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Aug 18, 2019 – Roots!

Aug 18, 2019 – Roots!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First Reading                                                                                                         Jeremiah 23:16-29

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Holy Gospel                                                                                                                  Luke 12:49-56

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

 

Aug 11, 2019 – Treasure Seeds!

Aug 11, 2019 – Treasure Seeds!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

First Reading                          Genesis 15:1-6

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

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

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

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

Second Reading                   Hebrews 11:1-16

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Holy Gospel                             Luke 12:22-34

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

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

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

 

Aug 4, 2019 – Above, with Christ

Aug 4, 2019 – Above, with Christ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Second Reading                Colossians 3:1-11

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

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

 Holy Gospel                           Luke 12:13-21

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Jul 28, 2019 – God’s Persistent Love

Jul 28, 2019 – God’s Persistent Love

A woman phoned the manager of a concert hall and demanded to know if her valuable diamond pendant, lost there the previous night, had been turned in. He asked her to hold the line. He then personally went to where she said she might have dropped it and found the precious pendant. Returning to the phone he discovered that she’d become impatient and hung up. He had no way to reach her, as she hadn’t given her name. She had no persistence, and she lost out.

Today in scripture we hear about persistence – Persistent receiving. That sounds contradictory almost. Persistent receiving? To start with, the Old Testament lesson has Abraham asking God to indulge ‘just-one-more’ request, which leads to the idea of being persistent. If you think about what Abraham did there it’s a wonderful lesson for us.

Now one way of looking at that whole episode is that Abraham is bargaining with God. But another viewpoint is that Abraham is finding out, through persistence, just how great the depth of God’s generosity goes. Listen again, ‘The men turned away and went toward Sodom, but Abraham remained standing before the Lord.’ Abraham stayed and discovered just how much mercy God was ready to show.  It may even be seen as God enticing Abraham to keep asking. The persistence in this lesson might just be that of God and not Abraham.

Think about who stopped first. It was Abraham not God. Not that Abraham was wrong to stop, I just want us to take to heart that God was persistent in responding to Abraham each time Abraham persisted in asking God to hear him.

There’s a gospel message here, in God wanting to give generously. God kept giving as long as Abraham kept asking. And notice that Abraham, at the beginning of this back-and-forth, almost accuses God of being unfair. Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? Far be it from you to do such a thing—to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike.

Did you hear the gospel there? Abraham nearly accuses God of treating the righteous and the wicked the same. In fact, he says that God choosing to destroy the righteous along with the wicked would be wrong for the Judge of all the earth to do so. And yet isn’t that exactly what is it that God ultimately does? Here in the Old Testament lesson Abraham is learning how far God’s mercy extends, and in his words accusing God of being unjust by destroying the righteous along with the unrighteous of Sodom and Gomorrah Abraham speaks in a prophetic way. God does, in Jesus Christ dying on the cross, destroy His Righteous Son in order to redeem the unrighteous ones. And there, there, is gospel for us. God does indeed sweep away the life of His only begotten Son in order that we, who are unrighteous, may be treated unfairly. We unfairly get the gift of Jesus’ righteousness as what God gives to restore our relationship with Him.

Giving is what God longs to do. And He does it so well. And for giving to be complete, there is also, receiving. Which brings us to the epistle lesson today, where Paul says ‘as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord… and you have been filled in him who is the head of allhaving been buried with Him you were also raised with Him’ then in verse 13 ‘and you who were dead in your trespasses, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, nailing it to the cross.’ These words speak of God’s giving and our receiving. Listen to the verb phrases; you have received, you have been filled, having been buried you were also raised, made alive.

All these are things that happen to the Christian by the gift, will, and act of God. These are things that are received by the Christian from the hand of The Father alone. This is further comfort for us that; what it is that makes us who we are in Christ, does not depend on our praying and telling God we’re ‘good enough’ to deserve anything, No! We can rest, truly rest, assured and confident in that what we have in Christ is given to us, not earned by us.

Again, as Paul said in today’s epistle, in holy baptism we have been buried with Christ, that is, in His death on the cross and in His burial, so also our sinful nature has been crucified and buried. Paul then gives us the comfort we’ve been taking about, when he says we were also raised with Jesus through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised Him from the dead. Through faith we have resurrection to the new nature we now have received from God in Christ.

It’s in prayer that we learn to both ask and receive. And that brings us to our gospel lesson. This gospel text is interesting in that it’s the only time that the disciples ask Jesus to teach them anything. Jesus’ teaching them to pray, follows what we’ve read in the Old Testament and the epistle.

Remember we started out today by talking about persistent receiving, and in this gospel lesson Jesus ties all that together for us. First, He gives us the prayer we know by heart, the Lord’s Prayer. This prayer is the answer to the disciple’s plea for instruction on prayer.

I’ve read that by praying the Lord’s Prayer we are learning to bend our hearts toward God. I like the image of that, that our hearts are being shaped by the prayer that Jesus has taught us from His own lips. As we pray that prayer, we become more and more the people God has called us to be in the cross of Christ Jesus. Think of that image as you pray this week in your devotions. See your heart as bending toward God. Now, going on to 2 other ways that Jesus ties together persistent receiving for us.

In the parable of the neighbor needing bread at midnight, Jesus tells a story with the opposite outcome. Friend # 1 gets what he needs from friend # 2 so he can accommodate friend # 3 by being persistent. Jesus doesn’t tell this story, so we think of God as needing to be roused from His bed to help us. It’s also not so we think we need to be rude to God to get us what we need or want. It’s to make the point, as He says in verses 9-10 ‘And I tell you, ask and it will be given to you. Seek and you will find, knock and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.’

Notice the relationship of Jesus’ words to the action of the friend in the parable, the asking, seeking and knocking. This is talking about persistence. Jesus sets up God as more generous than friend #2. Why should we ask, seek, and knock? Because God is NOT like friend #2. He is always awake. God is always right there to answer our every need. Someone has said that we’re so used to God providing everything we need that when we make a request and He says no or wait we’re startled by it. Daily He gives life, sun, bread, air, water and all we need to be sustained.

Prayer is not ‘room service’ from heaven. We should be afraid to pray if God simply answered all our requests with a yes and didn’t bother instead to do what is best for us. He loves us by giving us what we need and ask for; He also loves us by not giving us everything we ask for.

Remember we said that saying the Lord’s Prayer bends our hearts? Well our asking, seeking and knocking remind us we’re also not demanding but receiving. Yes, we ask, seek and knock, but these are what we’re told to do so that we can be in the correct posture to receive what God determines, in His love, is best. His persistent Love determines when to say yes and when to say no.

In fact, each of these things has His promise attached to it, He will give, as we ask – He will lead us to find as we seek, and He will open as we knock. All this Jesus assures us is done purely from God’s fatherly goodness and love. That’s one reason to pray persistently, God loves us.

At one particular mission station in Africa the new Christians were taught to be faithful in their daily prayers. Each person had their own special spot in the thicket surrounding the village where they would go each day for prayer. Because of daily use, the many paths to these private spots became distinctly marked; so, if anyone began to neglect their prayers it soon became apparent to everyone because that path would begin to become overgrown by grass. When this would happen, they would kindly encourage each other with, ‘friend, the grass is growing high on your path’. Persistence in prayer, in conversation with God is good to learn as Abraham and friend #2 both teach us.

The second lesson Jesus gives is a return to the generosity of the Father. In verses 11-13 Jesus says, what father among you, if his son asks for a fish will instead of a fish give him a serpent, or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?

Jesus makes clear the truth that we have evil within us till the day we die. And yet even we take good care of our children. He goes on to point out how much more then will God care for us. The point is that God’s love toward us is persistent.

We pray to God not only because of our need but because we know God will answer us. You don’t ask for something from someone unable to give it. Jesus teaches us to ask from God the Father because God the Father is generous and supplies us with all we need and more. Again, remember the posture we’re in when we pray, it’s a posture that allows us to receive.

We’re going to sing, “Blest be the tie that binds”– take note of the words “Before our Father’s Throne we pour our ardent prayers.” We don’t demand, we don’t haggle, and we don’t grovel. We ask our heavenly Father. And in the Lord’s Prayer our hearts are bent toward God, and God supplies.

How does God supply? From His generous love and mercy toward us. Remember He treats us unfairly by giving us the righteousness of the blood of Christ to cover our sin. And from Him we persistently receive all we need. That’s what we come away with from today’s lessons. God’s great generosity and persistent love gives us all we need, for life today and for eternity. In Jesus name, amen.

Sermon #1038 Rev. Thomas A. Rhodes, Pastor – Zion Lutheran Church, Bolivar, MO

Old Testament Reading       Genesis 18:17-33

17 Then the Lord said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do? 18 Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him. 19 For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, so that the Lord will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.”

20 Then the Lord said, “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous 21 that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know.”

22 The men turned away and went toward Sodom, but Abraham remained standing before the Lord. 23 Then Abraham approached him and said: “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24 What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it? 25 Far be it from you to do such a thing—to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?”

26 The Lord said, “If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake.”

27 Then Abraham spoke up again: “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, though I am nothing but dust and ashes, 28 what if the number of the righteous is five less than fifty? Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five people?”

“If I find forty-five there,” he said, “I will not destroy it.”

29 Once again he spoke to him, “What if only forty are found there?”

He said, “For the sake of forty, I will not do it.”

30 Then he said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak. What if only thirty can be found there?”

He answered, “I will not do it if I find thirty there.”

31 Abraham said, “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, what if only twenty can be found there?”

He said, “For the sake of twenty, I will not destroy it.”

32 Then he said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only ten can be found there?”

He answered, “For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it.”

33 When the Lord had finished speaking with Abraham, he left, and Abraham returned home.

 Epistle Reading                Colossians 2:6-19

6 So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, 7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

8 See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.

9 For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10 and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. 11 In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.

13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

16 Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. 18 Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you. Such a person also goes into great detail about what they have seen; they are puffed up with idle notions by their unspiritual mind. 19 They have lost connection with the head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.

 Holy Gospel                             Luke 11:1-13

11 One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”                                                     2 He said to them, “When you pray, say:                                                                                          “‘Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. 3 Give us each day our daily bread. 4 Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.’”

5 Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; 6 a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ 7 And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ 8 I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.

9 “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

11 “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

 

July 21, 2019 – Our Master’s Voice

July 21, 2019 – Our Master’s Voice

Do you remember the old logo for the RCA Company? If you’re old enough and you know what they are, you may have seen it on some of their… records. The logo pictures a phonograph player with a big horn where the sound comes out. A dog sits in front of the horn listening intently, and below are the words, “His Master’s Voice.”

Listening to the Master’s Voice is what Jesus was emphasizing in the gospel lesson today during His visit to the home of Mary and Martha. Mary sat at Jesus feet listening to His Word while Martha was busy with much serving. Listen again to what Jesus said to Martha: “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Mary had set her heart on Jesus and His word of teaching. We too share Mary’s need and so we too with one heart set ourselves at Jesus feet to hear the Master’s Voice teach us. We share Mary’s need to hear the word of the Lord and for us that means taking time for bible learning.

When Martha confronted Jesus with Mary’s just sitting at Jesus feet and listening to Him and not helping her with all the serving, the answer Jesus gave Martha is not what she expected. Martha wanted Jesus to send Mary to help her. But Jesus knew that Mary and Martha both needed more of what Jesus was giving by His words than what Martha was preparing with her running around the house and kitchen.

Take note that Jesus, when He does answer Martha, He does so with obvious love. When He repeated Martha’s name it’s like what a parent does when they’re gently correcting their own children. It’s significant that Peter remembered this detail of repeating Martha’s name because it reveals the love that Jesus shows His followers even when the need to correct them arises.

Sort of like in the Old Testament lesson today when the angel of the Lord corrects Abraham’s wife, Sarah when she laughs at the idea that at her age, she would have the joy of having a baby.

So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought,After I am worn out and my master is old, will I now have this pleasure?” Then the LORD said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the LORD? I will return to you at the appointed time next year and Sarah will have a son.”

It is the word of the Lord that brings us joy and even brings us unexpected joy and joy that we think is beyond our having or deserving. When we sit at the feet of Jesus and take in His word, through Bible reading, prayer and meditation on that word, we’re in a position to receive unexpected and undeserved joy.

You know that owning a Bible does a person no good unless they read it, study it, and meditate on it. There’re people who never read the Bibles they own. Instead they treat them like a good luck charm. They leave them sit out on a table or bookshelf to look at and hope it, somehow, sort of rubs off on them. The Bible’s not meant for that, that’s superstition, but rather God’s word is to be dug into and spent time with so it can produce the fruitfulness in a person’s life God wants to give us.

Owning a farm doesn’t make a man a farmer. He’s a farmer only if he cultivates the land and harvests the crops it produces. The same thing bears out with the Bible also. What it is that Mary was given at Jesus feet is still there for anyone who will sit and read scripture. Then, like the farmer who’s rewarded with fruitful crops in due season after planting and watering the soil, the one who reads the bible will also receive the reward of growing in the grace of the Lord.

Focusing on the Lord’s grace is the only way we have to give anyone the good news that God wants them to know. Which is, that God loves them. That message, as Jesus was trying to teach it to Mary and Martha today, only comes from taking time with scripture. You don’t first have to have full comprehension of God to study the Bible, but you do read the Bible to have an understanding of God and His love for you.

Understanding God’s love can only come from studying the Bible, because that’s how He’s chosen to speak to the world. And the promise of new life in His word is a promise for us just like for Mary. What Mary had chosen, Jesus said, would / not / be / taken / away / from / her. When we do as Mary did, when we take time to focus on Jesus and His word, we too receive the reward of that same promise from Jesus. That God’s word will not be taken away from us.

As we do bible reading, we realize that in that study-time Christ Himself comes and meets us. He serves us in bible study; we’re not serving Him. That’s a reminder that we can’t do anything for Christ without first receiving from Christ.

Jesus came and served us through His death on the cross and His resurrection from the grave. As Paul pointed out in the epistle lesson today, 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation

Jesus continues to serve us by giving us the promise of life everlasting, reconciled with the Father through the Holy Spirit because of what Jesus has first done for us in His own death and resurrection. When we come to communion, we receive that very promise into our by mouths by the presence of His body and blood. And that promise, He delivers to us by grace through faith alone.

When we forget that Jesus came first to serve us, we end up as Martha and not Mary. In today’s lesson well-meaning Martha permitted her distraction and worry to keep her from listening to and learning from Jesus. We place everything in our lives at the feet of Jesus and His Word. We should allow nothing, not even our service to Him, to separate us from Him.

Let me close with a story a woman told about her husband coming home from bible study.  “One evening my husband sat himself down in his chair and told me about the series of questions he had answered in his Bible study for the day.” “Question one asked me to list the values most important to me,” he said. “I put my personal relationship with Jesus Christ as number one and with you, my wife, as number two. The second question asked me to list my free time activities. I put watching television, house and yard projects, and planning my work. When I got to question three, it asked me to compare what I had said was most important in my life to what I actually did with my time and to draw my own conclusions.”

When he did that, she said, he realized that the way he was spending his time didn’t add up with what he said was most important to him. Maybe we could each try asking ourselves those questions sometime this week when we have a few minutes.

What do I value? What is on my list of free-time activities? And what happens when I compare those things? Let those questions serve to remind us of how important it is to spend time in

God’s word and listening to Him.

And we can do the same thing in our congregation. Let’s ask those questions when we’re planning things here. Are we spending our time on Hearing, Sharing and Living the Gospel?

We started out today talking about listening to the Master’s voice. That’s what we do any time we spend time in scripture; we listen to our Master’s voice. Our Master’s voice gives us comfort and peace in the chaos and worry of this world. The voice of Jesus is the voice we hear in the Bible. Let’s each take time this week and, in the scriptures, sit at Jesus’ feet as Mary did, and receive there from our Master what He wants to give us… New Life through His word. In His name, amen.

Sermon #1037 Rev. Thomas A. Rhodes, Pastor – Zion Lutheran Church, Bolivar, MO

First Reading                      Genesis 18:1-14

18 The Lord appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day. 2 Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground.

3 He said, “If I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, do not pass your servant by. 4 Let a little water be brought, and then you may all wash your feet and rest under this tree. 5 Let me get you something to eat, so you can be refreshed and then go on your way—now that you have come to your servant.”

“Very well,” they answered, “do as you say.”

6 So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah. “Quick,” he said, “get three seahs of the finest flour and knead it and bake some bread.”

7 Then he ran to the herd and selected a choice, tender calf and gave it to a servant, who hurried to prepare it. 8 He then brought some curds and milk and the calf that had been prepared, and set these before them. While they ate, he stood near them under a tree.

9 “Where is your wife Sarah?” they asked him.

“There, in the tent,” he said.

10 Then one of them said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.”

Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. 11 Abraham and Sarah were already very old, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. 12 So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?”

13 Then the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’ 14 Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son.”

 Second Reading              Colossians 1:21-29

21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of  your evil behavior. 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— 23 if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.

24 Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. 25 I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness— 26 the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people. 27 To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.                                                                      28 He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. 29 To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.

 Holy Gospel                           Luke 10:38-42

38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”                                                                                             41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

July 14, 2019 – “In-between, Do Mercy”

July 14, 2019 – “In-between, Do Mercy”

Psychologists performed an experiment on the power of peer pressure. They had groups of ten teens in a room with a chart on the wall that had three lines of different lengths. They were asked to raise their hand when the instructor pointed to the longest line. In each group, one person didn’t know the other nine had been coached to raise their hands when the instructor pointed to the second-longest line. The one single teen usually looked confused at first as the others raised their hand, but then went ahead and cast a wrong vote because they didn’t want to stand out. More than 75% allowed peer pressure to override their own better judgment. It’s hard to be stuck in-between what you know to be true and the wrong opinion of others that want to draw us away from the truth, isn’t it?

God, in the Old Testament lesson, says that the Israelites are to live in the ‘in-between’. They’re not to be like the people in Egypt that they’d left behind and they’re not to be like the people in Canaan, where they were crossing into. They’re told by God not to act like the people in their past and they’re not to do as the people in their present/future do.

So the Israelites, like that one lone teenager, are a people who stand out. Beyond the Jordan, they’re going to be different from the rest of the world and so they’re marked. God tells them, to live ‘in-between’ and not like those either in their past or present.

In verse 4 God says to them: “You must obey my laws and be careful to follow my decrees. I am the LORD your God.” The Israelites are to do what God has said they are to do. And not to do things like those they’ve left behind or like those where they’re going. Sound simple enough?

Well yes, it is a simple idea, but it’s not easy to do, that’s for sure. How the Israelite people act, what it is they do, is what God is telling them is important. They’re to do according to God’s word. They are to act according to His word. Now, that sounds like what we, as Christians are to do. What we do is supposed to be in accord with God’s word.

Why? Because like He did with the Israelites, bringing them out of bondage and slavery in Egypt, so He has done with us, in the cross of Christ. God has taken us out of our bondage in sin like He took the Israelites out of Egypt and made us His own. Like St. Paul tells us in the epistle lesson, 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. We’re the people that God has, by the blood of Jesus, brought out from slavery to sin.

That’s what happens when we’re baptized in the name of the triune God, when we enter a life of faith. We’re marked with the sign of the cross that’s freed us from our sin. And we’ve been given new spiritual life in Christ through baptism by faith. We’ve been freed from the tyranny of sin by being forgiven, as St Paul told us. And that’s like what God did for the Israelites when He set them free from their bondage in Egypt.

And we, like these now freed Israelites, also live in the ‘in-between’. Remember they weren’t to live like those in their past and they weren’t to live like those around them do. They were to live in the in-between; in between their lives of slavery to the past and to the temptations of the present. That is us also. We are different than those around us because of what God has done for us. By the death of Jesus of on the cross and His triumphant resurrection from the dead, we have been set free.

Again, in the epistle it says, live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work. So, we do things and live life differently because God has made us different by freeing us from sin. And in the gospel lesson, Jesus tells us about what the ‘doing of life’ is like for us. Now this illustrative story that Jesus tells of the Good Samaritan is a favorite one.

We have an underdog who turns out to be the hero. He comes along and upstages the ‘bad guys’, the guys, who in fact, are supposed to be good guys. And in so doing the underdog saves the day for the ordinary guy who’s been beat up. Samaritans were not trusted by Jewish society just because of who they are. That’s what makes this Samaritan the hero-underdog.

At any rate he gives aid, comfort, and care to our injured ordinary guy. The Samaritan takes care of him, as a hero should… by the effort of his own hands and with the money from his own pocket.

Then after telling this story Jesus turns to the expert in the law and asks him in verse 36 this question. Read it with me, please, “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” And the expert in the law correctly answers, “The one who had mercy on him”. The one who had mercy; that is the neighbor. Notice that ‘the neighbor’ in this story is defined by his actions – by what he does. The neighbor’s not the one in need; the neighbor’s the hero who does the acts of mercy.

The neighbor does what’s needed for the other person. Now I’m not saying the priest and the Levite – the ‘bad guys’ – didn’t have good hearts or that they didn’t have sympathy for the man. But they simply did not do what was needed. They proved, by their lack of action, to not be the neighbor to the ordinary man in trouble.

Jesus makes the point that the neighbor is not the man who was beat up, but it’s the man who did what the fellow in trouble needed done for him. Then to really drive home the point, after the expert says that the neighbor was the man ‘who had mercy’, Jesus says what? Right, “Go and do likewise.”

Go… and… do. After all that is what this ‘expert in the law’ had asked Jesus about in the first place. To ‘love your neighbor’ is to show mercy to those in need. And that is exactly what Jesus has done for you and me.

He’s come and He’s done what we needed. He is our neighbor. He is our hero. He has shown us mercy. We’ve been beaten up and robbed by sin and Jesus takes us in and cares for us. God in Jesus has, as the epistle lesson says, he has ‘rescued’ us. Jesus is that Outsider who comes and has pity on us and acts on the need that we have. He does, from His heart of love, what needed to be done for all sinners. He took action on behalf of those who needed it.

We are that guy left for dead on the side of the road. In fact, we’ve beat ourselves up by our sinful ways. We aren’t just victims, we’re also the perpetrators of our problem. We’re the ones who chose to sin and in so doing we beat ourselves up.

But Jesus has ‘bound up’ our self-inflicted wounds by His wounds. And He’s paid for our healing from His own treasury. He provided us a place of rest and healing, in Himself,  when He carried our sins to the cross. And on that cross, He’s taken away the guilt of our sin. He did that. And because He did that, we are now different, and we act differently.

Jesus didn’t say to the lawyer, ‘go and feel like that Samaritan’. What Jesus told the lawyer is what He tells us – ‘go and do likewise.’ Mercy is not something felt, it’s something done. That’s what Jesus is driving at today. The Samaritan acted, the Samaritan did mercy. It was the priest and the Levite, the so-called ‘good guys’ of the day that went out of their way to avoid helping. They literally crossed the street so as to not have to do mercy.

And what does doing mercy look like? Look again in the Old Testament lesson. Mercy is shown there by how you harvest your crops. It’s shown by acting differently than those around us who seek only their own comforts and conveniences. Listen again to what God said, ‘When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. 10 Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the LORD your God.

God makes it very plain with these words that the practices of selfishness, greed, and idolatry are not to be the practices, the doings of God’s people. He’s saying; don’t do what you see around you. Don’t fall into the ways that seems easy, just to ‘get along’ in this world.

That’s what that experiment about peer pressure drawing us away from what we know to be true shows us. The way of the world is not the way of mercy. It is the way of self and selfishness. It’s the way of greed. It’s difficult to go against the pressure of this world and instead do what God asks us to do as He did with the Israelites. To be different and to live in the in-between is to be marked for death in this world.

But that’s what Jesus tells the expert in the law today – to be differentby showing mercy. We’re to be a good neighbor and do what those who are hurting and beat up by life need. Rather than pass by, through indifference or neglect those who need our help, let us act with one heart on the call to be different and live ‘in-between’.

We as God’s people act differently. Christ tells us when He speaks to the law expert today, ‘to go and do likewise’. Find someone in your life who the rest of the crowd ignores, someone who’s being neglected and beaten up by life and shoved aside.

Be aware of those in your world who’re avoided by others, maybe for a good reason or not. But that’s the person that needs a neighbor. That’s the person who needs mercy shown to them. That’s the one who needs a hero to tell them what Christ, the worlds true hero and neighbor has done for us all. And subsequently what He’s called us and redeemed us to do. Remember St Paul’s words, bearing fruit in every good work. We are to do for others what needs done for them, as that Samaritan did. We are to ‘go and do likewise’. Go and Do mercy.

And here’s just one way to do mercy, invite them to church to hear the same good news you hear. You are the neighbor who’s received mercy from Jesus and so you can pass that mercy on to those who are wounded, hurting, and overlooked. Invite them to live with you in the ‘in-between’ so they too can know, that God has done mercy for them, as He’s done for you – by the blood of Jesus shed on the cross.

In His name amen.

 

Sermon #1035 Rev. Thomas A. Rhodes, Pastor – Zion Lutheran Church, Bolivar, MO

First Reading        Leviticus (18:1-5) 19:9-18

1 The Lord said to Moses, 2 “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘I am the Lord your God. 3 You must not do as they do in Egypt, where you used to live, and you must not do as they do in the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you. Do not follow their practices. 4 You must obey my laws and be careful to follow my decrees. I am the Lord your God. 5 Keep my decrees and laws, for the man who obeys them will live by them. I am the Lord. …

9 ” ‘When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. 10 Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the Lord your God.

11 ” ‘Do not steal.  ” ‘Do not lie.  ” ‘Do not deceive one another. 12 ” ‘Do not swear falsely by my name and so profane the name of your God. I am the Lord. 13 ” ‘Do not defraud your neighbor or rob him. ” ‘Do not hold back the wages of a hired man overnight. 14 ” ‘Do not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block in front of the blind, but fear your God. I am the Lord. 15 ” ‘Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly.

16 ” ‘Do not go about spreading slander among your people. ” ‘Do not do anything that endangers your neighbor’s life. I am the Lord. 17 ” ‘Do not hate your brother in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in his guilt. 18 ” ‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.

Second Reading                Colossians 1:1-14

1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,

2 To God’s holy people in Colossae, the faithful brothers and sisters in Christ:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father.

3 We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4 because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people— 5 the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel 6 that has come to you. In the same way, the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world—just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace. 7 You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, 8 and who also told us of your love in the Spirit.

9 For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, 10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. 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.

 Holy Gospel                             Luke 10:25-37

25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”  27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”  Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

 

July 7, 2019 – “The Declaration of Independence”

July 7, 2019 – “The Declaration of Independence”

I love the 4th of July, don’t you? There’re some things about the 4th of July that are fun to know like; in 1778, General George Washington marked July 4 with a double ration of rum for his soldiers and an artillery salute. Also, every year since 1785, 1785, Bristol, Rhode Island has held a 4th of July parade, the oldest continual 4th of July celebration in the US. And that in 1916 the, now annual, 4th of July Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest in Coney Island, Brooklyn in New York supposedly started as a way to settle a dispute among four immigrants as to who was the most patriotic.

Well those are some of the fun things about the 4th, but for me, what I really love about the 4th is what it’s really about – celebrating the signing of the document that declares our nation free and independent. The words, the words on that parchment that I’ve seen in Wash DC, those words are what get me. To be in the presence of that document along with the other Charters of our freedom is a very moving experience. These are the words that have set our course as a nation for the last 240+ years.

That’s why I wanted you to have a copy of that Declaration to take home and read. It’s two sided so you can have a look at the engraving that was made in 1823 by a man named Stone at the direction of John Quincy Adams, and then a transcription of it in plain type on the other side. Listen to just a portion of the words from the last section We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States;

And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

If you’ve not read the whole thing since jr. high social studies, look it over again. It has some of the most powerful words in the English language. So powerful in fact that they set us free. They give to us a legal change of status.

To ‘declare’ is to assert something as being different than before the declaration. So our Declaration of Independence means that before we were dependent, and after the Declaration we are changed, we are now independent. So, what gave the signers that authority, what gave them the right to make such a declaration?

In the words presented in this document it is under the authority given to them, given to them by others, by those who chose them to govern them. That is to say, the signers were not acting out of selfish or personal motivation or authority. The basis of that Declaration is that ‘the people’ who put them into office have done so with the intention that these ‘in general congress, assembled’ act for them, act in their place and do what they have sent them there to do.

That idea of authority given and not taken is also at the heart of the gospel lesson today. The disciples were sent out by Jesus to act based on the authority He gave to them. And in that authority they acted. They declared people free from their ills and ailments, and also set them free from being captive to demons. But along with those actions Jesus also gave them the charge to say the words, “the kingdom of God has come near to you.” The disciples’ authority to act did not come from themselves but from the King of the kingdom.

Jesus, The King, acted on the authority of His Father but also on His own authority. For in fact He and the Father, in ways we cannot fathom, are one essence. We see Jesus’ authority verified when He tells His disciples in the 10th chapter of John’s gospel

The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again.  No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.

And then He does just that. Jesus goes willingly to death on the cross and, based on His authority from the Father and His own authority as God; He takes up His life again. He thus gains the victory over the tyranny of death and sin that the world was held under. In this week that we have celebrated our national Declaration of Independence from the tyranny of the despotic king of England, we can only marvel at what Christ, the gracious King of Heaven has done for us.

The cost of our freedom in this country was borne by those who pledged their lives, their fortune and their scared honor to each other – and to you and me. We couldn’t be here today as we are, had they not fought and died. They did that for you and I, they carried that burden, for us.

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. In the epistle lesson today, we hear these words. Our national forbears carried the burden for us of sacrifice and for us they demonstrated to us what St. Paul said about fulfilling the law of Christ. As we spoke of last week, that is sacrificial living. That’s what they did for us. They sacrificed for us; they bore the burden so we can be free to learn the law and love of Christ.

The war for our national freedom was waged with terrible consequences. Friends died in the arms of friends. There were those who died without being sure that the cause was going to be won. They gave their lives for the ideals set forth in the Declaration of Independence – not knowing for certain that its promise of freedom would come to pass.

And yet the death of those willing to give their lives for our freedom in the War of Independence reminds us of the greater death that Jesus died for our eternal independence. Jesus gained the victory of our eternal independence from the guilt of our sin and the condemnation of endless death. The war that Jesus fought and won for us, for our true freedom, was of a greater scale than that suffered even in the war for our national freedom.

Sitting here today, we can barely grasp what our forefathers suffered to backup the claims made in the Declaration of Independence. And yet we have in our heart the knowledge that most every generation in our country has had to put forth its own blood in order to maintain that Declaration. And make no mistake that still goes on today.

But can we grasp, along with that, the terrible cost that Jesus paid for our eternal freedom? This Son of Liberty who died, was the only Son of the Living God of heaven. And He took on His shoulders the sin of the world, so that the world could be free of sin.

Jesus gave His life for our freedom. And yet as we said before, it was by His authority that He chose to die, to willingly give Himself in our place. He lived the perfect life of innocence and righteousness and then died the death of sinners, so that sinners could have His righteousness. In being granted His righteousness, we are declared free. Just as the disciples in the gospel lesson today could declare people free from their bondage to demons and illness, so we hear our declaration of freedom from bondage to sin in Jesus’ words to the disciples today for them to ‘rejoice that your names are written in heaven.’

That joy is what you and I experience each time we have confession and absolution. We come with repentant hearts and minds to hear and receive the Divine true pardon that is ours through the declaration, the proclamation of forgiveness to each of us.

As we said earlier; there is power in such a declaration. There is a change of being, a complete break with what came before the forgiveness that Jesus told us to declare. Through His blood our forgiveness has been established and each week, your total forgiveness is made clear in the words of absolution. And in those words, you are changed, you are set free, you have been cut off from the guilt of your sins and you are no longer the same. And like the disciples in the gospel lesson today freeing people by Jesus’ word, it isn’t my authority that gives that announcement of forgiveness its power. It’s by the power and promise, by the words and works of Jesus that I speak those words.

Now, one final note about the 4th of July. You may know this but it still gives me chills to think about. 50 years to the day after the Declaration was signed, two of its signers, one of them its major author, died. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died within exactly 50 years after being together to sign the declaration.

Reportedly John Adam’s last words were ‘Jefferson lives’, though sadly he was already dead. However, we can say ‘Jesus lives’ and know it’s true. We know it’s true by His authority, which raised Him to new life and by which we are declared free.

In His name, amen.

Sermon #1035 Rev. Thomas A. Rhodes, Pastor – Zion Lutheran Church, Bolivar, MO

First Reading                                                                                       Isaiah 66:10-14

10 “Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad for her, all you who love her; rejoice greatly with her, all you who mourn over her. 11 For you will nurse and be satisfied at her comforting breasts; you will drink deeply and delight in her overflowing abundance.”

12 For this is what the Lord says:

“I will extend peace to her like a river, and the wealth of nations like a flooding stream; you will nurse and be carried on her arm and dandled on her knees. 13 As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you;     and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.”

14 When you see this, your heart will rejoice and you will flourish like grass; the hand of the Lord will be made known to his servants, but his fury will be shown to his foes.

 Epistle                                                                                    Galatians 6:1-10, 14-18

6 Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. 2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. 3 If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. 4 Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, 5 for each one should carry their own load. 6 Nevertheless, the one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor.

7 Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. 8 Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. 9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

14 May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15 Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation. 16 Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule—to the Israel of God.

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

18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers and sisters. Amen.

Holy Gospel                                                                                               Luke 10:1-20

10 After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. 2 He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. 3 Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. 4 Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.

5 “When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ 6 If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you. 7 Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.

8 “When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is offered to you. 9 Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ 10 But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, 11 ‘Even the dust of your town we wipe from our feet as a warning to you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God has come near.’ 12 I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.

13 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. 14 But it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you. 15 And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades.

16 “Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me; but whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me.”

17 The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.”

18 He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. 20 However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

 

June 30, 2019 – “Bumper Sticker Theology”

June 30, 2019 – “Bumper Sticker Theology”

I’m not usually a fan of bumper sticker theology, cause it’s often so very bad, but here’s one that’s pretty close to today’s gospel lesson. It goes, He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else.

In the gospel lesson we see three people that Jesus encounters. The last two of which have a ‘good excuse’ for not following Jesus. With these two there’s the idea of “I’ll follow you, but first…” That ‘but first’ is where things fall apart. Like in that bumper sticker, He who is good at ‘making excuses’ is seldom good for anything else.

Now, that jumps us over to the epistle lesson for a moment. There St. Paul talks about the sinful nature in us, the nature that’s at war with the spirit of God that lives in us through baptism into Jesus. We too know, because of our warring sinful nature, we too know what it is to tell God, “but first…”

When we put anything before following after Christ, when we tell God, “but first…” we’re elevating those ‘things’ to the status of being ‘god’ in our lives and so we break the first commandment to have no other gods, before the God of heaven. And, as seen in the gospel lesson today, that other ‘god-thing’ can be our family or friends. Or it can be the desire to promote a ‘cause of the month’ or a political agenda.  It can also be the things we crave or indulge, like money or gossip, or fill-in-the-blank for yourself.

And again, that puts us back in the epistle lesson. Because what does St. Paul say is the sum of all the commandments – love your neighbor as yourself.

So, we don’t use our freedom in the Holy Spirit selfishly. Here’s more good bumper sticker theology to go with that: Don’t be so heavenly minded you’re no earthly good. St. Paul speaks of loving your neighbor, not just tolerating him and not trying to ‘hoodwink’ him into heaven. Love them, as Christ has first loved you. Sacrificially.

Christ gave up His life to death on the cross so you and I and the whole world would know that by God’s love we have been forgiven: totally and freely forgiven. That sacrifice shows us what love is. There’s no greater intimacy with God than the love that He has shown us by the death of Christ for our sins. We have ‘intimacy issues’ with God when we make any other relationship more intimate or personal than our relationship with God in heaven.

When we use words like the 2 men in the gospel lesson, “I’ll follow you ‘but first’” that’s a telltale sign for us. And that’s because we can’t follow Jesus on our own. Satan uses our sinfulness to try and keep us from Christ. We, on our own strength or will, can’t choose to follow Jesus without a ‘but first’.

Jesus shows us in the gospel lesson, by means of these negative examples, that following Him is only good – so long as it’s perfect. And we can’t do that because we cannot keep the law perfectly! Only He’s been perfectly obedient. Only He has not ever said to God The Father, ‘but first’. Instead, He accomplished His Father’s holy will per-fec-tly. Without Jesus being that perfect follower of God’s will, we are utterly lost. But since He has accomplished that, He then gifts that perfect obedience to us. And now we’re right back to the epistle.

When Paul speaks of our human nature being in conflict with the nature of the Holy Spirit in us, we clearly see that we cannot be obedient in our flesh or by our own will or choice. No, it’s only in the free gift of living ‘by the Spirit’ that we’re free of the law. Again, that’s not by choice but by gift. That gift of God is what makes us, not just children of God, but also perfectly obedient children of God. Now, you may object to that idea.

Well, that’s because you know yourself and your sins. But you also know as well that you are perfectly forgiven of sin by the blood of Jesus from the cross! You are perfectly forgiven of sins and, and of your sinful nature. Your natural sinful state has been covered and clothed in the righteousness of Christ alone. That’s what comes to you by the gift of the Holy Spirit alone. You are set free and you now walk in The Spirit. Again, not by your choice but by His gift.

That’s why Paul says, keep in step with the Spirit. We do that. Not in our own strength or will, but by the power of the same Holy Spirit within us.  He makes that clear when he writes, in vs 16, So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.

In the Greek that St. Paul uses, that last phrase can be understood as, we do not allow our sinful nature to be completed. That’s another way, another angle, of thinking about the indulging of our sinful nature. Yes, we can indulge ourselves and let ourselves ‘complete’ sin in us, but doing that goes against why Christ died. And completing the work of Christ is what we are called to do.

So, know the truth that we’ve been set free from the binding power of sin that rises naturally from our disobedience to the law from our birth. The result of that freedom in Christ for us is that the law does not bind us any longer, but rather, now, it guides us. That’s because we no longer live under the fear of punishment. We’re free from that by Jesus’ bloody crucifixion and resurrection. So, what’re we to do with our freedom?

Yes, we can indulge ourselves, but not without danger to ourselves, and besides that’s not what we’re called in Christ to do is it? Nor is it worthy of what Christ has done for us. He would then simply become our cosmic ‘get out jail free card’ wouldn’t He? St Paul is telling us that Christ died so that we may be free to serve Jesus and one another in love. It’s in that way that we ‘keep in step with the Holy Spirit.

Let me ask, was it necessary for Christ to die on the cross for you? Are you worth the sacrifice of the life of Jesus? / He thought so. So, you should see yourself that way too! And here’s more bumper sticker theology. Jesus loves you this much – then there’s a picture of Jesus on the cross with His arms spread wide. And in that love, He sets us free.

We are now set free in Him from bondage to sin. Sin grips us tightly and we oftentimes grip sin pretty tightly ourselves. But Christ breaks the grip of sin and He covers us with the robe of His righteousness, freeing us from being slaves to our indulgences.

In the Old Testament lesson, Elijah threw his mantle, his coat, over Elisha and so gave him permission to follow him. That covering gave Elisha the right to take up the call of being a prophet for God. Elisha did not make that happen for himself. That was freely done for him and that gift gave him all the authority he needed. He was given the covering of the mantle of Elijah as his own.

That’s what Christ has done for us as well. We’ve been given the covering of His robe of righteousness… asourown. And by His righteousness, we are set free to complete His work in our lives on earth.

That sounds bold doesn’t it? Being free to complete the work of Christ on earth.

But that is what we’re called to. We’re called to live the Gospel and we’re granted the authority and power, as Elisha was, to do the will of God. We did not take that on ourselves nor did we make some sort of ‘decision’ for ourselves that we’re now good enough to do that. No, completing the work of Christ, walking in the Spirit, is the gift of God to all.

Our salvation, our righteousness is given to us by the blood of Christ from the cross, again, just as Elisha received the mantle from Elijah. That gift of righteousness is what sets us free and that is what releases us from the grip self-indulgence.

I once found the ruins of a latticed window. A strong vine several inches thick had completely wrecked the once beautiful window and still held a bit of the latticework in a viselike grip. At some time, when the window still had its original beauty, a tiny, tender vine worked its way into the latticework. Had it been removed at that time; the window could have been saved. But it wasn’t. It was allowed to stay, and to grow, and to bind itself to the lattice. How well this describes the binding of our old sinful nature that day in the garden of Eden!

The point is that that ‘binding grip’ of sin has been released for us by the freedom God provides through His Word alone. By His word, sin has lost its deadly hold.  However, if we choose to use our freedom only for self-indulgence, we block the authority of the words and works for God us.

It’s remaining in the ‘cloak of the righteousness of Christ’ that sets us free as St. Paul spoke of today. And in that freedom is how we sacrificially live the gospel for the sake of our neighbor.

We are set free – to show Christ’s love to neighbor, friend, and relative alike so that they too can know the righteousness of Christ that’s theirs by the same gift you’ve received. Let us not be ‘so heavenly minded that we’re no earthly good’ to our neighbor. Let the righteousness of Christ set us free to be Hearing, Sharing and Living the Gospel. In that way we live by the Spirit and keep in step with the Spirit. This for the sake of our neighbor, in the love of Jesus. In His name, amen.

Sermon #1034 Rev. Thomas A. Rhodes, Pastor – Zion Lutheran Church, Bolivar, MO

Old Testament Reading                 1 Kings 19:9b-21

And the word of the Lord came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

10 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”

11 The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.

Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

14 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”

15 The Lord said to him, “Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram. 16 Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet. 17 Jehu will put to death any who escape the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death any who escape the sword of Jehu. 18 Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him.”

19 So Elijah went from there and found Elisha son of Shaphat. He was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen, and he himself was driving the twelfth pair. Elijah went up to him and threw his cloak around him. 20 Elisha then left his oxen and ran after Elijah. “Let me kiss my father and mother goodbye,” he said, “and then I will come with you.”

“Go back,” Elijah replied. “What have I done to you?”

21 So Elisha left him and went back. He took his yoke of oxen and slaughtered them. He burned the plowing equipment to cook the meat and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his servant.

 Epistle Reading                          Galatians 5:1, 13-25

5 It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

 Holy Gospel                                          Luke 9:51-62

51 As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; 53 but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. 54 When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” 55 But Jesus turned and rebuked them. 56 Then he and his disciples went to another village.

57 As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”

58 Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

59 He said to another man, “Follow me.”

But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”

60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

61 Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.”

62 Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”

 

June 23, 2019 – “Stay and Tell”

June 23, 2019 – “Stay and Tell”

I don’t know if this only happens to me but there’re times that God, it seems, is toying with me or confusing me. I sometimes feel like I’m just left to wonder what God is up to in my life.

I know of a comedian named Steven Wright. He does a bit where he talks about naming a puppy. His idea is to name the puppy “Stay” just to confuse the poor animal. That way when he calls him, he says, “come here, Stay; come here, Stay; come here, Stay!” Well I’m guessing that such confusion is, perhaps, what

the demon-possessed man in the gospel lesson today must’ve felt. When Jesus had healed him, he wanted to go with Jesus, maybe thought it was only natural or even expected of him. But, no, Jesus told him to – stay! And that wasn’t the only thing Jesus said to the man.

He told him to stay… and tell. Stay and tell. He was to stay in that town and tell what it was that God had done for him. That idea of telling, sounds familiar to us as our mission is Hearing, Sharing and Living the Gospel. We’re also to stay / in our town and, share the gospel. And, like this demoniac who was healed, we’re to tell what God has done for us though sharing the gospel of Christ.

In this story, the man is demon possessed and is released from his demons by the word of Jesus. When Jesus goes to leave the town, at the request of the fearful people in that place, this man who’s been healed and has had his world totally changed, naturally wants to go with Jesus who healed him. But Jesus’ comment to the man was that he was to ‘stay and tell of what God’, what God (!) had done for the man! Notice the hugely important point from these few words… Jesus’ work is God’s work!

Jesus knows His own identity and with this bold statement makes it clear that He understands, and does not hide the fact, that He is God – in the flesh. When Jesus heals this man with His word of deliverance, Jesus does what only God can do; He restores this man.  Jesus gives him a right mind and sets him free from the power of sin, Satan, and death. Jesus is God in the flesh and here Jesus makes that clear, in His words and His works.

Jesus, in showing His power over Satan and his demons in this way, also shows us that we’re in the same condition as either this man or the fearful townspeople. That is, we either live in the abject fear of God and His power – just as the pig herders and people of that town expressed – or we’re like this poor fellow, bound under the power of Satan and sin, and needing the deliverance that Jesus grants by His Word alone.

And did you notice how the townspeople came to fear Jesus? It was by the witness of the pig farmers to what Jesus had done. The town was told! That’s the power of a witness. But in this case rather than rejoice at the work of God by the power of Jesus’ word, they reacted in fear.

We know that we, and all the world, need the ‘work of God’, need the deliverance He declares in the words and works of Jesus. And some people do receive God’s help with thankfulness and joy, relief and praise.

But some, some want Jesus just to leave them alone. They really don’t want to live free of sin and its power that both surrounds us and lives in us. And in so choosing to turn from Jesus, we can be condemned to the fires of hell reserved for Satan and all who reject Christ.

There are those who’ve said, or perhaps even we’ve said at one time or another, that we really don’t need God to get along in our daily life. We all know people who think that ‘religion’ is not for them. And many people are religious about believing that. In one sense they are right about religion. But we do need Jesus.

Everyone needs deliverance and healing through Jesus’ words and works alone. His works, His death on the cross and victorious resurrection to life, are what He promises in His word that give us life eternal in heaven with Him.

But for many people, they’re just too proud or seemingly self-sufficient to ‘need’ God. Sad to say, Andrew Carnegie once said: “I don’t want a free ticket into heaven!”  To such people  salvation by grace through faith alone is a very hard – difficult teaching.

It’s amazing to me that since the fall of man in the Garden of Eden, we’ve found ways to reject God that – at their core – continue to be the same. But, God always, always (!) seeks after us. He comes to us. We’re in a world that, on the whole, rejects God. And yet we need not be fearful of what will happen as our future is in God’s hands. We simply receive what He has for us.

No, the world we live in still finds ways to spurn God as it has since Eden. Think for a moment, what have you seen in the news recently or heard in a conversation that confirms this for you? How many times have you seen others, or you yourself, cover up sin and call it something else, like ‘it’s just a quirk – it’s only a small failing I have – it’s my choice – it’s not really hurting anyone? We say those things because no one likes the idea that they sin! To admit to sin would mean there’s a Judge who is greater than we are. No one likes that idea. We like to be the center of the world. So, it’s no different today than even in Isaiah’s day as we read in the Old Testament lesson. Isaiah outlines ways that people offend God.

And in the townspeople in the gospel lesson we see what Isaiah describes. In verse 1 Isaiah tells us that God ‘reveals Himself to a people who did not ask for Him’. Isaiah also points out that there are people who, in verse 4 sit among the tombs. It’s uncanny how this passage from Isaiah has elements in it from the gospel lesson. It even speaks of pigs! The condition of our world, as Isaiah describes it, has not changed.

The question is… will we recognize the condition we’re in? Will we receive the healing that God brings to us in Jesus’ words and works and be set free like the demoniac? Or will we, like the townspeople and like Isaiah said, reject God – out of fear? That’s an important question to consider.

We need to recognize that fear is what those around us live in. Fear, whether they realize it or not, is at the root of why they reject God and His love in Jesus Christ. And, if we’re honest, we too have done that in our own lives in various ways.

As we live mindful and aware that we are living in the grace and mercy of God, we see more clearly that God is in control and not us. It’s a Hebrew way of thinking – it’s both/and – we are both totally free and at the same time totally in the will of God, by /His /grace.

I know that for me fear of not doing the right thing is often what I let prevent me from living in the freedom Christ has died to give me. Fear is that thing that can paralyze me into inaction just because I’d rather not do anything rather than do the wrong thing. Wayne Gretzky, the hockey star, once said, “You miss 100% of the shots you never take.”

Well, not ‘taking shots’ is wrong for me since I claim to be free in Christ. In believing the truth that I profess to be found in scripture, then I need not fear. I am free to try and do the right thing and if I make a mistake in trying to do what I believe God wants me to do, then I trust in Him to both forgive me and to correct me.

God does correct us when we do the wrong thing, but that’s done out of His love for us, not as punishment. I need not fear His punishment in that way. Jesus has taken the wrath of God on the cross. Christ has taken away all divine punishment for all my wrongs, all my sins…all my fear. Jesus didn’t punish the demoniac for doing wrong; rather Jesus took away what it was that caused him to live as he did. Jesus removed the source of his torment.

Jesus, by His cross and through the Holy Spirit in His Word and Sacraments does that for us. He removes fear by His grace to us. There’s a parody of the hymn Onward Christian Soldiers that goes: “Onward Christian soldiers, running from the war With the cross of Jesus hid behind the door.”

Well, that is not us. We don’t hide the Cross of Jesus behind the door and we don’t run from the war we’re in. We gather together here in faith, faith in the power of God’s words and works to deliver us. We know we have been delivered from our fear, and from being the possession of Satan. The blood of Jesus from the cross has accomplished that and He has delivered faith to us. The epistle lesson today says, “Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed”.

We’re reminded in these words what it is to have been locked up, being fearful and rejecting God just like those we seek share the gospel with. But by faith coming to us, coming to us through the declaration of God’s word, we are set free. We have been released.

We’re not confused about who we are unlike that puppy named ‘Stay’. We are not held in bondage like the townspeople in the gospel. And we’re not like Andrew Carnegie!

We embrace the ‘free ticket’ to heaven that’s God’s gift to us through the costly sacrifice of Jesus on the cross and His victorious resurrection to life again. We are now soldiers of that cross and we’ve been given our right mind and been clothed; like the demoniac.

Now don’t miss this! We’ve been clothed in the righteousness of Christ and we’ve been given the mind of Christ. So, for us, we hear Jesus’ words to the demoniac now for ourselves. Jesus says for us to stay and tell. We get to tell what God has done for us.

And that brings us back to the subtle power of the statement that Jesus made. What Jesus’ work has done for us He’s done because He is God in the flesh. His power and work have been revealed to us, as Isaiah said, even though we were once a people who didn’t ask for God to reveal Himself to us. Yet in love He has done just that. Reveals Himself.

I love that He’s sent our demons to drown in the baptismal waters we’ve been washed with. We have been freed of that deadly fear that once possessed us. We’re now in our right minds, because we have the mind of Christ. And Jesus wants us also to stay and tell by Hearing, Sharing and Living the Gospel. What form will that take for you this week? How will you be intentional about sharing; about telling the gospel?  In Jesus name, Amen.

Sermon #1033 Rev. Thomas A. Rhodes, Pastor – Zion Lutheran Church, Bolivar, MO

First Reading                                                                                    1 Kings 19:9b-21

And the word of the Lord came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

10 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”

11 The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.

Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

14 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”

15 The Lord said to him, “Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram. 16 Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet. 17 Jehu will put to death any who escape the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death any who escape the sword of Jehu. 18 Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him.”

19 So Elijah went from there and found Elisha son of Shaphat. He was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen, and he himself was driving the twelfth pair. Elijah went up to him and threw his cloak around him. 20 Elisha then left his oxen and ran after Elijah. “Let me kiss my father and mother goodbye,” he said, “and then I will come with you.”

“Go back,” Elijah replied. “What have I done to you?”

21 So Elisha left him and went back. He took his yoke of oxen and slaughtered them. He burned the plowing equipment to cook the meat and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his servant.

 Epistle                                                                                            Galatians 5:1, 13-25

5 It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

Holy Gospel                                                                                                Luke 9:51-62

51 As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; 53 but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. 54 When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” 55 But Jesus turned and rebuked them. 56 Then he and his disciples went to another village.

57 As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”

58 Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

59 He said to another man, “Follow me.”

But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”

60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

61 Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.”

62 Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”

 

June 16, 2019 Trinity Equals Mercy

June 16, 2019 Trinity Equals Mercy

With last Friday being Flag Day, I thought this would be a fittingly patriotic story. Right after the Civil War, Senator Henderson of Missouri is said to have asked President Abraham Lincoln to pardon some men from here who were in prison for various military offenses. He admitted that these men did not deserve a pardon.

They deserved to remain in prison. But he appealed for mercy anyway. Lincoln replied: “I have often been charged with making too many mistakes on the side of mercy, but I’ll do it just the same.” And he wrote “pardon” by each name. With that stroke of the president’s pen, they were all set free.

God has done the same and so much more for us in Jesus Christ. In the story from the civil war, it was after the war that the pardons came. So also for us. We were at war with God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit and have been since we rebelled in the Garden of Eden. All of mankind cannot truly understand the Trinity, and so we, all of us, rail against it.

But God in His mercy after the war, after Christ’s defeat of all that is unholy – through His cross – after that battle was won, God now grants a full pardon to all who call on Jesus name. God’s word of pardon has been written on our indictments of sin. Just as Lincoln’s pen granted those pardons that were underserved by those men from Missouri, so God grants pardon, peace and reconciliation with us.

We each deserve death for calling God into question and for trying to make Him answer to us; that is what condemns us. We’re no different than others in that we also have questioned God and tried to put Him to our test. Think of the many disasters and inhumane acts we’ve seen in recent weeks in the news. We humans have wanted God to explain Himself to us to our satisfaction for allowing such things to take place. We’ve questioned if Jesus work alone is sufficient.

In the epistle lesson today Peter makes clear that God has attested to Jesus as His Son through the works that Jesus did. Through Jesus’ works, God is revealed. And in the ultimate work of Jesus’ death on the cross and His resurrection, we see that the Trinity has revealed Himself to us by His mercy. His declaration of pardon for our rebellion is full and complete in Jesus and His words and works.

A man once said, “I always knew the Trinity was wrong because, to my mind, it never made sense!”

Now that’s poor reasoning. It’s extremely dangerous to reject things entirely simply because we fail to properly comprehend them. Look, I’m now 64 and I still don’t really understand electricity, but – am I glad to use it! Never really understood it, still don’t entirely understand it, but I recognize it exists.

This man who thought the trinity never made sense, was not unlike the Jews in the gospel lesson today. They thought that God must fit their image of Him. That image did not look like the itinerant preacher standing before them. And so they also wanted Jesus to justify Himself to them.

Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?” Jesus replied, “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me.

For us to try and make God fit into our definition of Him comes from our own human pride and not from an understanding of His mercy shown in the glory of Jesus Christ.

A 2009 survey in the Seattle Times, “substantiated the growing number of people who say they have “no” religion. The report further said that the country has a ‘growing nonreligious or irreligious minority.’”

And in US News and World Report I read, Recent events in the U.S. are destroying Americans’ ability to connect to God, according to Cardinal Robert Sarah, a native of the West African nation of Guinea. He then quoted the Catholic News Agency, “God is being eroded, eclipsed, liquidated,”

I bring up these reports in the news to show that in our human pride we feel we need no God… other than ourselves. If there is no God ‘out there’ to believe in, then we gladly put ourselves in the center of the universe and so we become our own god. That sounds like what Adam did when he chose to ignore God’s direction. Instead Adam put his judgment over Gods and took the knowledge of good and evil for himself when, on his own, he chose to eat the fruit that Eve gave him from the forbidden tree.

The action we need, rather than our pride, is what Trinity, in His mercy, has done for us in Jesus Christ. Now, having received His mercy, now all our actions rest on what He has first done for us.

Through repentance the Holy Spirit brings us to Jesus, and we acknowledge our need for His pardon and forgiveness. As we receive God’s peace and pardon, by His mercy then we are free to act based on His grace and not on our pride. This is what His Holy Spirit empowers us to do.

It’s not as easy to live free as you might at first think, because you now choose how to live. And what then do you choose? Yes, you’re free from divine judgment by the power of the blood of Jesus when you make a mistake, though you may still have to live with the consequences in the here and now. More so, you are free to choose the ‘wrong’ but what does that profit you? What do you get from that but regret and sorrow? Yes, you are free, yet now you’re free to choose to show love for God and for each other. That was Christ’s new command on Maundy Thursday. “As I have loved you so you must love one another.”

So, how will you do that? What will you choose to do to show Christ’s love to each other? This isn’t about warm feelings; it’s about showing love. We’re free in our daily lives to choose to show the love of God to one another as it was first shown to us, by the mercy of God, through the actions of Jesus Christ.

We are free – each day, each moment – to live in the grace God gives us. That means we’re free of old habits, free of personal practices that lead us astray. We’re free in ways the Jews that Jesus spoke with in the gospel lesson today, did not understand.

Listen again, Jesus said, Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.” “You are not yet fifty years old,” the Jews said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!” “I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!

Jesus is before Abraham was born. When Jesus said those words, I Am, those Jews knew and understood that Jesus was claiming to be God. Only God is I Am, as was made known through the burning bush to Moses. Again, this is the mystery of the trinity we confessed in the Athanasian Creed. So as Jesus, the great I Am, grants us His righteousness to live before the holy God of heaven, we have His mercy to live in now!

We’re no longer bound to repeat our mistakes. By Jesus’ blood and righteousness, we’re free of the guilt of our mistakes, free to put the past, all of it, behind us. Recognize this from God, that we are free to live / now! Here and now.

We come as a congregation to the holy triune God with our hands open to Hearing, Sharing and Living the Gospel with one another. So also in our personal, daily, moment-by-moment lives we come to God and with open hands receive His divine guidance to live out His mercy in us to others.

The Holy Trinity that is God is not something we need to have explained to our satisfaction, to ‘make sense to our mind’, before we can receive His grace, pardon and freedom. Rather we live under the knowledge that the Holy Triune God has come and made Himself known to us as – the Father, the God of heaven and earth; the Son, the redeemer and emancipator of all mankind, and as the Holy Spirit, the One who gives us power and faith to live under the freedom He bestows.

Again as St Peter said in Acts today Exalted to the right hand of God, he (Jesus) has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.

Remember, that this mercy is ours only by grace through faith in the holy God who has revealed Himself as Trinity. He has poured out this knowledge on us, not that we might take pride in some ‘secret’ that others don’t have. But rather that we have the Holy Spirit poured out on us in our baptism so that we might live life now and forever by Jesus name.

And having that life as our own, to then humbly share that and give that away. We now live free of our past – free of our fears and our accomplishments. We are now bound by neither of those things. By grace we are set free to speak of the triune God of heaven. And we do so, so that others too might share in the repentance and life that is ours through Jesus’ death and resurrection. That is what is revealed to us in the mercy of the holy Trinity, in Whose name we pray, Amen.

Sermon #1032 Rev. Thomas A. Rhodes, Pastor – Zion Lutheran Church, Bolivar, MO

Old Testament Reading          Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31
8 Does not wisdom call out? Does not understanding raise her voice?  2 At the highest point along the way, where the paths meet, she takes her stand; 3 beside the gate leading into the city, at the entrance, she cries aloud: 4 “To you, O people, I call out; I raise my voice to all mankind…

22 “The Lord brought me forth as the first of his works, before his deeds of old;  23 I was formed long ages ago, at the very beginning, when the world came to be. 24 When there were no watery depths, I was given birth, when there were no springs overflowing with water; 25 before the mountains were settled in place, before the hills, I was given birth, 26 before he made the world or its fields or any of the dust of the earth.  27 I was there when he set the heavens in place, when he marked out the horizon on the face of the deep, 28 when he established the clouds above and fixed securely the fountains of the deep, 29 when he gave the sea its boundary so the waters would not overstep his command, and when he marked out the foundations of the earth. 30 Then I was constantly at his side. I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in his presence, 31 rejoicing in his whole world and delighting in mankind.

 Epistle Reading                              Acts 2:14a, 22-36
14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd:…

22 “Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23 This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. 25 David said about him: “‘I saw the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. 26 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest in hope, 27 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, you will not let your holy one see decay. 28 You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.’ 29 “Fellow Israelites, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. 30 But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. 31 Seeing what was to come, he spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that he was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did his body see decay. 32 God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. 33 Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. 34 For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said,  “‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand  35 until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”’ 36 “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”

Holy Gospel                                         John 8:48-59
48 The Jews answered him, “Aren’t we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?”

49 “I am not possessed by a demon,” said Jesus, “but I honor my Father and you dishonor me. 50 I am not seeking glory for myself; but there is one who seeks it, and he is the judge. 51 Very truly I tell you, whoever obeys my word will never see death.”

52 At this they exclaimed, “Now we know that you are demon-possessed! Abraham died and so did the prophets, yet you say that whoever obeys your word will never taste death. 53 Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?”

54 Jesus replied, “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. 55 Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and obey his word. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.”

57 “You are not yet fifty years old,” they said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!”

58 “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” 59 At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.