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Sermon – July 5, 2020 – Pentecost 5

Printable PDF:  Pentecost 5 – Divine Service II

David R. Clark   ~   July 5, 2020  ~  Pentecost 5  ~  Matthew 10:24-33

Don’t Be Afraid

24 “The student is not above the teacher, nor a servant above his master. 25 It is enough for students to be like their teachers, and servants like their masters. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebul, how much more the members of his household! 26 “So do not be afraid of them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. 28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. 30 And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. 32 “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. 33 But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.

 

Dear friends in our Savior Jesus,

          There seems to be a commonality in many of the conversations I’ve had with people lately. It’s not COVID-19, although I’m sure that has contributed. It’s about “fear.” So many times, people will say things like this: “I’m afraid that…” or “I’m worried that…”

          We all have our fears. Some people fear living things: like snakes, bugs, rodents. Others have fears of losing: their jobs, their health, their lives. Still others have fear of situations: heights, enclosed spaces, change.

           A little fear can be a good thing. We teach children to fear walking in the street. Luther’s explanations to the commandments start, “We should fear and love God that…”

          But sometimes fear is a lack of faith. We shouldn’t fear for our country knowing that God is directing all things. And we shouldn’t fear what it means to be a believer in an unbelieving world. Jesus knew this would not be easy. Three times, as he was sending his disciples out on their vicar year, he told them: “DON’T BE AFRAID.”

  1. As you pay a price for being a believer

          It is a simple thing to say, “Don’t be afraid.” But Jesus explains what his disciples should expect. Forewarned is fore armed. He explains why they do not need to fear.

          (24-28) 24 “The student is not above the teacher, nor a servant above his master. 25 It is enough for students to be like their teachers, and servants like their masters. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebul, how much more the members of his household! 26 “So do not be afraid of them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. 28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

          Remember how they treated Jesus? Remember how he was ridiculed and mocked? Remember how people wouldn’t understand him? If it happened to Jesus, then don’t be surprised if it also happens to you. The denial of Jesus was so strong that some people said: (Mt 12:24) “It is only by Beelzebub, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.” If they treated Jesus this way, disciples should not expect any different.

          That’s usually where the fear comes in. Some people claim to like to be unique or individuals, but no one likes to be ridiculed. We want people to like us. That’s when the temptation to fear comes. That temptation is real and it is powerful.

When it seems like everyone is criticizing authorities, it’s hard to be the voice that “honors, serves, and obeys them and gives them love and respect.” When people cheapen human life, whether it be an unborn child, or someone of a different race, it’s difficult to stand up and say, “Jesus considers them so precious, he died for them too.” Shades of truth was originated by Satan. But are you willing to tell that to someone who thinks truth and opinion are the same thing? That’s where the fear comes in.

          Jesus was faced with such crises, yet he never hesitated. In love he spoke up, even when people called what was the truth a lie, and the lie, truth; what was bad, good, and what was good, bad. That’s what it took to win salvation for you and me. He pleased God, not his human flesh, or other people, because he loved us that much.

As students of him as our master, we look at it as a privilege to stand up for him. We know that is not always popular. The tongue of public opinion is razor sharp. We may suffer just a little bit of what he suffered for us for doing so. But, don’t be surprise and do not be afraid.

  1. Because you reap benefits for being a believer.

          It’s easier to be confident if we look to Jesus. If we see how blessed we are to have a Savior who has paid for every time we have feared. But there are many more benefits to being a believer than just salvation. You have great benefit right now today. (29-33) 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. 30 And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. 32 “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. 33 But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.

          Would you be impressed if someone could tell you exactly how many pigeons there are in downtown Glendale? Would you be even more impressed to have that same person know when one of them dies? Your Father in heaven does. But he doesn’t care about them nearly the way he cares for you. He rose for you. If he cares for something as worthless as a pigeon, imagine what his care for you is like!

You all know what it is to be loved by someone, a parent, a spouse, a child; it shows in the way they treat us. We treasure and appreciate those people. Jesus does better! He knows you so intimately and so personally that he even knows the number of hairs on your head. Ok, he doesn’t have to count as high for some people as others!

What would you do for someone who loves you like that? Would you speak up for him and acknowledge him even when it is uncomfortable. Even if it meant you had to suffer for him? We aren’t afraid because we reap benefits for being believers.

Maybe it’s just a figure of speech when people say, “I’m afraid that,” or “I’m concerned that.” Or maybe we need to look more and more to Jesus. Brothers and sisters, God’s care for you is every day, day by day, forever. Look to him. Grow in him. And as you do, don’t be afraid. Amen.

Sermon – June 28, 2020 – Pentecost 4

Printable PDF:  6-28-2020 Pentecost 4 Sermon

Vicar Jason Lindemann  ~  Matthew 9:35-10:8  ~  June 28, 2020  ~  Pentecost 4

35Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 36When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” 1Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness. 2These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; 3Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; 4Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. 5These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. 6Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. 7As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 8Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.

 Jesus Takes Good Care of Us

When I would babysit my younger brothers, the last thing my parents would say to me was, “You take care of your brothers.” It’s a good thing they said that, because that was not on the top of my priority list when they would leave. I was racing to the good food in the fridge and leaving them with leftovers, and to the GameCube so that I could play the videogame and they could find something else to do. Since they were my brothers, I didn’t really have any compassion for them. But my parents were trying to teach me to look at them the way they looked at them – as their children on whom they had compassion and of whom they were taking good care. That’s not how I was looking at them at all! But when my parents would say that “you take care of your brothers,” they would make it clear to me that I was to care for them with the compassion they had for them. I didn’t always do the best at that, parents do much better, but Jesus does it the best. Jesus takes good care of us. Jesus has compassion on his people and he gives freely to his people.

  1. Jesus has compassion on his people. (verses 35-38)

Jesus had compassion on those crowds and recognized their problem. He had a pretty good sample size – all the towns and villages in Galilee! Jesus recognized they all had the same problem. What was it? A good chunk of them had the same problem that Jesus took care of. He healed each and every disease and sickness. Was any of the crowd blind, mute, bleeding, or dead? Jesus healed it all. But that was just part of the crowd that had that problem. Here’s the problem he saw when he looked at the crowds, “They were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Jesus looked at these people and noticed that some were in physical pain, but what ripped his heart out of his chest was their souls. They were in spiritual and emotional pain. Their consciences hurt them; their sins burdened them.

And Jesus’ heart went out to those ‘sheep without a shepherd’. Sheep without a shepherd are in deep trouble. They can’t run fast, have no defensive moves, they don’t know where they’re going, they’re sitting prey for any number of common predators who are hungry to take them down, or they could go running off a cliff. That’s how Jesus saw those crowds. They were sinful, had no way to cover it and were sitting prey for the attacks of the devil and false teachers who were hungry to make them fall into hell.

He had compassion on those sheep without a shepherd. Jesus’ compassion is powerful and personal. His heart sank to his stomach when he saw that crowd. It turned over and over when he saw the trouble his people were in. And he called for action. He didn’t sit there and watch his people suffer. He prayed. And he also invited his disciples to pray. “Disciples, see the crowds? They are like sheep without a shepherd. They are like a harvest with almost no one to bring them in. That’s the Lord’s harvest. Those are the Lord’s people. Pray that he save them!” Jesus’ big heart went out to those lost people; he had compassion on them. Jesus’ compassion called for action. His disciples prayed, and God acted.

Jesus’ compassion isn’t limited to those crowds in all the towns and villages of Galilee. He has compassion on all his people. He has compassion on you. Jesus recognizes that the problem that each of the people in those crowds had is the same problem we have. We also have spiritual and emotional burdens. Without a shepherd, what would we do to fix them? Would you run after someone who promised you happiness and help, only to find out he is a false teacher, a ferocious wolf attacking your soul? Would you run to satisfy the desires of your sinful flesh to try to numb the hurt with any number of vices to fall of the cliff to your doom? Would you run to fend for yourself, only to find out that you are lost in sin?

Jesus recognizes our problem, and his heart goes out to you. You aren’t just another doomed sheep to him. He sees you as his. He has compassion on you because you are his people. When he sees you lost in your sin like sheep without a shepherd, his heart sinks and turns over and over and goes out to you. He sees your pain and he feels it, too.

And he doesn’t just feel sorry for you. Jesus’ compassion led him to save you. Jesus’ compassion led him to the cross. He didn’t want you to be lost in spiritual and emotional pain anymore. He didn’t want to lose you to sin, because he had compassion on you as his people. He went to the cross to suffer your spiritual and emotional pain. He paid the price for your sins. He took the assault of the predators and the danger you were in. He has a big heart for you. He made sure to take good care of you.

Jesus makes it so that we aren’t sheep without a shepherd. He is our shepherd who takes good care of us. He has great compassion on his people. He doesn’t limit his compassion either. He doesn’t stop at being our shepherd. Jesus gives freely to his people.

  1. Jesus gives freely to his people. (verses 1-8)

Jesus sent apostles to give freely to his people. This is how Jesus chose to take care of those crowds, those lost sheep of Israel. He sent the apostles. 5Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. 6Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. This was not Jesus giving unwillingly to the Gentiles, but giving freely to the lost sheep of Israel. He had a different way to take good care of the Gentiles. Here’s the roster of the real people to whom Jesus gave his authority to take good care of the people of Israel. It was not a random assignment. Jesus sent them to the lost sheep of Israel because the disciples knew those people. These were their family and neighbors whom they saw every day. Jesus didn’t send them randomly. He sent them to give freely to those people whom they already knew.

He sent them to preach the gospel and to spread his compassion on his people. 7As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 8Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.

Jesus sent them to freely give what they freely received from him, which is the Gospel. Those apostles weren’t miraculously healed by Jesus physically, but they were once lost sheep who were freely given the Gospel that they learned from Jesus. This was what they were to give freely to God’s people in Israel. They were to spread his compassion by the forgiveness of sins. And yes, also spread his compassion in other ways – healing, raising, cleansing, driving out demons – but this was not their focus. Jesus takes too good of care of them for physical healing to be the main thing to share. “The kingdom of heaven is near, Jesus is here! He has come to save you.” What a beautiful message that Jesus freely gives to his people.

Jesus also sends you to give freely to his people. He doesn’t send you to the lost sheep of Israel. He has a different way of taking care of them. He takes good care of his people here, the Gentiles, by giving freely to you to give freely to them. Like I read the list of apostles, I could read out of our directory to see the roster of the real people that Jesus has given authority to give the forgiveness of sins to people. He sends you to the lost sheep of your family and neighbors. Jesus gives freely to the lost sheep of Glendale by sending you.

He doesn’t send you to heal diseases or cast out demons. He doesn’t even send you to preach long sermons. He sends you to spread his compassion. He invites you to see people like he does, as people who belong to Jesus. He sends you as a gift to give the gift of the gospel, because you were given the same gift of the Gospel. This is the Gospel – a free gift for all. He freely gave himself to his people to take away the sins of the world. He gave you that gift. You have the gift to give freely to others just as you got it. And just as you didn’t receive it by getting it forced down your throats, neither do you do that. You don’t have to, there’s no certain way to do it. But Jesus invites you to freely spread his compassion. So you show acts of goodness, words of kindness, and pray for your family and neighbors to reflect Jesus’ compassion with the message about the one who takes good care of you.

Jesus is our best caretaker. He has the compassion for his people to do it. His heart goes out to the ones who are suffering, and he helps them. He gives freely to his people and teaches his people to give freely as well. This all reflects that Jesus takes good care of us, and will take good care of us forever.  Amen.

Sermon – June 21, 2020 – Pentecost 3

Printable PDF:  6-21-2020 Pentecost 3

June 21, 2020  ~  Pentecost 3  ~  Vicar Jason Lindemann

 

Jesus has boundless mercy for you

 

9 As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him. 10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples.

11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”  12 On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

I’m all by myself! Ever since I got here, Pastor Clark told me the time would come where I would cover the church myself. My hope was to make sure the building was still standing when they get back, but I think it’s going better than that. He told me that you would have mercy on me. When I came to Grace, there was no good reason for you people to have mercy on me. You had never met me before last August to give you a reason to be nice to me. The time that I’m here is limited to one year, so you weren’t playing the long game either. There was no reason for you to learn about me, or learn from me, or be patient with me while I tried to remember your names. I know I didn’t deserve that. But you showed me mercy, and you did all those things, and I really value the mercy you had on me to be your Vicar. That’s mercy from person to person. Jesus talks about another kind of mercy today. The mercy that God has toward us. There is no good reason for God to have mercy on sinners, but he showed mercy to Matthew, and Jesus has boundless mercy for you, too. He has mercy on people who need him and his mercy makes you spiritually healthy.

  1. Mercy for people who need him (V9-10)

If anybody needed mercy, it was Matthew, and Jesus was walking right for him. Jesus was coming from calming the fierce storm on the Sea of Galilee, and making a paralyzed man walk. Jesus was walking along the road and saw a sinner. Yes, aren’t we all sinners, but this was a man whose sins everyone knew about, and who hung around sketchy people as well. He was a tax collector. Matthew was sitting at the tax collector’s booth on the side of the road, where people would have to pay their taxes, and then pay Matthew outrageous processing and handling fees as high as the tax collector could get away with. Matthew was living with sick sinners, and he knew it. Matthew knew about Jesus’ teachings and miracles, and he saw the good and powerful Jesus coming down the road, about to walk by him and his sinful tax collector’s booth.

Jesus didn’t admire Matthew at his sinful booth, but he did have mercy on him. Jesus didn’t look at a man who deserved some help. He didn’t see a man in that booth who was doing everything right and just needed a break. He saw a sinner. One sick sinner out of many sick sinners who had nothing to offer Jesus, but who needed Jesus. And Jesus had mercy on Matthew. His mercy is his great, faithful, unfailing love on sinners who need it so badly but have nothing to offer. If you or I were deciding who should get mercy in this world, the last person we would say deserves it is Matthew. Matthew did not deserve it, but he needed Jesus. So when Jesus walked by Matthew’s booth, Jesus told him “follow me,” and Matthew did. Jesus has mercy on people who need him like Matthew.

Matthew followed Jesus as much as he possibly could. God showed Matthew great mercy, and Matthew valued Jesus’ mercy. Look how seriously he took Jesus’ words, “Follow me.” He got up from where he was sitting, and literally started following Jesus on the road and even had him to his house for dinner to celebrate. He also followed Jesus for the rest of his life. Jesus poured out his mercy on this sinner who needed him. His mercy even turned this lowlife sinner into a household name. Jesus’ mercy turned the tax collector into Matthew the Apostle and Matthew the writer of a book of the Bible. Jesus’ mercy turned the sinner into the author of the beautiful, deep, simple Gospel lessons that all of our summer sermons this year will focus on. Jesus’ boundless mercy healed his sick heart.

Maybe you don’t sit at a tax collector’s booth, but where might Jesus walk down the road of your life, only to find you as a sick sinner? Like Matthew, maybe stealing and cheating is so easy in your life that it’s hard to fight against. Like the other sinners that were around Matthew, maybe sexual impurity has taken hold of your life. Maybe there’s a different sinful booth you go to sit, where you hope no one ever finds you. Jesus doesn’t admire you in your sin, but he does have mercy on you. He sees that you need him, and like he called Matthew, he calls you out of sin to follow him.

He doesn’t do that for you because you can offer him anything, but because of his mercy. You would be devastated if God gave you what you deserve. Even our best acts of kindness are like filthy rags to God when they come from a sin sick heart. Our sins deserve punishment. But, Jesus doesn’t give you what you deserve. Jesus has boundless mercy for you. He has so much mercy on you that he would lay down his life for you. And he did die for you. You are in need of a Savior from your sin, and Jesus’ mercy on you led him to the cross to save you. Jesus’ heart is too big not to help you in your need.

Then your merciful Savior rose from the dead, called you out of your sin and calls you to follow him. Follow Jesus as much as you possibly can, like Matthew did. Jesus’ mercy for you gets you out of your sinful booth to follow him. Then keep following Jesus. Don’t run back to that life of sin. Follow Jesus. His mercy turns you from a sinner into his Christian witnesses. You’re not going to write your own book of the Bible, but you still have Jesus’ mercy to share with people who need him. You get to tell the other sinners you know, “Jesus’ mercy even covers my sins, and he has mercy to help you too.”

Jesus has boundless mercy for you and for everyone who needs him. Jesus makes the sick sinner healthy. But there are sick sinners who think they are already healthy. Many sinners don’t see a need for Jesus mercy. But only Jesus’ mercy makes you spiritually healthy.

  1. Mercy makes you spiritually healthy (V11-13)

The Pharisees were sick sinners who didn’t think they needed to be made spiritually healthy. They didn’t think they needed a doctor. The Pharisees were told they were sick, but they didn’t believe they were sick. It’s like they had a stabbing pain in their stomach and horrible nausea, but since they weren’t bleeding out of their eyeballs, they didn’t need to go to the emergency room. They used their own treatment to feel better. Hop in the shower, eat more fruits and vegetables, and they thought they would feel better. Even more devastating than treating appendicitis with better living habits, is to believe that you can make yourself spiritually healthy with good work living habits.

The Pharisees did not believe they were sick sinners. You can hear it in their question, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Jesus is talking about spiritual health. The health of your soul. The Pharisees didn’t think they were sinners. They thought they were spiritually healthy. To convince themselves they were healthy, they sacrificed with good works. Outwardly they looked good – they followed all the laws, they gave big offerings, they could point out right away when someone was doing something wrong. But they didn’t have what they needed. Without faith in Jesus’ mercy, all their best acts of self-sacrifice could not heal their sin sick souls. They thought they could make themselves healthy. But they couldn’t. No one can.

So how can we be spiritually healthy? “God desires mercy, not sacrifice.” Our own sacrifices cannot cover any sins. We can’t self medicate our sin. We can’t decide that if we give up this and this and help this many people and sacrifice this much of our time to God, then we will be healthy. Rather than ignoring this fatal sickness, recognize that it’s Jesus’ mercy that makes you healthy. Let’s see ourselves with the worst of sinners who would die without Jesus, and watch his mercy heal and save your soul.

That’s why we self-examine ourselves before communion. Why am I coming to the Lord’s Supper? Why did I miss the Lord’s Supper so badly when I couldn’t have it? Because on my own I am no better than the worst sinner. I have nothing to sacrifice to God to make him love me. I need his mercy to make me spiritually healthy.

And we find his mercy in the Gospel. Specifically today in the Lord’s Supper and in his Word that we sing. When you taste his supper you receive his mercy that he poured out for you on the cross. And when you sing about his mercy, you remind each other of the Gospel. How many times today have we cried out today, “Lord have mercy”? However many it is, it’s not over yet. Right before we come to communion we sing “O Christ, Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world; have mercy on us.” If anybody needed mercy, it’s us. And Jesus has mercy for you. Keep proclaiming his Gospel and reminding yourself of the mercy he has for you, so that everyone can know that nothing but Jesus’ boundless mercy makes you spiritually healthy.

The mercy that God has on us is completely undeserved. No sacrifice can make us healthy. We need his mercy. And Jesus does have boundless mercy for you who need him. His mercy calls us sinners to follow him. Recognize and value his mercy. His mercy is the only thing that makes you healthy. And he pours out his mercy on you and forgives all your sins.

Sermon – June 14, 2020 – Pentecost 2

Printable PDF:  6-14-2020 Pentecost 2

Pastor Mark R Jacobson                              Pentecost 2 (June 14, 2020)                  Matthew 7:15-29

15“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. 21“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ 24“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” 28When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, 29because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.

FINISH IN THE SAME WAY YOU STARTED!

What’s more important: the start or the finish? Gardeners, is the planting more important or less important than the harvesting? Booklovers, is a gripping opening chapter more important or less important than a dramatic conclusion? Do-it-Yourselfers, is knowing what you are doing more important or less important than getting the job done? What’s more important: the start or the finish?

  • Listening to God’s Word, not false teaching

Matthew 7:28-29, “28When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, 29because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.” The things Jesus had finished saying is known as the Sermon on the Mount. In a little over 100 Bible verses Jesus laid out the building blocks for the Christian life of faith. And the crowds went wild. They had been listening to Jesus like they were listening to word of God. And they were listening to God’s Word! What a wonderful start for their life of faith.

One challenge for this crowd in the future would be not having Jesus personally teaching them every day. In the coming years they would have the apostles and the evangelists teaching them God’s Word, but not everyone speaking God’s Word to them would be speaking God’s Word to them. That’s why Jesus issues the warning, “15Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.” No false prophet has ever prophesied with a sign over his head that reads, “I am a false prophet.” False prophets look like true prophets. False prophets appear as soft and gentle as sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. Their false teaching can obliterate the good work of faith God has started in people. So how can you tell who is telling the truth?

16By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. The fruit of a prophet is what he has to say. In Old Testament times you could spot a false prophet by whether or not his words came true in the future. In these New Testament times you can spot a false prophet by whether or not his words adds to God’s Word says or subtracts from what God’s Word says. To say a person is saved by faith and good works is adding to God’s Word. To say a person is saved by grace no matter what they believe is to subtract from God’s Word. To deny the 6 day creation account in favor of evolution is to subtract from God’s Word. To say that Christ will come back and reign for 1,000 years before he judges the world is to add to God’s Word. In any of these kind of situations you are no longer listening to God’s Word, but a false prophet!

Finish in the same way you started, listening to God’s Word. That means listening for God’s Word in church like you look for good fruit at the grocery store. If you do the grocery shopping at your house, you examine the fruit you put in your cart. You don’t want to buy rotten apples or brown bananas or sour grapes. What a waste! Even worse is to continue to listen to false prophets because you fail to examine what is being preached and taught. When it’s called a sin in the Bible, it better be called a sin from this pulpit, and from our classrooms and in your home. And if that sin is called forgiven in the Bible, it better be called forgiven from this pulpit and from our classrooms and in your home.                

  • Believing in Jesus, not becoming a hypocrite

Finish in the same way you started, listening to God’s Word, not false teaching, and believing in Jesus, not becoming a hypocrite. That’s the direction Jesus’ teaching turns in verse 21, “21“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven,” If you run a business “word of mouth” is a big deal. Your business will do better with 10 recommendations from satisfied customers than with 10 thousand dollars in advertising. God loves “word of mouth” too. God loves your songs of praise. God loves my preaching of the gospel. God loves parents making life applications of God’s Word with their children. God loves children telling their friends about Jesus. God loves word of mouth, but God doesn’t love lip service. Lip service can sound exactly like word of mouth, but lip service doesn’t mean a word of it. “Without faith, the Bible says, it is impossible to please God (He 11:6). Spiritual apathy may lead some to go through the motions of Christianity, thinking that keeping a few church milestones like Baptism or Confirmation and a few key church services is enough for salvation. Lip service is not enough and neither is an outward display of good works. Jesus taught in verse 22, “22Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’  That’s quite a list of good works! How does your list compare to this list? My list isn’t that good either! No matter how good your list of works, it’s not good enough. Believing in Jesus is not about good words and good works. Believing in Jesus is a reason for good words and good works. Unfortunately, becoming a hypocrite is also a reason for good words and good works.

So how can we tell who really believes? We can’t. We can fool each other. We might even fool ourselves. We can’t fool God. He knows the heart. He sees apathy. He sees self-righteousness. He sees faith. Here Jesus teaches, “(the one who) will enter the kingdom of heaven (is) … the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” Elsewhere Jesus taught, “The will of the father is this: believe in the one he has sent (John 6:29).

Believe in Jesus. Believe he forgives your moments of apathy. Believe he forgives your moments of self-righteousness. He is your Savior because he is your consistent Savior! From start to finish he believed in his heavenly Father’s plan of salvation. From start to finish he not only said the right things and did the right things for our forgiveness he also said words and did those works with pure motives and honest intentions.

  • Standing tall through it all, not falling away

Finish in the same way you started, listening to God’s Word and believing in Jesus. Jesus sums up these two lessons this way, 24“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

Listening to God’s Word and believing in Jesus adds up to paradise in heaven. It does not add up to paradise on earth. I wish that it did. I like warm sunshine and gentle breezes, but not every day is like this. The weather changes and seasons change.

Today, in the church we start the seasons of Sundays after Pentecost. We start with Pentecost 2 and then Pentecost 3, then Pentecost 4 and 5 and 6 and 16 and 17 and 18. By then it will be the End Times. Sunday topics will include: the Final Judgment, Saint Triumphant and Christ the King. Will you stand tall through it all? Will you stand holy before God at the Final Judgment? Will you hear Jesus say, “Well done, good and faithful servant?” Will you follow Christ the King into heaven or will you fall away with a great crash?

Finish in the same way you start! It all starts with Jesus. Your life was built on that rock in Baptism. Your life was built on that rock when you first believed. It all starts with Jesus. It all ends with Jess too. Don’t blow your Christian life by becoming lazy with your listening. Don’t blow your Christian life by becoming careless with what you first believed. Stand tall through it all. Finish in the same way you start … with Jesus. Amen.

Sermon – June 7, 2020 – Trinity Sunday

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Pastor David Clark  ~  Matthew 28:16-20  ~  June 7, 2020  ~  Trinity Sunday

REMOVING CHRISTIAN DOUBT

16Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Brothers and sisters in Christ,

Historians name the ages of history:  the Renaissance, the Dark Ages, the Age of Enlightenment. Some have tried to name the age in which we live, but no names have really caught on, so I’m going to take a stab. I think we are living in the age of doubt. What is healthy and what is not? What about our society?

Since faith is the opposite of doubt, a person of faith might wonder about having doubts. But doubt for a Christian does not mean denial. You may be uncertain how we have one God who is also three persons, but that doesn’t mean you deny the Trinity.

None of us would describe doubt as a good thing. So, what do we do? This portion of Matthew’s gospel is considered by many to be the second most familiar portion of the Bible after John 3:16. But the word that jumps off the page when I read it is, “doubt.”

  1. Jesus supplies the purpose.

Jesus knew his disciples had doubts, but he didn’t tell them to figure it out on their own. That would be like asking kindergartners (or even the 8th graders) to figure out the best way to learn while they are in school.

Jesus took away doubt by giving them a specific purpose. 19aTherefore go and make disciples of all nations. They were to do for other people, what he had done for them. They were to teach people to follow Jesus.

We are here to be those disciples. We need to continue to grow in our faith and in our Christian life. In our highly competitive and technologically savvy world, no one would say an eighth grade education is adequate. Nor is an eighth grade spiritual education adequate. To remove doubt we need to continue to be taught as his disciples.

It doesn’t end there. The Triune God also gives us this purpose to GO and make disciples. In other words, to live as his disciples before the rest of the world and enlist others who do not know Jesus or who have an incomplete understanding of what Jesus has done and to make them disciples.

  1. Jesus supplies the tools.

But how do we do that? Changing a car headlight was like that. I got a new headlight and my Phillips screwdriver and found there were no Phillips screws. There was this little star imprint on the screw. I couldn’t fix it because I didn’t have the right tool.

Jesus supplied the tools they would need to make disciples. 19bbaptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20aand teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.

Jesus removed doubt by using a “one size fits all” tool. He promised that by applying water in the name of the Triune God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – all people become his disciples. No matter your parents or your circumstance, baptism works.

To show his love for all people, he used the most common element on earth, water. He gave it power through his word so that no one would doubt. So the power is not in the amount of water used, or the person applying it, or the age of the person baptized. The power of God is in his Word and allows that water to change sinful hearts.

There will always be a temptation to use tools of our own. No one has ever been threatened, loved, or argued into the kingdom of heaven. No one has ever found their own way there either. That only comes through the use of his tools. Jesus wanted us to be sure how disciples are made.

  1. Jesus supplies the help.

Some people need even more reassurance. The first time I ever did an evangelism call, the pastor for whom I was working gave me a list of homes and gave me this extensive instruction: “Go, do it.” It would have been nice if he had come with me to show me how to do such a call. Jesus supplied help to the disciples. 20bAnd surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

There weren’t too many disciples at that time in Christianity. Eleven guys were going to be responsible for the spread the gospel to the entire world? How would that have made you feel? …a little doubt? …fearful? Would you have felt better if Jesus had been there to help? Jesus assured them that they would never be alone. He would always be with them.

You and I can be overwhelmed with the thought of discipling the world. We can be overwhelmed thinking about just the U.S. or Arizona or Maricopa County. Even if it is just Glendale, it can seem overwhelming. But what about your neighborhood, or even your own house? Even that may make us doubt or be afraid. What if someone came with you to help?

Jesus is with you. You are not alone. If you are unsure about what to say, maybe a little afraid, Jesus tells you, “I am with you. You do not need to be afraid.” The same God who overcame death on a cross through his resurrection from the grave, is here with us, hearing our prayers, speaking to us in his Word.

Jesus may have ascended into heaven but he never really left his disciples. The same is true for you. He is always with you. He wants you to be sure of his love.

It seems that not much has gone right recently. That alone would make it easy to doubt. Thank your Triune God that you have a solution for all doubt in Jesus. He will replace that doubt with confidence. Amen.

Sermon – May 31, 2020 – Pentecost

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Vicar Lindemann  ~  Pentecost  ~  May 31, 2020  ~  John 16:5-11

Everyone needs a helper

5But now I am going to him who sent me. None of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ 6Rather, you are filled with grief because I have said these things. 7But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment:  9about sin, because people do not believe in me; 10about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; 11and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.

– John 16:5-11  

When I have a problem, I feel a lot better about it if I know that there’s someone there to help me. If the laces would snap on my baseball glove during a game, I knew that my coach would help me fix it. When I misplace my headphones at home, if I ask my wife nicely she helps me find them instantly. I don’t even worry if my car breaks down, because I know that Pastor Clark knows a guy to help me get a new one. Do you have someone that you go to when you need some help? Everyone needs a helper. No matter where you are in life, whether you need help reaching something on the top shelf, need help with some life advice or need help from that person who always says just what you need to hear. Everyone needs a helper. You may not have a helper for everything you wish you did, but we all have one helper in common. On this Pentecost and Confirmation Sunday, we pay special attention to the one who helps us in our every need, the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit comes to you, and the Holy Spirit teaches you.

  1. The Holy Spirit comes to you. (verses 5-7)

It was Maundy Thursday evening, the day before Jesus was crucified, and the disciples were scared because Jesus told them that he was leaving soon. Imagine visibly getting to see Jesus, but he tells you he’s about to leave. But Jesus was surprisingly excited for them that he was leaving! He was excited because he knew that after he left, the Advocate would come to them. This title for the Holy Spirit helps us understand why Jesus was so excited to send him. This title in Greek is a word of which you may have heard, Paraclete. It means our legal counselor, the one who speaks in our defense. But nobody uses the word Paraclete, so you can think of the Holy Spirit as an Advocate, as it says here. He is the one who supports and defends you. But my favorite word to use instead of Paraclete is the Helper, with a capitol H. Calling the Holy Spirit the Helper is such an understatement, but it really captures what he does for us. Think of Jesus’ words again with the word “Helper” and see why Jesus is so excited to send him. “It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send the Helper to you.”

The disciples really needed a good helper. They had a hard road ahead of them. Jesus told them that the world was going to treat them badly. He warned them that after he was crucified that the world would attack them because they followed Jesus. They were going to have their lives threatened because of Jesus. Anxiety from Jesus’ warnings filled their minds and grief filled their hearts. They felt helpless. When you have anxiety like that, you need more than advice. When you have grief like that, you need more than words. You need a helper. Everyone needs a helper.

The Holy Spirit is THE Helper. He did come to help the disciples. He came to them because the disciples could not come to the Holy Spirit and neither can any one of us. No one can come to God; he needs to come to us. We can’t find God as we navigate through anxiety, grief, and sin. The disciples were helpless, but God the Holy Spirit helped them. He came into their hearts to remove their grief and fill their hearts with the Word of God. Those disciples who spread the news about Jesus did nothing on their own. They had the Helper. The Holy Spirit worked through the words of Jesus to help the disciples. The Helper gave them the strength they needed.

Could you use a helper? I’m sure you could make good use of a helper with a strong back who could move your furniture or do your yard work. But what about a helper for your mind, your heart, and your life? What about a helper for you confirmands? Are you ready to swear to God that you will continue firmly in this teaching and endure all things rather than fall away from it? Not only for you new confirmands, but could you potential confirmands use a helper? Does it seem crazy to put the amount of work into studying the Bible that these students did to make it here? Or do you not even view yourself as a potential confirmand because you don’t think it’s for you? Not only for you new and potential confirmands, but could you seasoned confirmands use a helper? Or have you become a master on your own of conforming all your life to the teachings of God’s Word? Could you use a helper?

These stages in life all have the potential to fill our hearts with the same uncertainties the disciples had. When your mind is filled with anxiety for the future or depression of the present fills your heart with grief, what can a helper really do for you? No one you can find can make you strong, coach you through your whole life, and also take away your anxiety.

You can’t find a helper like that. But in his mercy, the Helper comes to you. You can’t reach out to find the Holy Spirit, but the Holy Spirit comes to you through the means of Grace. He doesn’t come to you through tongues of fire and foreign languages. He comes to you through simple words of Scripture to give you direction. He comes to you through water in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit in Holy Baptism. He comes to strengthen you through the bread and wine and body and blood of the Lord’s Supper.

And through those ways, those means of grace, the Holy Spirit daily and fully forgives all sins to you and all believers. He strengthens your faith to hold onto Jesus firmly and endure anything rather than fall away. The Helper helps you learn the truths of the Bible. The Helper defends you from the words of the devil trying to keep you away from church. The Holy Spirit sanctifies and sets apart your life to live according to God’s Word. The Helper works in your heart and forgives all your sins.

Everyone needs a helper. Jesus has not left you without one. The Holy Spirit is your helper, and he comes to you. The Holy Spirit works through the Word to give you faith in Jesus who takes away your sins. He also teaches you. The Helper gives you direction for your life. He teaches you how to navigate through this dark world by the light of his Word.

  1. The Holy Spirit teaches you. (verses 8-11)

“When the Helper comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment.” The Helper has his work cut out for him. The world has a lot to say about sin and righteousness and judgment, or maybe you’re more familiar with the words the world uses:  what’s right and wrong. The world has a lot to say about what’s right and wrong. The world says that people express their love for each other ultimately through intimate relationships. If it’s done in the name of love, it’s right. The world says that you have to be crazy to follow the out-dated morality of the Bible. The Bible is old-fashioned and wrong. The world says no one can judge me, I’m in charge of myself. The world says believe in Jesus, you know that’s a myth, right? How badly we need the Helper to help our faith in a world that doesn’t love God.

That’s what the Holy Spirit does. He teaches us about what God says. The things he teaches us proves the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment. The Helper teaches us the right way to express our love, to love our neighbor as ourselves, and to reserve for marriage that intimate relationship. The Helper gives us his guidance to apply the truths we learn from the Bible, the principles of the Bible to real world scenarios. The Helper makes us see that God judges sin and those who stand on the side of the world are condemned to hell. The Helper strengthens us to stand on the side of Jesus and heaven. The Holy Spirit strengthens your faith so that you can believe in Jesus as your Savior.

The Holy Spirit will help you with that now and forever. As you confess your faith and your promise to hold firmly to the Word of God and to this church, you don’t make that promise on your own. You answer, “Yes, and I ask God to help me.” You have the best Helper to help you. The Holy Spirit has come to you through his Word and through your Baptism. He is here to help you now. Stay in his Word and he will continue to be there for you and help your mind, your heart, and your life. He will do that forever. No matter if you are confirmed today, years ago, or in the future, he will continue to help you and your faith all the way to the end. And beyond the end. He will be faithful to you as you faithfully study his Word. He will help you home to heaven. He will continue to be your Helper forever.

Jesus has sent you the Helper. The Holy Spirit comes to you through God’s Word and in the Sacraments. The Helper strengthens faith in your heart. He continues to strengthen your faith when he teaches you. He teaches you the Word of God. Live in God’s Word and trust the Holy Spirit to guide you and guard you and help you through this life. Stay connected to him. He will help you; that’s his name. Everyone needs a helper, and you have THE Helper.

Sermon – May 24, 2020 – Ascension

Printable PDF:  5-24-2020 Ascension Sermon 2020

Pastor Jacobson  ~  Jesus’ Ascension  ~  May 24, 2020  ~  Ephesians 1:16-23

16I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. 17I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

THE ASCENDED JESUS IS ABOVE ALL

“Sometimes I dream that he is me. You’ve got to see that’s how I dream to be. I dream I move, I dream I groove like Mike. If I could be like Mike.” The last 5 Sundays, ESPN televised a 10-episode docuseries on the 1998 National Basketball Association champion Chicago Bulls. The docuseries features retired Basketball superstar Michael “Air” Jordan. The docuseries allowed young fans the opportunity to learn what the fuss was all about with that team. The docuseries allowed older fans a chance to relive those championships in the 90s and perhaps learn something about them that they had missed. And what I learned is that Michael Jordan had a little bit of a “potty” mouth and that his “Air Jordan” shoes are still selling more than any other basketball player today.

I know Michael “Air” Jordan better, but the player we want to dedicate the rest of our study time today has much more hang time than Michael “Air” Jordan. When the Apostle Paul wrote a 6-chapter document to the Christians gathered in the city of Ephesus, the ascended Jesus had been above the clouds for about 30 years. In the words before us today Paul gives his past and current readers deeper knowledge of what Jesus’ Ascension is all about and what it means for us today.

  1. Let’s get to know him and his ascension better.

The Apostle Paul was certainly upbeat when he wrote, “I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.” There was much to be thankful for in Ephesus. Paul was happy to hear they were continuing to live in their Christian faith. Paul’s prayer of thanksgiving quickly turns into a prayer of intercession, “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.” I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.”

It’s important to note that Paul’s prayer isn’t asking for the Ephesian Christians to do anything more than they were already doing. They were reading their Bibles and studying their Scriptures. They listened to their preachers and asked questions in the synagogue. Paul is not asking them to do anything differently, but Paul is asking God to do something. Paul wants God to give them the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that they can know him better.

Maybe you have had this experience. You are reading a book, a real book, not an I-pad book or a Kindle book, but a book with pages you need to manually turn. And you can read the book just fine, but then someone walks behind you and turns on a light. And wow, you can read much better. The Holy Spirit does us the same favor. The Holy Spirit helps us see what we are reading. The Holy Spirit helps us understand what we are hearing. And with the help of the Holy Spirit, Paul wants his readers to have a better understanding of three things. The first is, “That you may know the hope to which he has called you.”  You were born with a calling. At birth you were called to be a son or a daughter of your parents. In life you have taken any number of different callings in your family and in society. The hope in your calling as a Christian is that you will be in heaven. In heaven you will be seated with Christ in his heavenly realm. In heaven you will see God face-to-face without the shame that comes from sin. In heaven you will serve the Lord without any of the shortcomings of a sinful nature and a fallen world.

Your hope of heaven is certain because of its connection to the riches of his glorious inheritance. That’s Paul’s second prayer point. An inheritance is a gift. An inheritance is gifted after the testator dies. When Jesus died he gifted you with the forgiveness of sins. Your forgiveness of sins inheritance fully covers the multitude of transgressions you charged onto your account. Have you been like the Lost Son in Jesus’ parable? Have you squandered your resources in wild living? The Father welcomes you home though the blood of Jesus Christ. Are you like Rahab in the Old Testament? Is your name forever known among people because of a specific sin? Rahab, by God’s grace, became a member of the promised line of the Savior. And you, by God’s grace, were brought into his family through the Sacrament of Holy Baptism. You are a rags-to-riches story because of your inheritance of forgiveness when Jesus died on the cross.

And the third purpose of Paul’s prayer benefits you right now. His incomparable great power for us who believe. Paul has more to say about this power. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.”  You have all kinds of power. You have leg power. Get up and get it yourself. You have horse power. Get in the car and drive. You have 5G power. Go online. You have all kinds of power, but none of that power is comparable to the power at work when you contemplate God’s Word in your life. That power is only comparable to the resurrection and ascension of your Lord Jesus Christ. It’s a miraculous power at work in you and for you.

And you need that power! Without that power, you will constantly doubt God’s ability to provide you with what you need. Without that power, you think you need to sidestep God’s commandments in order to get what is good for you. Without that power, you will always fail to do what is right in the face of pressure and persecution. God’s power helps you believe what God’s Word says and not what this world says. God’s power enables you to be more like Christ and less like yourselves and your sinful nature.

  1. Let’s understand what his ascension means for us.

Paul continues, “And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” It helps to see these verses played out in time and we see these verses played out in the Gospels and in the Book of Acts. In the Gospels it only looks like Pontius Pilate is the head, and Christ is something else. In the Book of Acts it only looks like the enemies of Christ are in change, and the apostles are done for. Looking back, in the gospels, Christ was head over Pilate for the sake of the church, and in the Book of Acts, Christ was head over persecutions for the sake of the church. And so it will always be in times of war and in times peace, in a soaring economy and in a great depression, and in good health and in a mysterious pandemic. Christ is always in charge, and we as the church will always benefit. We are his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

It’s strange to think Christ needs us, that Christ would somehow be incomplete if the church were to cease to exist, but that is exactly what Paul is saying. Christ is the Head. The Church is the body. The body is dead without a head. The head doesn’t function without a body. So it is with Christ. The ascended Jesus is above all. He rules over everything for the benefit of the Church. And as our Head he rules in us, the Church, for the benefit of this world. In Christ, we as a Church live and move and have our being. We are his legs. We as a Church go into all the world. We are his hands. We as a Church serve the Lord with all our abilities. We are his voice. We as a Church have the good news of all the great things he has done. I don’t know what I’ll watch on television tonight. I think the History Channel will have old war documentaries this weekend. The story of Ascension continues as Christ continues to rule over the world for the Church, and Christ is ruling in us, the Church, through the gospel for the benefit of the world. Amen.

Sermon – May 17, 2020 – Easter 6

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David R. Clark  ~  1 Peter 3:15-22  ~  May 17, 2020  ~  Easter 6

You Have Been Cleansed by Christ

15But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 17For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. 18For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. 19After being made alive, he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits—20to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, 21and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the legal claim of a clear conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.

 

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

          I have had some interesting conversations with people over the last eight weeks. Many people expressed a desire to come back to church. Others expressed concern. But some felt guilty about not coming back.

          Guilt is a tough emotion. When people sin, they should feel guilty. Those who have been forgiven should not. It’s a subject about which people don’t like to talk. I did a Google search on the word, “guilt.” I found the following:

  • definitions of guilt
  • many, many self-help steps to get rid of guilt
  • a recipe for “guilt free late night nachos.”

Most amazing was the 176 million hits for a subject people don’t like to talk about! Christians are a little more willing to talk about guilt, but when it comes to sin, death, and guilt doesn’t it seem we talk way more about sin and death than we do about guilt. St. Peter wants you to know that Jesus’ resurrection also washed away guilt!

 

  1. Cleansed to witness Christ.

          I haven’t heard this much about washing my hands since I was in Kindergarten. I do it so that I won’t get sick. I also recognize that medical people wash their hands and even wear gloves for a slightly different purpose. It’s so they can treat others. You and I are cleansed of our guilt. We are also cleansed to treat others. That’s what Peter says in verses 15-17. 15But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 17For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.

          Guilt is suffering because of sin. When we do something wrong, our conscience makes us feel bad. It’s God’s way of showing us when we don’t measure up. Sometimes it makes us feel bad for things that happened years before. So when Jesus rose from the grave also to take away guilt, it means so much! It’s why we revere Jesus in our hearts. We revere Jesus in our hearts and in the way we think, talk, and act.

          That change is noticeable to people still ruled by guilt. Some people will notice. It’s kind of like what happens when someone loses a lot of weight. Some notice and ask how they did it. This is losing the weight of guilt. It’s noticeable.

          It is so noticeable Peter encourages us to be ready when someone asks us about it. Have an answer, even if it’s as simple as “Christ is risen” or “Jesus took away my sin, so I don’t have to feel guilty about something that is taken away.” You have been cleansed of your guilt so that you can witness Christ!

 

  1. Cleansed by Christ’s resurrection.

 Some might be threatened by guilt-free behavior. They will think you are judging them or worse. They are like that person that feels jealous because they have not lost weight, but someone else has.

So what do we say when people question why we don’t live in guilt? We don’t because we know this: 18For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. 19After being made alive, he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits—20to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, 21and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the legal claim of a clear conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.

          It’s kind of ironic, but during the Flood, the very water that destroyed every living being on this earth saved Noah and his family. Today the water of baptism stills saves us. Baptism is not washing your hands to keep COVID-19 away or simply a pious tradition. This water washes away sin and the guilt from sin through the power of Christ’s resurrection.

          We need that. In our moments of weakness, we need that assurance all over again. When our faith is weak, we can resort to the way the world deals with guilt. The world uses harming yourself, overeating, drug/alcohol abuse, promiscuity, or shopping yourself into debt. All of these solutions offer some momentary pleasure, but in the end these are Satan’s solutions which means they make guilt even worse. Satan is like a spiritual loan shark. You pay and pay and pay the interest, the guilt, but you never pay the principle, the sin. Finally he will take your life.

          That is, until we know a risen Jesus. His resurrection assures us that all the payment has been made. Satan won’t like it when he can’t get you to feel guilty, so he will try to make you doubt. That is also why God gives us baptism, a specific promise on a specific day that we can point to as an assurance that God’s promise of salvation has been applied to us personally.

If people ignore or reject or downplay Jesus’ resurrection in their words and actions, they should feel guilt. It’s God’s way of getting their attention. But for you and me, Christ has risen! He has risen for your sin, for your life, and also for your guilt. Rejoice, brothers and sisters, and live guilt-free in Jesus! Amen.

Sermon – May 10, 2020 – Easter 5

Printable PDF:  5-10-2020 Easter 5 Sermon

Vicar Jason Lindemann  ~  1 Peter 2:4-10  ~  May 10, 2020  ~  Easter 5

CHRIST IS OUR CORNERSTONE

4As you come to him, the living Stone-rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him – 5you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” 7Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” 8and, “A stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.” They stumble because they disobey the message – which is also what they were destined for.

9But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

 

JESUS IS THE LIVING STONE

When you are writing, do you prefer a pen or a pencil? I always needed a pencil because pencils have erasers, and I was constantly making corrections. When you want your writing to be permanent, then you can use the pen (and if you make a mistake, you can still scribble out what you wrote). From a carpenter I learned the phrase “Measure twice, cut once.” You can measure over and over, but what you cut off is off for good. You can always cut off a little more, but what you cut is permanent. The most permanent thing I can think of is setting something in stone. When something is set in stone, it’s not changing. It takes jack hammers and intense work to change what is set in stone. Peter reveals something even more permanent than stone. Jesus is the Living Stone. He is permanent and reliable. That Stone fits in only one place and that stone builds something special.

  1. The Stone fits in only one place. (verses 4-8)

In Peter’s time, they didn’t have big construction equipment to build houses with steel and concrete. The ancient builders built with stones. Peter used this picture of building with stones to teach us the only place where the Living Stone fits. He shows us where Jesus fits in our lives. The cornerstone is the most important stone of the whole project. The cornerstone needed to be perfect. The cornerstone was the foundation. The cornerstone made the wall strong. The whole building had to rely on the cornerstone. Ancient builders carefully selected the cornerstone. They had to reject any stone that wasn’t perfect. Peter also described God as a builder. God had an incredible project in mind, and God had the perfect Cornerstone. Jesus is the Living Stone, the Cornerstone that God chose. Jesus fits perfectly there. No other cornerstone would work.

Some builders don’t want Jesus as their cornerstone. They don’t think that the Stone that God chose is the right stone for their cornerstone. Those builders are the unbelievers. They could be like the religious leaders who had Jesus crucified, or they could be like anyone who trusts in someone other than Jesus. Those builders reject the Cornerstone. They don’t like the way God’s Cornerstone looks, they think they have a better idea, or they just don’t want to be told what to do. Unbelievers reject Jesus. They don’t believe in him or rely on him. Since they reject Jesus as their Cornerstone, they only trip and fall. People are full of sin. Anything they replace God’s select Cornerstone with is full of sin. Anyone that doesn’t rely on Jesus falls apart.

Jesus is our precious Cornerstone because of what he does. Jesus has made those who believe in him and rely on him acceptable to God because he covers all their sins. Those who rely only on Jesus will live. When the storms come and everything else falls apart, those who are built on Jesus will still stand. Jesus is the holiness that people need. God loves believers built on Jesus.

The Living Stone fits in only one place. How will you builders build your lives? Is there a temptation to reject him like the unbelievers do? Many people look at Jesus and think, “I just don’t like the way that looks,” when they see that Jesus needs to have the number one spot in their hearts and they can’t just live according to their own rules. They might think they have a better idea than relying on Jesus, like relying on human wisdom or their own power or on what others rely. They might see Jesus, the Living Stone, placed as the Cornerstone and think, “No one is going to tell me what to do; I’ll figure this out for myself.” Some try to fit Jesus in their lives somewhere as an afterthought. But when they rely on anything besides the Living Stone, they will crumble.

The Living Stone fits in only one place in your lives. Rely on Jesus. God has given you the precious, living Stone. He hasn’t given you an afterthought. God has given you his own Son. He loved you so much that even though your sins will make you stumble and crumble, he gave you Jesus, so that you will live. Jesus is holy; Jesus is sinless. God has carefully placed his precious Jesus as your Cornerstone so that you are holy, sinless, and precious to God.

God has made him precious to you, too. Jesus paid for your sins. Jesus took your fall so that you never will. And Jesus rose from the dead and lives so that you will also live. You don’t rely on a dead stone, but a Living Stone. So what will you do with him? Reject him? Far from it. “The one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” You have everything when Jesus is your Cornerstone. When temptations come, especially temptations to reject him, don’t rely on yourself to defeat them, but even then rely on Jesus. Jesus will remain strong for you. He will take care of you forever.

Your Cornerstone is Jesus – your living and reliable Savior. God carefully chose your Cornerstone and has given you what is most precious to him, and now Jesus is there for you. So what has God built on this Cornerstone? He’s built you on the Cornerstone.

  1. The Stone builds something special. (verses 9-10)

That precious Living Stone has built something quite special. Peter calls it God’s special possession. The building on the Living Cornerstone is not something made with hands – not a house or even a church building. It’s much better than that. It’s “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation.” It’s a spiritual house – the people of the Church. God has placed his Cornerstone for them all. The Cornerstone is for you and for everyone. There’s a whole nation of people that rely on him! Not a nation based on location or race, but a nation of hearts that rely on him. This nation shares the same name – Christians – and relies on the same Cornerstone – Jesus.

Christians are a treasure to God. At one time, they were not his treasure. At one time, we separated ourselves from God because of our sin. We were not his people, we were in the darkness of sin. But now, through Jesus Christ and faith in him, we are God’s people. We have the wonderful light of his mercy. His spiritual house is “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession.” Not a tagalong, but specifically chosen. Not disgraceful people, but royal. Not sinful, but holy. Christians have Jesus’ perfect sinless status before God, so they are his treasure.

By his mercy, you are his. At one time you were not his. You were lost in sin, separated from God, giving into temptation after temptation and relying on yourself. But he chose you. He showed you mercy. He gave you Jesus and built you into his spiritual house. Your location and the status of your family does not matter, because he built you together with other Christians to be his precious family. God has made you into something special to him through Jesus Christ.

Often times, it may not feel like you’re precious to God when the world rejects you. Like the world rejected Jesus as its Cornerstone, it rejects those who follow Jesus, too. They may treat you like a disgrace and try to make you feel worthless. The devil wants you to feel rejected and alone. But even though everyone – the world, your friends, maybe even your family may reject you, God will not. God cannot, because you rely on the Living Stone who cannot fail. You are precious to him because you are built on Jesus. Through Jesus, God has things in store for you because you are chosen by him, royal and holy in his sight. Jesus rose from the dead, and you who rely on him will also rise from the dead. He has mercy on those who are built on him.

You are set in Jesus, the Living Stone. He fits in only one place in your life and in your church. He is the Cornerstone. He is the one upon whom we rely. God makes something special out of the ones who are built on the Living Stone. He has made an everlasting family who believe in Jesus and who will live with him forever in heaven. That’s not written in pencil or ink; it’s set in Living Stone. Amen.

Sermon – May 3, 2020 – Easter 4

Printable PDF:  5-3-2020 Easter 4 Sermon

Pastor Mark R. Jacobson  †  Easter 4  †  May 3, 2020  †  1 Peter 2:19-25

19For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God. 20But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. 21To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. 22“He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” 23When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. 24“He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” 25For “you were like sheep going astray,” but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

26 Martyrs MonumentTHE SHEPHERD RETURNS HIS STRAYING SHEEP…

The picture to the left is the Twenty-Six Martyrs Monument. This monument commemorates the 26 Christians who lost their lives in Nagasaki, Japan on February 5, 1597. They were crucified and lanced to death. All these Christians had to do was deny their faith and freedom was theirs. According to a report, one of the 26, a 12-year old boy, when asked to deny his faith said this, “Sir, it would be better if you yourself become a Christian and could go to heaven where I am going. Sir, which is my cross?” The stunned official pointed to the smallest of the crosses on the hill. The young boy ran toward that cross, knelt in front of it and embraced it. It is also said the 26 martyrs sang God’s praises until they could sing no more. How commendable! That’s what the Twenty-Six Martyrs Monument does! It commends them. These martyrs bore up under the pain of unjust suffering because they were conscious of God.

  1. …from the sin of retaliation.

The Apostle Peter, in his first letter, was writing to believers who were suffering unjustly. We’re not given any specifics about their unjust sufferings, only that their suffering was related to their faith in Jesus Christ. At this time, the Romans were heavily involved in emperor worship. Emperor worship was viewed as good for national unity. The Greeks believed in any number of deities and all the metal and wooden images dedicated to them was good for the economy. And so Christians, at this time, had become viewed as rebels against national unity and bottlenecks for the local economy. We can’t be sure of the exact cause of their unjust suffering, but prior to our lesson Peter encouraged the Christians with these words, “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us” (2:12). Peter’s message was “Be a model citizen. Be a good neighbor. Be a hard worker.” This was how they could witness to unbelievers! This was how their critics could be won over. But not all the critics of Christianity were won over. As a result, Christians endured unjust suffering. It wasn’t right! It was discrimination against Christians, but this was the point where God’s sheep were apt to stray.

Straying sheep don’t think they are straying. Straying sheep think they are grazing from the field in which they were supposed to stay, but they are not. Straying sheep leave their home field because they lose consciousness of where they are. Straying sheep wind up far from home and can’t make it back on their own. Like sheep, Christians don’t all of a sudden purposely leave Christ. Like sheep, Christians stray, and they don’t know they are straying. Straying Christians think they are believing in Jesus. They know God created the world and cares for the people it. They pledge allegiance to the flag and pray over the food they eat. Straying Christians live by the Golden rule of “Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you,” but haven’t you noticed that all that kind of Christianity seems to disappear when you face unjust suffering? When you encounter unjust suffering, what happens to that ‘love your neighbor’ stuff or ‘honor your mother and father and others in authority’ or ‘whatever you do (even as you face unjust suffering), do it all for the glory of God’?

I know two wrongs don’t make a right, but when somebody wrongs me I can feel completely justified in wronging them back. And this is where I stray even when I don’t think I am straying. It’s the sin of retaliation. And the most dangerous aspect of retaliation could be that we feel completely justified in our retaliating. If my neighbor’s a jerk, I can feel completely justified in talking badly about him to others. If my company or country isn’t fair to me, I feel completely justified in not doing my best work for my company and country. And if the vast majority of people in my society think I am narrow-minded for believing in Christ or ignorant for believing in a 6-day creation or barbaric and out of touch for believing in marriage between a man and woman, I can feel completely justified in wishing for God to bring them to judgment. It’s not right for me to suffer unjustly, and I do have a right to defend myself, but it’s at these very moments when I stray from the Christian faith without even realizing I am straying from the Christian faith because I am retaliating against those who are wronging me.

Fellow sheep, we have been called to follow Christ! We are called to love those who hate us. We are called to forgive those who hurt us. We are called to pray for the best for those who wish us the worst. The sin of retaliation means we’re lost, and we might not even know it. Peter says, “You were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”  

  1. …to the example on the cross.

Straying sheep don’t find their own way home. Straying sheep need to be found and brought back into the fold. Straying sheep need a shepherd, and there’s nothing better for straying sheep than to hear the voice of their shepherd. The same is true for straying believers.  

Straying believers can’t find their way back to God. Straying believers don’t stumble back into faith. Straying believers need God to come get them. The Greek word translated, “you have returned,” is in the passive voice, not the active voice. Straying believers are not like the person who lost their car keys and is actively searching for them. No, straying believers are like the lost car keys, and if the lost car keys are ever to function as car keys again, the driver had better find the keys. What that means is our returning to God is not about us. Our returning is not about us actively making better choices and actively correcting our mistakes. We are passive. We need God to find us and to find his way back into our hearts and the only way he does that is though the voice of the Gospel.

The Gospel is the good news about Jesus. The Good News about Jesus is all he did to save us. In our lesson Peter says, “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his month.” Jesus didn’t do anything wrong. Jesus spoke the truth in love. And yet Jesus was still mocked and mistreated. Had Jesus retaliated, had Jesus made threats, Jesus would have lost credit for our salvation and we would have lost out on salvation. “By his wounds, you have been healed.”  

“Jesus entrusted himself to him who judges justly.” On the cross Jesus was conscious of his heavenly Father. Jesus was also conscious of his assignment. “He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness.” How do we die to sins? ‘To die to sins’ means we’re not going to retaliate. When someone is pushing our buttons we’re going to be like a remote control without batteries. We’re going to follow the example of Jesus. We’re going to follow in his steps. “To live for righteousness” is to live as Jesus lived, to follow Jesus’ example, to follow in his steps. That means living for Jesus and not our own comfort. It means loving those who hate us, forgiving those who hurt us and praying for the best for those who wish us the worst. Stephen in our first lesson is an example of this, so are the 26 martyrs in Nagasaki in the year 1597. They listened to the voice of their Shepherd and followed him. And when we face unjust suffering, we have the opportunity to show our God and ourselves and maybe even some others that God is our Shepherd, and we love being his sheep. Amen.