s important because that’s what was missing in the lives of the Jews in today’s lessons, a daily recognition of God in their lives as He had revealed Himself to them in Christ.

Paul in the first lesson today is also calling for a day-by-day recognition of the word and grace of God in our lives. That word, he says, is what can build us up. Not that we build ourselves up, but that God does that through His Word in us. Now, we can shut out that Word if we choose to, but we’re the only ones that hurts. It’s our growth in grace that gets stunted by that. We then can become like those who choose to not see Jesus for Who He is, our great Shepherd and the Lamb of God who calls us His own and by His blood and sacrifice has died to accomplish that. By His grace we have His righteousness that allows us to stand before God with the great multitude that we read about in Revelation today. 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 in front of the Lamb.

We’re the ones that the Lamb of God sacrificed Himself for on the cross. We’re the sheep of His pasture and we hear His voice as we read, mark and inwardly digest the word of God that reveals Christ to us.

Here now are six ways for you to do that. Pick just one, two or three. Here are the six suggestions. Before doing any of them, pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit to open your eyes to recognize how some aspect of the life, death or resurrection of Jesus can be seen in what you read. And remember this is for every day.

1 – Pick one book of the bible you’ve never read all the way through before and start on that, but only do one or two chapters each day, no more. And remember to pray.

2 – Pick one Old Testament book and one New Testament book and read one chapter from each every day, one in the morning and one in the evening. And remember to pray.

3 – Do a word study, look in the concordance, the word list in the back of a study bible, and pick a significant word for you and read at least one chapter everyday that has that word in it and see how God uses that word in different places and different ways. And remember to pray.

4 – Do a life study, pick a biblical person and, again, using a concordance, look up every reference you can to that person and read about them. You’ll have to pick more than one person if you pick people like Bildad, Og or Zachaeus. And remember to pray.

5 – Put some music on and read one or two psalms each day. Remember these were songs and were sung. Imagine what that might have sounded like for the different types of psalms. And remember to pray.

6 – What bible verses have been significant for you? Pick one a day to memorize. Write it on 6 or 8 post it notes and put them around your house, workspace, steering wheel on your car, any place you’re going to be that day and say it out loud at least 20 times that day. And remember to pray.

So those are some things you can do that might impact your vision, your ability to see Christ in your life each day. After all, as His sheep we need to learn to follow His voice alone. Getting that voice, that Word, in our heads helps us to respond to it and live in it.

Nothing in this world can separate us from Him, He’s promised that to us today, so we may act on that promise and live in His word. Let that word richly fill you and then, hearing His voice brings us the comfort of His presence and the wholeness of His righteousness in our lives… each day. In His name, amen.

Sermon #1027 Rev. Thomas A. Rhodes, Pastor – Zion Lutheran Church, Bolivar, MO

First Reading                                        Acts 20:17-35
17 From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church. 18 When they arrived, he said to them: “You know how I lived the whole time I was with you, from the first day I came into the province of Asia. 19 I served the Lord with great humility and with tears and in the midst of severe testing by the plots of my Jewish opponents. 20 You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house. 21 I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus. 22 “And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. 23 I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. 24 However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.
25 “Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again. 26 Therefore, I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of any of you. 27 For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God. 28 Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. 29 I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. 30 Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. 31 So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.
32 “Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. 33 I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. 34 You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. 35 In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

Second 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.’”

 Holy Gospel                                             John 10:22-30
22 Then came the Festival of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was in the temple courts walking in Solomon’s Colonnade. 24 The Jews who were there gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”
25 Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”

May 5, 2019 – Jesus – Resurrected – Restores Abundantly!

May 5, 2019 – Jesus- Resurrected- Restores Abundantly!

Have you tried to give a big hug and kiss to your adolescent son in front of his buddies? “Daad! You’re embarrassing me!” he tells you. Adolescent girls also talk about their embarrassing moms. Kids feel they have to keep their distance from their parents, or they’ll suffer mocking and rejection by their friends.

In John 18, before Jesus died on the cross, Peter denied Jesus three times. Peter was clearly embarrassed by his association with Jesus and he feared suffering the mocking, the rejection, and even the punishment of his fellow Jews for being one of Jesus’ disciples. Today, in our own way, we, too, at times have been embarrassed, slow, or afraid to admit before our friends and others that we’re also disciples of Jesus.

When kids keep their distance from their embarrassing parents, and even, at times, deny them before their friends, a loving mom and dad won’t disown their children, but rather absorb the hurt they may feel and put it aside. Loving parents do everything they can to show their children just how much they’re loved and to give them the opportunity to express their love for them in their own way.

In the Gospel lesson today, a resurrected Jesus brings Peter back into fellowship with Him and gives Peter the opportunity to confess his love for Jesus three times. Jesus isn’t embarrassed by those whom he calls disciples, though we often give Him reason to be, as Peter and the others also did! Rather Jesus, crucified on the cross and risen again, restores us, to fellowship with Him again and again and again. And He gives us the opportunity to again serve Him in the places and with the people He has given to us.

In today’s gospel lesson, along with the reading from the book of Acts, we have some familiar Bible stories that have to do with the resurrected Jesus abundantly restoring His followers to fellowship with Him.

We’re going to focus on the gospel story which starts out with a night of ‘fishless’ fishing by the disciples. That is, they caught nothing. But when Jesus, standing on the shoreline greets them and gives them His instructions, all that’d been failure and loss turns to abundance, by now catching 153 fish. The blessing of that abundance of fish serves as an indicator of just how great is the restoration that – Christ is risen… He is risen indeed, provides for His people. / The problem is we often, like the disciples don’t recognize at first that Jesus is the one giving us direction. We can waste opportunities for profitable service to Him by being wasteful of His guidance.

Like this story of a man by a different seashore, who was exploring caves. In one of the caves he found a canvas bag with a bunch of hardened clay balls. It was like someone had rolled clay balls and left them out in the sun to bake. They didn’t look like much, but they intrigued the man, so he took the bag with him. As he strolled along the beach, he would throw the clay balls one at a time out into the ocean as far as he could. He thought little about it until he dropped one of the clay balls and it cracked open on a rock … Inside was a beautiful, precious stone!

Excited, the man started breaking open the remaining clay balls. Each contained a similar stone. He found thousands of dollars worth of jewels in the 20 or so clay balls he had left. Then it struck him. He’d been on the beach a long time. He’d thrown maybe 50 or 60 of the clay balls with their hidden treasure into the ocean waves. Instead of thousands of dollars in treasure, he could have taken home tens of thousands! But, he’d just… thrown it away!

It’s like that with the direction and the restoration that Jesus wants to give to this world. It’s also often ‘thrown away’ and not recognized for its precious nature. It’s like how we sometimes go through our liturgy while thinking about the pot roast or we go through confession and absolution by rote without thinking much of what we’re saying.

We often fail to grasp our true condition of being lost to hell if not for the forgiveness that Jesus gives that restores us and returns us to fellowship with Him and with the God of heaven. However, as we hear that absolution and let it fill us up, it will change us each time. Because His word of forgiveness and restoration is effective… each and every time. It’s effective because – Christ is risen… He’s risen indeed!

The resurrected Jesus on the sea-shore where the disciples are fishing provides them direction. And following His direction results in His providing them with an abundance. And His provision of such an abundance is an indicator of just how great the restoration with God is, that the blood of Jesus provides for all the world.

Our receiving of God’s abundant grace, through Jesus’ blood shed on the cross, does not depend on doing any work ourselves to get us into good enough shape. We can’t do anything good enough to restore us to God. God alone does that restoration for each of us just as He did with Peter. The Lord, in the lesson today, restored Peter after Peter’s three-time denial of Jesus on the night He was led away to be crucified. Today Jesus asks Peter three times ‘do you love me’ and each time Peter replies “yes”.

Peter, by Jesus’ word of forgiveness and absolution, is given all that he needs to again be in fellowship with Jesus. Jesus doesn’t first ask Peter to get better or to improve himself and only then can Jesus use him to feed His lambs, no! Jesus takes Peter as  he  is, broken and humbled by his own words of embarrassment and denial on the night Jesus died.

This shattered and repentant Peter, makes his confession of, “yes, Lord you know that I love you”; and Jesus gives to Peter the restoration of grace needed to live the rest of his life as Jesus’ restored and faithful witness. Peter with his flaws and impetuous nature are what Jesus restores to a right relationship with Himself and then uses Peter to give the good news of forgiveness he has received from Jesus, to others in this world. Including you and I!

Each of us has our own unique flaws like Peter. But if we will allow it, the Lord will use us, flaws and all. Jesus takes us as we are, restores us by His grace alone and then having been changed by His grace, He uses us for His purposes. Our efforts to perfect ourselves do not earn us a purpose, only the ‘precious jewel’ of Jesus’ perfection, given to us by His Holy Spirit, makes us useful.

Because, Christ is risen… He is risen indeed; the resurrected Jesus provides all His follower’s abundant restoration and purpose for life. Our salvation doesn’t depend on us doing something. But our effectiveness in this world as Christ’s witnesses does require our efforts. As we improve in obedience to Christ so will our witness of Him improve.

Our salvation is not what’s at stake in our obedience to Jesus’ purpose for us; but our effectiveness in ‘feeding His lambs’ in this world, with His word of abundant provision, that is affected by our efforts. We are to give His Word away, and then let Jesus supply the growth. We don’t put the ‘jewel’ in the clay, God does that. We simply are the clay bearing the jewel of the Word of God within us and are willing to be broken open and used according to His purposes.

Because – Christ is risen… He is risen indeed – Jesus is the one Who establishes our purposes for us; He restores us to a right relationship with God which then allows us to be used. He knows our cracks and flaws; and He’s chosen us anyway. Not because of those things, but because in His love and His abundant provision He chooses us. Jesus’ words to a flawed Peter resulted in Peter’s restoration and Jesus’ words to us, in scripture and in absolution, also results in continual blessing and abundant restoration for us. If they didn’t, I couldn’t be standing with you here today.

We’ve been given the jewel of heaven by God’s grace through faith alone. That’s in contrast to those who refuse the gift of God’s grace offered through the blood of Jesus Christ shed on the cross. The abundant and continual blessings we’ve been given through Jesus’ defeat of death on the cross and by His resurrection, completely fill our need for eternal restoration with God beyond our imagining.

We’re not only given the precious gems of God’s word and of heaven, but we’re also given the purpose of serving Jesus here on earth. That’s because we’ve been transformed through the abundant supply that is ours through the cross of Christ!

Like was said earlier, even though we, like Peter, at times have been embarrassed, slow, or afraid to admit before others that we’re disciples of Jesus, the Lord is never embarrassed of those whom He calls disciples. Rather, because Christ is risen… He is risen indeed – He restores us through His blood and grace and makes us His own to then go and ‘feed His lambs’. In His name, amen.

 

Sermon #1026 Rev. Thomas A. Rhodes, Pastor – Zion Lutheran Church, Bolivar, MO

 

First Reading                                            Acts 9:1-22

9 Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. 3 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”5 “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. 6 “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

7 The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. 8 Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. 9 For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.

10 In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!”  “Yes, Lord,” he answered.

11 The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. 12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”

13 “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. 14 And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”

15 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

17 Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, 19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength.

Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. 20 At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. 21 All those who heard him were astonished and asked, “Isn’t he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn’t he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?” 22 Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Messiah.Cross references:

 

Epistle Reading                                                                                        Revelation 5:8-14

8 And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people. 9 And they sang a new song, saying:

“You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. 10 You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.”

11 Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. 12 In a loud voice they were saying: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!”

13 Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!”

14 The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

 

Holy Gospel                                           John 21:1-14

21 Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee. It happened this way:

2 Simon Peter, Thomas (also known as Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. 3 “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. 4 Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. 5 He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” “No,” they answered.

6 He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.

7 Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. 8 The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. 9 When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.

10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 14 This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.

Dec 12, 2018 – WCIT 2 – The Rescue Plan

Dec 12, 2018 – WCIT 2 – The Rescue Plan

[Sermon #990 Rev. Thomas A. Rhodes, Pastor – Zion Lutheran Church, Bolivar, MO]

This sermon is from the advent series, What Child is This, by Concordia Publishing House. Due to copyright requirements no print version of this sermon is available.

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