Sunday, August 27, 2017
For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.
The study of the things of God leads naturally to the praise of God.
That’s what Paul has done here.
Up to this point in Romans, Paul has studied and presented the great things of God. He has taught the Gospel of Jesus Christ; He has laid out the doctrine of justification, that we are not good enough for God, but God has made us good, justified us because of Jesus; He told about the peace that is ours because of this Gospel and justification, that God, who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all will also, with Jesus, graciously give us all things (Romans 8:32); He talked about faith, which comes as gift from hearing the Gospel of Christ (Romans 10:17) and He expounded on God’s heart’s desire, that He wants all to be saved, Jew and Gentile alike, all. To Him be glory forever!
Much of these things Paul described and taught are different than expected. These things are not what we’d have guessed. God gave up His Son to save sinners? Who would have expected such a thing? And the humble means by which God does His glorious works: the poor manger bed in Bethlehem where the King of the Universe was born; the ugly cross of Calvary where the greatest love was given. The ordinariness of water applied for the glorious promises of baptism. It seems strange the way God works.
These verses in Romans 11 are words of praise for exactly those strange ways of God. Romans 11:33
“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!”
God’s ways of doing things are unsearchable and inscrutable. And it’s not just that God’s ways are beyond our abilities to understand and reason it all out. There’s more to it than just that God’s works are surpassingly greater than our reasonable attempts to understand them. The ways of God are contrary to our ways. They are uninviting to our natural reason.
Martin Luther taught about this describing it as “the Theology of the Cross”. It’s about this surprising truth that the ugliness and humiliation of Jesus’ cross is actually the point of His greatest glory and love. Luther said, “Although the works of God always seem unattractive and appear evil, they are nevertheless really eternal merits.” (Luther’s Works, vol 31, page 44)
So now, someone in the midst of the most horrible things life can offer has to wrestle with this Theology of the Cross. God’s ways seem unattractive. They appear evil. Why is God doing this to me? Why does He allow my loved one to suffer? Why has He left me with this loss? How can this be love?
Luther’s teaching is that God brings low, so He can exalt. He brings us to the point of despair that we might trust nothing else but Him.
Further Luther would teach us that when our reason and God’s word clash and disagree, faith must abandon reason and cling to God alone. This is necessary for salvation. Human reason says that there must be things I can do that will make God happy. Your reason urges you to trust yourself and your works. It makes sense that God likes good people, so the mixed up human reason says, I am pretty good. God gotta like me. Who wouldn’t like me? This faulty reasoning leads you away from repenting and away from faith in Christ’s forgiveness.
"Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?"
When we hear that question, we have to admit: No one.
God doesn’t owe you or me anything. But in the mystery of His inscrutable ways, He shows mercy, He forgives and He saves.
These mysterious ways of God, His unsearchable, inscrutable ways, show that God is God. We are not God, He is. We are not in charge, He is.
For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory
God is God and so He is not compelled by any force or power beyond Himself. He can do whatever He wants. So when reason starts to say, “Why is God doing this? He shouldn’t be doing that. He should be doing better things for me.” Then you must abandon reason, and submit to God’s inscrutable ways. God can do whatever He wants.
And here’s the thing, you know what God wants? He wants to save you. He wants you to repent and turn to Him. He wants you to trust and love Him. And that trust and love leads you to praise Him, to praise Him with your words and with your thoughts and attitude and praise Him with your life of service to Him and to others.
For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.
Thursday, July 20, 2017
Tonight at Vacation Bible School, children made their own snacks in the shape of a pathway, like the road on which Jesus came into Jerusalem.
For the craft tonight, we made a depiction of stained glass crosses. We remembered the reason why Jesus rode into Jerusalem, to die for our salvation.
We will wrap things up tomorrow by remembering how Jesus died for us on the cross and rose to life again in Victory, so He will always be our Mighty Fortress.
Posted by Pastor at 7:21 PM
Wednesday, July 19, 2017
The crazy wind and thunderstorms hit right at the start of VBS tonight, but that didn't stop the fun at St. Paul's tonight! Learning how King Hezekiah's priest found the "Book of the Law" that had been lost in the temple for many years, making scroll snacks and burning off energy in an obstacle course are some of the activities the kids participated in tonight. Hearing the children of our church and community reading from 2 Kings, and discussing the fact that God forgives people when they are sorry for the bad things they have done shows that the church is alive and well in Fredericksburg.
Tuesday, July 18, 2017
Who is Hezekiah? Ask the children who attended our Vacation Bible School tonight! (But don't be surprised if they reply, in a sing-song voice "Nanny, nanny boo, boo" ) Tonight's lesson was based on 2 Kings 18. They made shields, had sweet and salty treats and knocked down castle walls as they learned about King Hezekiah. Was he victorious? Ask the kids and see!
Monday, January 11, 2016
The Baptism of our Lord
Jan. 10, 2016
The Father is Pleased
Our text for this morning's sermon is taken from today's Gospel lesson, Luke 3:22: And a voice came from heaven: ``You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased.''
God loves you, you know. He has told you so, often and in many different ways. When you were baptized, God adopted you to be His child, whom He loves. When you learn Bible verses by heart, God uses those verses, your whole life long, to speak to you and to reassure you of His love. John 3:16, “God loved the world” . . . That means you, you know. When you receive Holy Communion, God reassures of you His love for you as His Son says to you this is my body given for you, this is my blood shed for you. No greater love has anyone than this, that He lay down His life for His friends. And Jesus told His friends, His apostles, this, “Whoever hears you, hears me.” That’s a powerful promise for you to keep in mind. When you hear your pastor tell you, God loves you, you can be sure that my words are as true as if you were hearing a voice come from heaven.
When you read the Bible on your own, or hear it read in Church, you’ll get this same happy message again and again, God loves you. Today we heard from Isaiah, God’s preacher of the Gospel for the people of the Old Testament times. God gave Isaiah these words to preach in Isaiah 43:1 &4a
But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
"Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
Because you are precious in my eyes,
and honored, and I love you,
We’re hearing here, how God speaks His love to the Old Testament people. And it needed to be said, because God also had quite a bit of stern words for the Old Testament people – words of warning and words of judgment. God was often upset with His people, angry and justifiably so because they rebelled against Him, chose false gods instead of him; they acted as if He were not real.
At one point it got so bad that God regretted having created people. He let it rain and rain in a worldwide flood. He destroyed the whole civilization and started over fresh and new.
So the people of the Old Testament who believed in God, might have been left wondering, is God upset with us still? They needed to hear from Him the clear words, “I love you.” So God spoke it, out loud, through Isaiah His prophet.
And what about us, now? How do we know what mood God is in? Humanity seems to be becoming more and more depraved, running farther and farther away from God and from God’s good ways. Is God again going to reach that point where He regrets having made us? Will He give up on us all? What’s God’s disposition toward me, you, or anyone?
We might wonder if God loves us, because we do hear other things from God as well. We hear His law, written in our hearts and spelled out in the Bible. We realize -- we admit -- that we don’t measure up against that law. We don’t meet the requirements.
No sinner should be so arrogant as to assume God is happy with them, as though saying to themselves, “God must like me, everyone likes me.” It is foolishness to think, “Ach, God doesn’t mind my little sins.”
Listen to how John the Baptist describes God’s attitude toward those who sin, those who aren’t good, who don’t deserve God’s approval:
His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire."
When the harvest is brought in, the wheat or barley is laid on the threshing floor. The harvester takes his long fork, sticks it in the pile of grain and scoops up some, tosses it up in the air. As the grain falls back down, the warm breeze blows away the loosened husks, the chaff. The wind blows this junk off to the side and it settles to the ground, in piles of very combustible fibers. Thus the harvester has made two piles, one for keeps, grain to make bread, and one pile of refuse to be burned.
That, John says, is the judgment that is about to come. Which pile will you land in?
If we are honest with each other and with ourselves and with God, we will admit that our sins of thought, word and deed have made us, according to God’s judgment, fit for the fire.
But can we find a word from God, beyond judgment?
We must find our answer in Jesus. We must believe that in Jesus we have God’s love.
Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened,  and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, "You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased."
From heaven we hear what is on God’s mind and what is in God’s heart. God loves His Son, Jesus Christ. He is pleased with Jesus.
At least God is happy with one man. He hasn’t given up on all creation.
That’s like the bit of good news at Noah’s time. When God looked around at the world and saw that the people’s thoughts and actions were only evil, all the time, He resolved to destroy them all, and then there’s this one line: “Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.”
God was pleased with Noah. At least there was one man, whom God could still love. He chose to save Noah. He told Noah to build an ark in which to ride out the storm. And Noah brought two of every kind of animals into the ark and the members of His family and they were saved in that ark.
Now Jesus has the Father’s love. God is pleased with Jesus, and Jesus builds His church, and draws people into it and they are saved in the safety of the church from the wrath of God. By baptism you have been brought into the holy ark of the church. You are with Jesus and so will be saved from the winnowing of judgment that is to come.
In the church you hear the Word of God that says a kinder, gentler word than His judgment of displeasure. You hear Him say, “I love you.”
Outside the church, the Lord speaks, but it is His word against sin. He says, “The soul that sins shall die”. Death is how God expresses His attitude toward sin and the rebellion of humanity. Outside the church is sin, death, and the burning of the chaff.
In the church there is the Gospel of Jesus and baptism of Jesus.
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?
We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
In Jesus we have God’s love. We hear what God says to Jesus and we can apply it to ourselves because we are baptized into Jesus. ``You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased.''
What a great blessing it is to hear God speak His love to us. There is no reason to doubt His eternal love. He has put away our sin, having given it to Jesus who paid for it at the cross. Without sin and guilt, we are safe from God’s displeasure and we can rejoice to hear of His good pleasure.
God is so good to us as to lavish upon us His doting words of love, like a Father who is just happy to have His children in His home, around His table. You who believe and are baptized, it is you He is talking to when He says, you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you,
In the same way, don’t give your loved ones reason to doubt your love. Show them your love with kindness and going out of your way to make their day. Tell them your love. Take a moment to put down what you’re obsessed with and express your care and appreciation to those God has given you to love. Listen to what is important to them, so you can find even new ways of loving them the way your heavenly Father loves you.
Monday, October 12, 2015
Oct. 11, 2015
Unsure of Yourself; Sure of God
Grace, Mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Hear again the starting sentence from the Gospel reading for today:
And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?"
Notice the posture of this man with a question. He was not standing with a sneer as did so many other questioners we hear about, cynically trying to catch Jesus in a trap of words, proving that His message is wrong and He is a fraud. He doesn’t sit there scoffing, refusing to believe all that Jesus would say, refusing to appreciate all that Jesus would do. No, he kneels. He seems to sincerely fear the Lord. He seems to be genuinely concerned about his future, his destiny. Sadly, his question didn’t get an answer he could accept.
This man sure seemed religious enough. He knew the commandments and had kept them his whole life. He was doing well for himself, great possessions, a success in life. But he had to ask Jesus, what must I do? He had everything going for him; still he was unsure of himself and uncertain about his eternal salvation.
That’s how it is, folks. When you cling to the things of this life, you can’t be sure of yourself. There is uncertainty in your riches, in your status, and in your accomplishments. But there is certainty with God. If you only measure life in terms of how much you have or what you do for a living or what good you yourself can do, you will end up with nothing but uncertainty. You’ll worry and wonder, will I be able to keep what I have and get more? Will I be noticed, and recognized for what all I’ve accomplished? Have I done enough good? That’s uncertainty.
With God there is certainty. He says it. And it’s so. And you know what He says -- things like this: “God so loved that world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”
God says things like, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.”
The Old Testament reading today ended with this sentiment:
Hate evil, and love good,
and establish justice in the gate;
it may be that the Lord, the God of hosts,
will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.
This is a tricky verse. It might sound like Gospel at first, but really it worked as law for the people Amos was preaching to. It set them up to desire something more, something more certain than just a “maybe”. This was a call to repentance. Hate evil, and love good and maybe the Lord will be gracious.
The Holy Spirit works through the law to tell sinners to turn from their sinful ways and listen to what God has to say next. A sinner, convicted of His sins, fears God and worries about judgment, wishing that maybe, the Lord will be gracious.
And many people that that’s the best they can hope for. The best feeling that they can get. People don’t expect certainty. Some of you probably feel that way when it comes to your eternal destiny. Saying, “Maybe the Lord will be gracious to me at the end. But I’m not so sure.”
The Gospel of Jesus Christ has more for you than maybe, more for you than probably, more for you than uncertainty.
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness
No merit of my own I claim
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
On Christ the solid rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.
You ought to be unsure of yourself, your merit, your works, your riches. But you cannot be unsure of Christ. He is the Rock, the only Rock, on which you stand.
Throw away whatever uncertainty you have about your status with God, your acceptance by God, your eternal life with God, and set your hopes on the solid foundation of Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
Don’t settle for maybe or probably when it comes to your salvation. Uncertainty about your salvation is a big problem. Martin Luther called uncertainty a “monster”, “worse than all the other monsters.”
It’s a monster that attacks and strangles faith. It leads poor believers to doubt and to despair and to just give up. The uncertain soul is anxious for a while, but the Monster of Uncertainty uses that anxiety to so tear up faith that eventually there’s nothing left but apathy and hopelessness. And so the defeated person just walks away, physically like this man in Mark 10, or walks away intellectually and emotionally from the things of faith.
Martin Luther warned people about the Monster of Uncertainty. Christians will invite that monster in whenever they start thinking that their salvation has something to do with their works. That is, they believe, foolishly, that God will like them if they do good and avoid evil. Sin rises up as it does in all of us and the poor sinner worries, have I let God down? He probably doesn’t like me anymore.
Or here’s another common way that the Monster works on Christians. Many believe a message that the Gospel is only real to those who feel it in their hearts. Those glowing warm, happy feelings that you get when you are really feeling religious, those are the key to faith and righteousness before God. The Monster of Uncertainty waits until you are feeling down, tired, sad, and the Monster of Uncertainty says, maybe you aren’t saved, because you aren’t feeling it. You don’t have that bubbly feeling? You must be separated from God. So says the Monster.
Such doubts and worries will inevitably arise as we cling to our riches, whatever our riches may be. None of us here cans say, well, I’m not like that man in Mark 10. He was rich. I’m not rich. We all have riches. Whether it be enough money to splurge, or rich in emotions of happiness and pleasure in this earthly life, or rich in relationships with the friends and family God has given. Whatever our riches, when we cling to them we are not clinging to Christ and we will soon feel the effects of the Monster of Uncertainty.
If you ever wonder “How could I survive without my riches, without my happiness, without my loved one? What will happen if I lose that which I love so much?” That’s the uncertainty that the riches of life bring.
Instead, trust in this. You have treasure in heaven. Jesus Christ and Him alone is all you need. So long as Jesus sits in heaven at the right hand of God the Father, interceding for you, watching over you, you have all that you need.
Whatever your sins, whatever your mortality and your fear of death, whatever attacks the devil and his monsters may bring against you, You have a sure and certain Savior, Jesus Christ. He died for you to take away God’s wrath and disappointment. He died and rose again, to defeat death and all the reasons you might have for worry and fear about death. He gives you continuously His words and promises of forgiven and salvation. He gives you baptism, and the new life that comes from there. He gives You His body and blood for your forgiveness life and salvation.
How, then can we doubt? If God did not love us, He never would have gone to all that trouble.
If you love someone, you prove yourself trustworthy to them. You keep your promises. You tell them the truth. God is, of course, better at doing that kind of thing than you are. He loves you. He cannot lie to you. He cannot fail to keep His promises to you. You can be sure of God.
Now you might say, “Doubts and worries are unavoidable. They are to be expected. Everyone has them. No one can be 100% certain.”
Let’s be very careful to define what doubt is. When you doubt God, you are insulting God.
1 John 5:10
Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son.
See what horrible, blasphemous thing the Monster of Uncertainty does in you? It says, “God’s lying”. He is lying when He says He loves you. He is lying when He says, “I forgive you.” He is lying when He says you will have eternal life.
Doubt is a sin. Call it a sin. Treat it like a sin. Repent and believe the gospel of forgiveness in Jesus Christ. Follow Him and you will have treasure in heaven.
If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
Sunday, June 28, 2015
I say to you, ‘Arise!’
Grace, Mercy and Peace are yours from God our Father and from our Lord Jesus Christ.
40 And they laughed at him. But he put them all outside and took the child's father and mother and those who were with him and went in where the child was.41 Taking her by the hand he said to her, “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” 42 And immediately the girl got up and began walking
Now, today, at this moment, you and I are not at such a traumatic moment as was happening for this little girl and her parents. Some of you have been there at one point or another. Some of you have been close, frighteningly close. But at the moment we’re ok. God has allowed us to wake up this morning, breathe, and get out of bed.
Still it is good for us to hear Jesus words: “I say to you, arise.” On the last day, we believe that Jesus will speak something similar and our bodies will rise from their sleep and have life everlasting.
And at our last hour, well, we have the confidence to face our last hour, without being scared to death, because we believe Jesus will be there with us and we will hear Him say, ”I say to you, arise.” And He will send His holy angels to carry our souls to heaven to be with Him.
And in the meantime, our Lord is calling us, inviting us, into the life He gives and gives abundantly. Daily we can enjoy and give thanks for His life.
Ephesians chapter 2 starts out this way: you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world
That’s not an exaggeration. God is the creator of life, the source of life. So He is also the judge of life.
Without Him there is no life. Apart from Him, there is no life, only death.
So many, still walking around on earth, breathing, eating, drinking, going to work every day, yet they are dead. They want nothing to do with God, couldn’t care less what Jesus has to say, only deal with goodness and righteousness when it suits them. They are at ease in the trespasses and sins in which they walk, following the course of this world. It’s an existence separated from God, separated from the Lord of Life, It’s death and they don’t care.
But in Ephesians, God is talking to you, and to me and to every other man, woman and child who will listen, you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world
That’s not an exaggeration. That’s the reality of our sinful state.
That’s where we are, when we hear Jesus calling, : “I say to you, arise.”
Think on that daily. Consider your thoughts, words and deeds. Identify those trespasses and sins you think and say and do that put you at a distance from the Lord. When they separate you from the Lord, that’s death, repent of those. Turn around from those. Turn to Him who is calling you to Arise!
We as Christians need to diagnose what goes on in us and what goes on around us in this world. We need to be able to recognize the signs of death that are all around us.
God created us and everything in this world for life.
God created Adam, and then saw that it was not good that He was alone, so He created Eve who was a suitable companion for Adam. Now Eve was different from Adam, But that’s how God designed humanity – male and female. We are different on purpose. The Greek word for different is hetero. God gave Eve for Adam so that Adam could love someone who was different than Himself, “other than” Himself. Had Adam been given someone who was the same as Himself, it wouldn’t have been the same kind of love. If you love someone who is identical, it’s very close to self love. It’s like Narcissus of ancient mythology who was infatuated and obsessed with his own reflection.
Our Lord’s love for us is the pattern of the complete opposite of selfish love. He loves by giving up Himself for us. He loves us with a hetero love. He is the Creator, we are the creation. He loves us who are different than Himself, separate from Him, other than Himself.
Adam had this happy, blessed opportunity to love someone who was other than himself, He found love in someone who was different – different physically, emotionally, sexually, and vocationally.
That was the first marriage.
And God blessed that first marriage with life.
Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten[a] a man with the help of the Lord.”
Marriage was given for love, for companionship, and for life – for the next generation of living breathing souls. God designed this world that the future life would come from the blessed companionship of man and woman in marriage.
We are in a world broken by sin and marked by death and so, in our homes the picture isn’t as perfect as it was in the paradise of Eden. Well, already with Cain, he hated and killed the second born. And never ever since has there been a perfect family. Parents have died and left children orphaned. Children have died too soon and left parents with wrenching grief and pain. Brokenness and Divorce has separated parents from their children. Abusive parents, rebellious children have brought sin upon sin.
We see the horrible problems, but the broken situations do not change reality. The bad examples do not give an excuse to change the definition of marriage. Just because something is so often wrong doesn’t mean we can give up on what should be right.
God wanted you to be blessed by marriage, even if He hasn’t called you to be married. And not everyone is called to be married, still God wanted you to be blessed by the institution of marriage, He designed creation such that a man and woman would be united in one flesh so that you would have mother and father and life.
Although marriages are often flawed, Marriage is good and God-given. Marriage is for love of another, love for a person who is different, hetero. And, Marriage is for having children, for life of the next generation.
When the powers that be deny that, when the rulers of this earth, even with the slimmest majority, say something like, Here’s what we say marriage is. When the rulers on their high bench say, “Nope, nope, marriage doesn’t have anything to do with making new life, but it’s all about the human rights of individuals. Marriage is all about filing a joint tax return and sharing health care benefits and being happy with yourself. And those rights of marriage, can be for any odd combination of people. – when the powers that be in our world say that marriage is about all this other stuff, but not about life, then what are we left with? . . . death.
This death-filled world around us needs to hear what our Lord Jesus has to say: I say to you, arise.
Now I know some of you watch the news and shake your head, and get flustered and flabbergasted and even frightened sometimes. What’s this world coming to! Well, don’t get too worked up about it. Don’t get too upset. That won’t help.
In the Gospel reading today, Jesus comes up to Jairus’ house and sees all the fuss and hears all the weeping and He says, Stop crying, the child isn’t dead, she’s just sleeping. And they laughed at Him.
That’s kind of a hard sentence to hear from the Bible, isn’t it? They laughed at your Lord and what He said. But really it wasn’t a problem. It didn’t hinder Him. He went on with it. He went into the house. He said what He was going to say. “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.”
The world will laugh at our Lord, ridicule His ways, distort and try to hinder what He says. He will keep speaking. We will keep listening.
He will keep calling to those dead in trespasses and sins. Arise!
And to those who maybe aren’t even tempted by the weirdest perversions that we hear too much about, He sill says, Arise! We admit: All of us have those things on our conscience that would lead us to death. Rejoice, daily that you have your Lord Jesus calling to you, “Arise!”
Pray for the world around you. Pray for the children who are to grow up in this world on its way to death. And pray that the Lord would keep on calling, delivering, saving and giving His good life.