Sunday, August 30, 2009

Pentecost 13

This was given at an unnamed church close to my unnamed higher education institution. Today's readings were Psalm 51; Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-9; Ephesians 6:10-20; and Mark 7:14-23 (sermon text).

In the Gospel reading, Jesus turns the tables on the hypocritical faultfinders. He declares all foods ceremonially clean, not able to defile a person. Neither filthy food, nor alcohol, nor anything we ingest - even if unhealthy - can defile us. The real problem, therefore, is the impurity of our hearts, the seriousness of our human situation. Apart from Him, our hearts are putrid. Even if we live otherwise uprightly, it is the sin committed by each of us - each of you - that makes the Old Adam in us abhorrent to God.

God's law is broken by both commission (doing bad) and omission (failing to do good). Trespasses are born of sinful thoughts coming from our hearts; these are what defiles us. No person is exempt. When we hear this sobering message from another's lips, we resist. We are not sinful because we sin; we sin because we are sinful.

Thank God! Our hope is not based in our hearts; it is based in God's heart! "Deliver us from evil," including the evil within. For this reason, He chose to become incarnate, the perfect Man, the God-Man, to take all our sins upon Himself without committing any sin Himself. He became sin for us! Therefore be strong in the Lord's strength. Use His gift-armor and weapon, His Word. Do not changes this Word, but pass it on, for it not only kills but also make alive. Be assured of your cleanness bestowed by God. For He is greater than your heart when it condemns you. Taste this sweet, clean Gospel.

Soli Deo gloria.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Pentecost 12

Still at the unnamed in-between church. Today's readings: Psalm 78, Deuteronomy 6:4-9 (sermon text), Colossians 3:18-24, and Matthew 11:25-30.

A will ensures that your valuable earthly possessions will go to your children. But what about heavenly possessions? Begin preparing these gifts before your children consciously understand - pass on your faith through prayer, Bible reading and meditation, and otherwise bringing up your offspring in the fear and nurture of the Lord. Otherwise, you may pass on your wealth but not your Treasure.

Do you blame others for your children's loss of faith, should that ever occur? Or do you rightly blame yourself? With all our idols, the failure is our own. But the forgiveness is God's! He intervenes, breathing new life into us in our death, reaching around us in our rejection of Him. Receive Him therefore, passing your faith down to the next generation.

Let His commandments first be upon your heart. Then constantly and consistently impress them on your children's hearts. Just as immersion leads to fluency because you leave your native language behind, so also it works with the Word. Even before your children understand, talk - not *to* your kids but just *about* the Word. Immerse yourself and your spouse in this Word. The children's immersion will follow.

Pray with and for your children. This is the Holy Spirit's work - creating faith and interceding for us. The entire home environment is important as well. Also, show your children how and why to share your faith. Show by your words and deeds the totality of God's love. God uses people as His hands. What are we, save vessels to be filled with and to share God's love?

Finally, remember that our best-laid plans will fail. But God still works.

Soli Deo gloria.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Pentecost 11

I worshiped at an undisclosed WI church today. Today's readings: Psalm 34, Joshua 24:1-18 (sermon text), Ephesians 5:6-21, and John 6:51-69. I also heard the first children's sermon since going to my grandparents' church around 7 years ago.

We need "heroes of the faith," models of a life of trust in God. One such man was Joshua, a leader appointed by God during a crucial, difficult time. As the successor of Moses, his task was even harder: he had to enter the Promised Land; to dethrone pagan peoples, false gods, and outnumbering enemies; how to do it? Answer: God's promise to him was "I will never leave you or forsake you . . . do not let this book of the Law depart from your mouth." God being with you, you trusting in God, obviates any fear of your enemies.

Joshua followed God's leading because he knew that God was faithful to fulfill His promises. Now, in our text, he addressed the people he led. Would they be faithful? Or apostate? Really no choice here - obviously the better choice is to serve the One who lives and saves! Obvious, yes, but easy, no. Then and now, many serve other gods - making an object the most important thing in your life. Examples: money, possessions, power, pleasure, technology, self. Gods of wood and stone? Not anymore. But they're still false gods.

The question remains for each of you who read this: Whom will you serve? Be not afraid to repeat Joshua 24:15. Look to the Source, Jesus ("YHWH saves"), the only One who can save - and has saved - you who believe in Him! Do not deny that you have sinned; otherwise you lie to God's face. Receive the One into your being who forgives all your sins.

Soli Deo gloria.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Pentecost 10

Today's readings: Psalm 34, 1 Kings 19:1-8 (sermon text), Ephesians 4:17-5:2, and John 6:35-51.

As in the hymn, Elijah's soul lay still, and the Lord delivered him. In the story's historical context, Israel was divided, Jezebel and Ahab ruled, and she had just promised to kill Elijah. Some time beforehand, his God had won a contest with Baal; as a result, 850 prophets of Baal had been put to death. God had shown that He is in charge.

Jezebel was hopping mad, not even regarding her own life in her quest to get rid of this prophet. He promptly ran to the southernmost part of Judah - Beersheba - as far as possible away from the queen. In Beersheba, there was nothing but wilderness and the occasional scrubby broom tree. Under one Elijah sat, sinning twice: first, running away from God, and second, giving up. Then he slept disconsolately. (What would we do?)

But! God had mercy on Elijah, for His mercy has no end. He gave him food, roused him, and ordered him to take heart. Twice, God (the Father and the Son - "the Angel of the LORD") fed and watered him. Don't take lightly the food and drink He gives to us - His very own body and blood for our eternal sustenance.

The story concludes. The two meals gave him 40 days' and nights' strength to pilgrimage to the mountain of God, Horeb (aka Sinai). Let us draw strength from the Sacrament of the Altar as well to continue our pilgrimages.

Soli Deo Gloria.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Pentecost 9

Today's readings were Psalm 145, Exodus 16:2-15, Ephesians 4:1-16 (sermon text), and John 6:22-35.

We cherish freedom and choices, especially here in the US. But Paul presents a no-choice ("one" only) lifestyle: live in the manner worthy of your calling. No other way than Jesus? How offensive! Boring! Intolerant! Those who slander Christianity like this don't understand true freedom: not individualism, but rather a conscience owned by Christ. Ironic? Perhaps. But life in any other manner is, by comparison to Christianity, so poor as to be a non-choice.

Chapters 1-3 of Ephesians lay the basis for the "therefore" in 4:1, preceding these instructions. Briefly: you were dead in sin; God knew you before the womb; He has resuscitated you. Now ask: why does mankind exist? Answer: Christ has ransomed all mankind; they are now to walk in way of Christ Jesus. One Lord (Jesus Christ), one faith (the same), one Baptism (into Christ), one Father of all (the Father).

So your sinful self finds it hard to walk in Christ? The Old Adam tells you that there are other options? To refuse the means of grace? Answer him with the truth: he is death, dead. Not an option. Turn now to the work of God: "to believe in Him whom He has sent." Walk in His way thus: live your life to God and others; take a nap when your body tires; pray for your brothers and sisters.

Christianity isn't a bad option. It's the best and only real option!

Soli Deo Gloria.