“The Holy God Calls His Messengers”–A Sermon on Exodus 3:1-15 for the 3rd Sunday after Pentecost, June 22/25, 2017

At times we might find ourselves in a situation forcing us to ask something like this, “How can I ever do this?” We receive a big promotion at work. This means more responsibility on our shoulders. We now have a few people below us to oversee. How will I ever be able to do this? Who am I that I should be chosen for such a task? Or maybe it comes as a parent holds their newborn child for the first time. How can I ever be a good parent? Who am I that I am now responsible for another life?

It can seem like a lot. The task looks impossible. Any thought we had of this being easy soon evaporates into thin air. Problems will arise. It might not always be a smooth transition. However, we get through it. We grow in the task before us. We learn from others. We read books on how to be a better leader or which offer parenting advice.

Moses found himself in a similar situation asking, “Who me?” He was minding his own business. He led his father-in-law’s flock to Horeb the mountain of God. Moses might have taken this time to clear his mind, yet this day his mind would be filled with many thoughts.

Something caught his attention. A bush was on fire, maybe something not unusual. The unusual part was that this bush did not burn up. Moses went over to investigate this strange sight. As he got closer a voice called out, “Do not come any closer. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy ground… I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (Exodus 3:5-6). This was no ordinary voice. The Holy God called out to Moses from within the bush.

God came with a very special mission. The Lord saw the misery of his people Israel. In Egypt they lived as slaves. They were being mistreated. They suffered. Now was the time for deliverance. God would free them from the land of Egypt and bring them up to a land flowing with milk and honey, the land he promised to their forefathers. Then came the kicker. Moses would be the one to lead the people on this trek.

Moses barely found the words. He blurted out, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the Israelites out of Egypt” (Exodus 3:11)? Moses had tried to block that part of his life out. Forty years earlier he tried to force himself into a leadership role, when he killed an Egyptian mistreating an Israelite. This backfired. The Israelites questioned Moses. Pharaoh put out a death sentence on Moses. He had to flee for his life to Midian.

Still Moses could never comprehend how God chose him for such a task. God wanted Moses, a now humble shepherd, to stand before Pharaoh, the most powerful ruler in the world, and tell him to let the Israelites go. The Egyptians used the Israelites to build cities and erect monuments. Pharaoh would not be willing to let go of such slave labor. Even though God gave Moses a mission, Moses was not so willing to go.

God continues to call his messengers today. He calls pastors and teachers to carry out his mission in the world. Pastors go out on behalf of congregations to publicly preach his Word. God might even move pastors around from place to place through a divine call. Wherever they go, their message is not to proclaim a physical freedom. The gospel message speaks a about a Savior who breaks the chains of sin for the captive. God places this mission in the hands of his servants.

He also calls you as his messengers. The very same message spoken in this pulpit is the message carried out by all of you. All of you have a little mission field. It can be big or small. It might only be one person desiring to hear the gospel message. The Holy God calls his messengers with a mission.

As we receive this mission from God, we might also wonder, “Who am I?” We are only sinners in this world. It is also a scary world to carry out our mission. We stand before people not willing to listen to us. They think they know all the answers. They think our message is something they have heard before. They perceive God’s Word to be a bunch of made up nonsense.

God equips his servants for their mission. We pull out a long list of sin and excuses. God only sees Jesus’ blood washing away all those sins. God says those excuses will hold not water, for I will be with you. God equips us with his strength to carry out our mission in this world. He also lays his promises out for us to lean against when the times get hard.

God answered Moses’ hesitancy with a statement. “I will certainly be with you. This will be the sign to you that I have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will serve God on this mountain” (Exodus 3:12). Who am I? Moses thought that would get him off the hook. God said it is not about you. I am with you. God even promised Moses that the next time he would see this mountain it would be with all the nation of Israel. Moses needed to lean on God’s power instead of his own.

It is easy for us to rely on our own strength, isn’t it? We cruise through life. Everything is going well. We do not have a care in the world. All of a sudden we hit something. The bump of a little health scare causes some damage. The obstacle of a crisis in the family brings our trip to a screeching halt. The warning lights of all the dangers and temptations make us lose our way.

Our strength no longer gets us through. We need to find someone stronger than us. We need to find someone who will not be swayed by all the turbulence life throws at us. The only place to turn to is God and his promises. He will be with us. He will get us over the bump of earthly calamities. There might be pain, damage, and times we feel breaking down. However, God is with us. The obstacles all of a sudden do not look insurmountable. The warning lights quiet down.

Those promises of God will never go away. Amid all of life’s changes, God’s promises stand the test of time. We need to rely on them when our mission seems a little too daunting. We find our peace on these promises. Our power has nothing to do with it, but God’s power will get us through.

Moses still was not too sure about all of this. What if people asked for a name of who sent him? How would Moses respond to that? God told him, “I AM WHO I AM…You will say this to the Israelites: I AM has sent me to you” (Exodus 3:14). In English this looks and sounds a little funny to refer to God as “I AM”. In the Hebrew language it is a most beautiful and comforting word. The very same letters used in the name “I AM” are used in the word “LORD”. This name of Jesus reminds us of his grace. It points to God as the one that will keep all his promises. God revealed himself to Moses as the God who does not change.

“Say this to the Israelites: ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers-the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob-has sent me to you. This is my name forever, and this is how I am to be remembered from generation to generation’” (Exodus 3:15). The same God who called Abraham to leave his homeland and settle in a foreign country with nothing to call his own would be with Moses. The same God who brought home a wife for Isaac to carry on the promise of a Savior born for the world would be with Moses. The same God who brought Jacob to Egypt over four hundred years ago to escape the terrible famine would be with Moses.

We follow the same God with his promises to us. As he sends us out on our mission, he will not change. He will not love us today but tomorrow will despise us. He does not walk with us today, but tomorrow will leave us to fend for ourselves. We too follow the same God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Those promises remind us that God’s work will get done. It doesn’t matter whether a pastor leaves or stays the mission of the church will go on. The fear of whether we are ready to carry out our mission depends not on our strength but completely on God’s strength.

Who me? This might be a typical reaction we have when something big comes our way. We have the same reaction when God calls us on our mission. We don’t look to ourselves but we look to God. The Holy God Calls His Messengers. He calls them with a mission to carry out in the world. He also calls them with his promises to get them through the work. Amen.

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The Holy Trinity: Transcendent and Immanent, Sermon on 2 Corinthians 13:11-14, The Holy Trinity, June 8 & 11, 2017

  1. A few weeks ago, I was asked “Where is the Trinity in the Bible? And the answer—at one and the same time—is that it is everywhere, and it is nowhere. The Trinity is everywhere in the Bible as we see God at work and as God reveals information about himself. On the first pages of the Bible—which we heard today—“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” we see the work of the Father. “The Spirit of God moved on the face of the water.” And then God speaks. “Let there be light. Let there be stars in the expanse of the sky. Let birds fly in the air and fish swim in the waters.” And finally, “Let us make man in our image” In the Gospel of John we read, “In the beginning was the Word. …all things were made through him… …the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” And so Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all on the first page. God told Moses and Aaron to bless with a three part blessing—“The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you. The Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.” Isaiah had a vision of heaven in which he saw and heard the angels shouting to each other “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts.” And in Hebrew grammar, the word for God, Elohim is plural, but God is always referred to as “he,” plural and singular at the same time. In the teaching of Jesus, he speaks of the sending of the Holy Spirit, “the Counselor, whom I will send from the Father” (John 15:26). And then Jesus gives the command to baptize “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” The words “Trinity” and “Triune” are nowhere in the Bible. They are words coined by early Christians,[1] combining tri- with –unity to describe God being three in one.

I. Transcendent: High and Holy, Above and Beyond Our Understanding.

  1. Is this something we can understand? Absolutely not. Think again of those first pages of Scripture. If God can create the universe in a moment and then put it all in order in the course of six days, should we be able to understand someone like that? No—he is above and beyond our understanding. One theological word for the day is “Transcendent.” It means that God is high and holy and completely different, completely other. And so we use the biblical language he has given us, and call him Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We remember that Scripture speaks of one God. How that can be? How does it work? Our minds are too small to begin to understand that.

II. Immanent: Down to Earth with Us, Embracing Us on All Sides with Love.

  1. Isaiah’s favorite name for God was “The Holy One of Israel.” He uses that phrase 25 times to describe God as both transcendent, that is, high and holy and above and beyond our thought, and also immanent, (your other theological word for the day) which means that God is down to earth with us. In God’s dealings with his people, he hasn’t just been up in heaven and unconcerned with what was going on with his people. At the beginning, he was “walking in the garden in the cool of the day” (Genesis 3:8). When Adam and Eve lost their holy image of God, God gave a solution that would mean his own sacrifice. He led Israel, opening up ways before them, feeding them directly with manna and quail and giving them water to drink from a rock. Think of Christmas. The high and holy creator of the universe whom the highest heavens cannot contain comes in a six pound, eight ounce package, is wrapped in swaddling clothes and makes his bed in a cow’s feeding trough. That’s about as immanent as you can get. God knows the gritty details of life, hardship, pain, heartbreak—he knows it all.
  2. And that is what St. Paul wants us to know as he gives us that blessing at the end of 2 Corinthians. The first phrase is “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.” You learned the definition of grace as “undeserved love.” One writer has described grace as one-way love from God to us. This is a love that is quite foreign to us. Our love is often a two way love, or a love that looks for a reason to love before it loves. A young man looks at a young lady and thinks, “She’s good looking. Therefore, I will love her.” Or a young lady looks at a young man and thinks, “He’s the football star. He’s the big man on campus and popular with everyone. Therefore, I will love him.” God’s love is not like that. In his grace, he loves because he is loving. St. Paul wrote, “When we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” That is the “grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Undeserved—certainly! Unearned. One-way from him to us.
  3. The next phrase is “the love of God.” The word for love here is the same as in 1 Corinthians 13, where St. Paul says, “Love is patient, love is kind, it does not envy, it does not boast.” It is a love that is absolutely pure. Just as grace loves without first looking for a reason to love, love, agape, loves without expecting anything in return. Again, a foreign concept to us. When someone does something nice for you, do you ever suspect, “I wonder what she wants?” Or maybe you’ve been on the other side of it—you want someone to do you a favor so you do something nice with the hopes of being repaid somehow. That is not the love of God. Our heavenly Father loves without expecting anything in return. Jesus said, “Your heavenly Father makes the sun rise and the rain fall on the evil and the good” (Matthew 5:45). That is the love of God the Father.
  4. The last phrase is “the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.” Fellowship (koinonia) is the same word that is sometimes translated as “communion,” not as the body and blood of Jesus with the bread and wine, but as the “communion of saints.” A community drawn together by something common. “He calls, gathers, enlightens and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.” He draws us to himself as we hear and read the Word—the gospel of Christ, and as he draws us to himself, he also draws us together. The fellowship of the Holy Spirit is really talking about the Spirit’s work of drawing the Church together in love.

Conclusion: In these last days of sore distress, “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit” are what we need. We need our transcendent and immanent God’s love because we are living in increasingly loveless times. People are content to be off by themselves, doing their own thing. Even when they are out in the world, playing team sports or enjoying fame, everybody is still pretty much for himself or herself. Not that gracious. Not that loving. No fellowship with others. The result is that everyone feels alone. Strangely, that’s what some counselors advise—when you have a problem person in your life, just shut that person out. End of problem. That doesn’t solve anything, does it? There’s no grace in that. No love. No fellowship. God doesn’t shut us out. He didn’t shut Adam and Eve out—or the rest of humanity. As hard as it was and as hard it would be, he sent his one and only Son. As hard as it was and would be, he continued to reach out with his Word and his Spirit. And he doesn’t stop. Our transcendent and immanent God is eternal in his love. He is eternal and unending in his grace, love, and fellowship—and he invites us to imitate him in this love (Ephesians 5:1)

Amen.

[1] “Trinity” (trinitas) was first used by Theophilus of Antioch to describe God’s three-in-one nature. See Wikipedia article. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trinity#Etymology

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Sermon for the Festival of the Holy Spirit (Pentecost) on Acts 2:1-21

Acts 2:1-21

1 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.  2 Suddenly a sound like the rushing of a violent wind came from heaven, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.

3 They saw divided tongues that were like fire resting on each one of them. 4 Theywere filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, since the Spirit was giving them the ability to speak fluently.  5 Now there were godly Jewish men from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 6 When this sound was heard, a crowd came together and was confused, because each one heard them speaking in his own language.  7 They were completely baffled and said to each other, “Look, are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? 8 Then how is it that each of us hears them speaking in his own native language?  9 Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, and of Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya around Cyrene; visitors from Rome, 11 both Jews and proselytes; Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring in our own languages the wonderful works of God.”  12 They were all amazed and perplexed.  They kept saying to one another, “What does this mean?”  13 But others mocked them and said, “They are full of new wine.’”

 

14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice, and spoke loudly and clearly to them: “Men of Judea, and all you residents of Jerusalem, understand this, and listen closely to my words.  15 These men are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only the third hour of the day.  16 On the contrary, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:  17 This is what God says will happen in the last days:  I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh.  Your sons and your daughters will prophesy.  Your young men will see visions.  Your old men will dream dreams. 18 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. 19 I will show wonders in the sky above, and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and a rising cloud of smoke.  20 The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.  21 And this will happen:  Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’

(Evangelical Heritage Version)

On this Festival of Pentecost we could go in several directions in considering and applying the person and work of God the Holy Spirit, based on our lesson from Acts 2.  It’s tempting to spend a lot of time on the sound of a violent wind and to consider how that ties in with the Spirit’s presence there.   The same would be true of the fire-tongues that appeared above the heads of Jesus’ disciples.  Or, what has caught the attention of so many people over the last century and has become a constant “phenomenon” of debate is the Spirit-given ability of the disciples to speak fluently in foreign languages they had never studied or learned.  While those might be interesting to consider regarding the Spirit’s person and work, we’re going in a different direction; not so much the “dramatic” evidences of the Spirit’s work in the disciple that day, but the less dramatic yet real change in them.  The same is true for us today as Jesus’ disciples.

To do this we’ll approach it from the viewpoint of some of the visitors gathered in Jerusalem around the house the disciples of Jesus were in; namely the “mockers” who heard the commotion and different languages being spoken at once and who concluded that the disciples were drunk, having drunk too much “new wine”.

Peter told them they were mistaken, but that this was fulfillment of the message given by God’s prophet Joel hundreds of years earlier.  To consider the Spirit’s work in those disciples that day, and in us today, we’ll ask ourselves the question, “Have you ever been mistakenly accused of drunkenness?”

I have not been mistakenly accused of drunkenness because of some odd behavior when I’ve not had a thing to drink, but once in a while I think about the possibility … like when I’m driving and when distracted I swerve onto the shoulder of the road.  I look around to see if a cop is near to see this.  If one were, and he saw it, he might pull me over thinking I was intoxicated.  He might make me walk the straight line and touch my nose, give me the breathalyzer test, etc.    While not wanting to hold up the sin of drunkenness as funny and not serious, we’ll consider some behavior commonly seen with drunkenness and then the “behavior” of Jesus’ disciples who were “under the influence” of God the Holy Spirit that may have seemed to those “mockers” like drunken behavior!!

                   Have You Ever Been Mistakenly Accused of Drunkenness?

         Uninhibited, inappropriate babbling about the wonderful works of God?

One characteristic often connected with people under the influence of an intoxicating substance is that of being uninhibited.  Loss of inhibition is a dangerous result of intoxication.  To be uninhibited in behavior means that a person’s “guard is let down”; there are few internal checks on words and behavior that are normally functioning.  Thoughts in the mind that are normally held back for good reason (or that maybe shouldn’t even be in the mind) come spurting out of the mouth.  Actions and behaviors that are normally checked and not carried out because they are irresponsible and dangerous happen without consideration of the possible dangerous or embarrassing results.

Jesus’ disciples had become uninhibited when under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Up until this time they had been pretty inhibited when it came to their speaking and behavior.  Consider the speaker in the lesson today, Peter.  Only 54 days before, that Thursday night when Jesus was arrested and dragged to the High Priest’s palace for that joke of a trial, Peter was quite inhibited.  He guarded closely what came out of his mouth, which wasn’t much.  He was very careful to not be noticed by anyone.  Only when fearing for his physical safety did he get a little less inhibited and start vehemently and with curses and oaths denying that he knew Jesus.  The other disciples were probably just as inhibited in their behavior; it seems that other than John and Peter, none of them were anywhere to be found.  But now, when the Holy Spirit had worked specially in them, they lost all their inhibitions about speaking about Jesus.   That same Peter, who 54 days earlier wanted to just blend in and not be noticed, drew attention to himself by speaking “loudly and clearly” in order to draw attention to Jesus.  He called out to the “men of Judea, and all you residents of Jerusalem”, and told them to “listen closely to my words”.  And regarding the entire group of disciples, after Jesus’ crucifixion they seemed pretty inhibited as well, not wanting to be noticed by anyone.  Twice we’re told in John’s gospel (ch. 20) that the group was meeting behind locked doors for fear of their own Jewish people.  But now here they were out in front of thousands, and speaking!

Somewhat closely connected to being uninhibited is also being and speaking inappropriately.  While intoxicated people all act in different ways, one way that seems relatively common to intoxicated people is to be somewhat inappropriate in their behavior, but especially in their speaking, sometimes to the point of being obnoxious.  We know all about inappropriate speech in our day and age of political correctness and supposed tolerance.  There are all sorts of words and ideas that, if spoken, are deemed inappropriate and therefore to be automatically rejected and condemned.  Well, with his inhibitions down, Peter became what some might consider to be inappropriate in what he said.  In the section after our lesson (Acts 2:22ff), Peter launched into a “sermon” on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus and how the people gathered in front of him were complicit in the condemnation and death of Jesus:  “This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.”  He would make it clear that Jesus is the Savior of sinners, them included.  While we don’t know exactly what Peter and the other 11 said in those foreign languages, we know in general what they said.  The people who heard them said that they heard them in their own language “declaring the wonderful works of God.”  The most wonderful work of God is his rescue of sinners through Jesus from the eternally destructive results of their sins.  Their declarations would have to have included some pointing out of sin in people’s lives that needs forgiveness through Jesus the Savior.  In so many instances, pointing out of sin is received as inappropriate speech that is not to be tolerated.

And finally, again closely connected to uninhibited and inappropriate behavior and speech often associated with drunkenness is babbling.   Again, while different people behave differently while intoxicated, many seem not to be able to control their mouths; they just babble on about things whether it be their opinion about sports or politics or other people.  Well, consider each person hearing those 12 apostles of Jesus that day.  Each person heard only one person he or she could understand.  To them and their ears the other eleven men were just babbling because they spoke languages unintelligible to them.  Babbling.  But the one person each of them could understand spoke on and on about the “wonderful works of God”.  They heard the wonderful things God had done for them in that crucified and risen Jesus of Nazareth.  At the end of the entire “episode” St. Luke wrote that 3,000 of them believed by the work of the Holy Spirit what they had heard in the “babbling”, and were baptized.

So, back to our question about being mistakenly accused of drunkenness when you are not intoxicated?   Has this happened to you?    Have you ever been accused of such for uninhibited, inappropriate babbling about the works of God?

Sadly, I confess it doesn’t happen in my life as much as it should.  And I’m guessing the same is true for you.  With boldness and fearlessness I should at every opportunity “babble” about the wonders of God.  I should be unafraid and unashamed to speak God’s truth – even if our culture regards it as inappropriate – politically incorrect.  I should be uninhibited – no barriers of fear or embarrassment to tie my tongue.  In thought, words, and behavior our God calls us to declare his wonderful works.  And so often we fail.  When presented with an opportunity we might clam up and try to be unnoticed, like Peter on Maundy Thursday or the entire group after Jesus crucifixion and resurrection.  Too often we even go in the other direction, speaking and behaving like a child of Satan through our disobedience to God’s commands for our life, thoughts and words.

For this reason Jesus the Son of God came to our world and life to be uninhibited in living as the perfect Son of God and the perfect human being that God demands we be.  He also was uninhibited; he’d speak to anyone, even people like the Samaritans with whom Jews by custom (and hate) would not interact.  Uninhibited, he interacted with people whose sins were obvious to the Jewish religious elites – tax collectors and other despised people in the Jewish society and culture.  But he would also speak inappropriately to accomplish the sharing of God’s saving truth.  To people humbled and penitent, he spoke forgiveness, which came off as inappropriate to the self-righteous Pharisees.  And to those Pharisees, to again present truth and to shake them up to see their sin he would make some statements that undoubtedly were viewed as inappropriate, such as “You belong to your father, the devil” (John 8:44).  Then Jesus took that perfect life to his cross to endure the punishment our failures to be perfect deserve.  His resurrection is God’s statement that Jesus’ sacrifice was totally sufficient to give you Jesus’ innocence as you stand before our holy God.  Eternal life is yours in Jesus!

As did the approximately 3,000 on that first Pentecost, you also believe this by the Holy Spirit’s working.  This is the Holy Spirit’s work – to so convince us through God’s word that heaven through Christ is a certainty, a done deal – that uninhibited, inappropriately you and I will babble at every opportunity about the wonderful works of God.

So, let me set before us a challenge for this week.  In at least one conversation, try to inject a spiritual message; try, by the Holy Spirit’s work, to break through the inhibitions and become inappropriate by babbling about the wonderful works of God.  It probably isn’t as tough as we tell ourselves it is.  You can do it with the simplest and most common of topics.  For instance – today is one of the best weather days we’ve had, what with all the rain that been falling over the last 3 weeks.  What can you do when talking about a beautiful day?  Can you do something with the statement, “it’s a beautiful day” that turns it to talking about the wonderful works of God?  Well, who makes the sun shine and rain to fall?  We know!  So, couldn’t we say something like, “Our creator God has given us a beautiful day today!”?  Or another for instance – I see the Packers have started their organized team activities in preparation for the coming football season.  When you talk about the great maneuverability and the incredible passing accuracy of Aaron Rodgers, what can you do to turn the comments to reflect the wonderful works of God?   Again, who made the human body?  How about, “Yes, our God gave Aaron Rodgers some pretty magnificent physical abilities.”?     In the same vein, how about health issues?  Poor health or recovering health?  Can we not give credit for healings and recoveries of health to the One who made this body so incredibly that to some degree it heals itself?   And aren’t the wisdom, skill and equipment that go into treating injuries and illness by medical professionals all gifts of that same God?   You can babble about that!  You can tell people that you will pray to our gracious and powerful God for their healing or recovery!   And this might just lead you to where you really want to get when it comes to your babbling about the wonderful works of God:  to talk about our disease of sin against God that should kill and destroy us and you forever and to talk about the healing of sin and gift of eternal life you have in Jesus!  “God has healed me of my sin so I will live with him forever.”

Fellow believers by the work of the Holy Spirit, let’s take on this challenge!  When you do this, “babbleuninhibitedly about the “wonderful works of God”, this is the Spirit’s work in us and the prophecy through Joel continues to be fulfilled.   Amen.

 

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Pastor Dorn Received a Divine Call to Immanuel Lutheran Church in Mosinee, WI

Immanuel Lutheran Church
2001 Jackson St.
Mosinee, WI 54455

June 1, 2017

Dear Brothers & Sisters of Immanuel Lutheran Church,

As we celebrate Pentecost, we remember how God sent the Holy Spirit upon his disciples to embolden them to proclaim his Word. We continue to see the Holy Spirit working today in bringing people to faith and providing faithful pastors to congregations.

With this letter I acknowledge the divine call that you, the congregation of Immanuel, have extended to me. I am truly humbled that God allows me to be a minister in service to his Church. In the coming weeks I will be seeking input from members of Immanuel, as well as St. Stephen’s, to see where God will best use my gifts.

I ask for your prayers for myself and the two congregations that God’s will be done. Please feel free to contact me with any thoughts you may have.

To God be the Glory,

Pastor Seth P. Dorn

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“It Is Now Time!”-A Sermon on John 17:1-11a for the 7th Sunday after Easter, May 28, 2017

The timing could not be better. A photographer goes around all day snapping photos of people busily hustling around in their daily routines. They keep their eyes open for that perfect photo opportunity. All of a sudden the timing is perfect. A man kneels down asking his girlfriend to marry him in a park. A young family walks hand in hand down the street. The colors of the sky provide a perfect backdrop to capture the beauty of the city skyline. The photographer did not plan any of this, but the timing is just right.

Jesus knew that everything was about to come to completion. For thirty-three years everything had been building up to this one point, really since Adam and Eve fell into sin everything had been building up to this one great act. As the timing was nearing completion, Jesus prayed.

It would only be a little longer before it happened. All throughout the night everything built up to this one spectacular event. Jesus taught his disciples about humility by washing their feet. He gave them his own body and blood in communion. He encouraged them to remain connected to him, the vine from which every branch bears good fruit.

Soon Jesus would lead his disciples out to the Garden of Gethsemane where he would be betrayed. Before they left, Jesus prayed. This prayer has been referred to as Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer. The focus of the prayer was on others. Even though Jesus knew the pain awaiting him, he took this time to pray for all believers. Before he got to that part, he asked for God’s blessings upon what he would encounter.

Jesus looked up to heaven, “Father, the time has come” (John 17:1). Even though the disciples did not fully understand what lie ahead, Jesus knew the time was here. Everything he told them about his suffering and death would become a reality. The Scriptures would be fulfilled by the Lamb of God going to his death. The climax of God’s plan of salvation would reach its peak. No more waiting for the time was now.

At this time Jesus asked one thing, “Glorify your Son so that your Son may glorify you” (John 17:1). The glory of the Father and the Son was always intimately connected to one another. How would glory be given to each? “I have glorified you on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do” (John 17:4). From his birth, circumcision, life, miracles, teachings, and all the way to his death it all brought glory to God. God laid out the plan for his Son from the beginning. Jesus fulfilled the plans perfectly.

At first it does not look glorious. All throughout Jesus’ life he faced rejection from his own people. Many disciples deserted him when things got tough to understand. Soon Jesus would face a flurry of activity no one would want to go through. His disciples would leave him out of fear for their own lives. Jesus faced torture, beatings, wearing a crown of thorns, and having his arms outstretched upon a cross. It looks like a gruesome end to a common criminal. How can this possibly bring glory to the Father?

We might not see the glory either. Our ideas of a Savior grow dim over the outcome Jesus faced. Why would the Savior of the world undergo such a thing? How could he allow sinful humans to treat him in such a manner? Where is the glory? Where is the power?

In our life we wonder where all the glory is. Television shows and movies celebrate everything opposing God’s will. Hearts grow cold in carrying out the Great Commission. We see so many suffering from pain, both physical and emotional, it looks like sin is winning. Church membership decreases. Where is the glory?

The glory that Jesus would bring into the world in the next few hours would be the most glorious sight anyone has ever seen. The cross brought glory to the Father, because the Father said this needed to be. The glory did not end there, but it kept coming. “Now, Father, glorify me at your own side with the glory I had at your side before the world existed” (John 17:5). Jesus had all glory from the beginning. As he lived upon the earth, he set aside full use of his glory.

Soon he would take his rightful place in heavenly glory again. We just heard about that news on Thursday at our Ascension service. After he accomplished his mission upon the earth nothing would hide his glory anymore. It all came full circle. He went to heaven. God placed all things under his feet. His glory, no longer hidden, shines in splendor. Now is the time for glory.

This glory shines on us. Even in the midst of our earthly crosses, we know the glory on the horizon. We need to keep our eyes focused on that glory. Our hearts set free by the gospel support mission work by our words, prayers, and offerings. God’s Spirit is still working on bringing people to faith. We also know this earth is not the final place we see God’s glory. All the troubles, all the trials teach us to look forward to eternal life. There is our end goal in life as we look for the time for our eternal life.

Jesus prayed, “For you gave him authority over all flesh, so that he may give eternal life to all those you have given him” (John 17:2). Here is the purpose for all the plans for Jesus. God granted Jesus authority over all flesh for one purpose. Jesus came to win eternal life for all the believers upon the earth.

Eternal life sounds good, doesn’t it? So many people wish time would stand still. The school year just finished, and if you are like me, you wonder where the year went. Even though the weather does not feel like it, June will soon be upon us when it seems like we just turned the calendar to January. People will spend thousands of dollars on surgeries to try and turn back the effects of time on their skin and bodies.

We search so hard, we work so hard, we spend so much looking for the fountain of youth or a secret to a longer life. However, no such thing exists. Our bodies are infected with sin bringing destruction and death.

Yet, Jesus brings eternal life. Eternal life is simply defined, “This is eternal life; that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you sent” (John 17:4). Jesus gives us the road map on how we receive eternal life. It is simple. There is only one way. The secret is out. Are you ready for it? Eternal life is knowing Jesus and his work.

We live in a time when people think there are many ways to eternal life. They look for some enlightenment in their life from some great teacher. They desire to earn their eternal life by doing good to all people. They will worship any god of any culture, because one of those gods has to be the right one. Then comes the biggest deception the devil can put before us. We grow despondent. We lose all hope. We wonder how God can save a sinner, especially a sinner like me.

These lies infiltrate our minds. Yet, Jesus tells us the simple way to eternal life. We need to know the only true God. There is no other name by which we can be saved. The true God does not come to us in the form of wood or stone. His teachings do not resonate with hollow proverbs. Our God comes to us with the power of his Word. His Word points us to his Son Jesus. His Word lifts up the despondent heart to find joy in Jesus.

Our eternal life did not come because we earned it. It does not come because some person wanted to make up his own form of religion. Our eternal life comes to us solely by the work of Jesus. His life and death make amends for all our faults. His resurrection assures us we will have eternal life in heaven.

The time for our salvation was coming ever closer. Jesus would soon go to the cross. We stand in awe at how eternal life was won for us. Our hearts overflow with thanksgiving because we know there could be no other way.

The time is now. Jesus knows it. We see it in his heartfelt prayer. He would bring glory. He would fulfill everything his Father laid out for him to do. He would bring eternal life. His death won the forgiveness of our sins. He is the only way. The time is now to worship our Lord for all he has done. Amen.

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Luke 24:44-53-A Devotional for Ascension, May 25, 2017

Mission accomplished! Those words can bring a sense of relief. The hours spent on the project bring about the intended results. The time worrying about what could go wrong now turns into jubilant celebration on everything going smoothly. Nothing else needs to be done. Everything is finished. Mission accomplished.

That is the message Jesus brought to his disciples. All throughout his earthy ministry Jesus preached fulfillment of the Scriptures. The disciples still were a little confused. Their ignorance shone through. They tried to piece together all the prophecies spoken about in the Old Testament, but their minds still do not fully comprehend what was going on.

They still wanted Jesus to spend time with them. They had so many more questions. They wanted to learn more about him. They wanted to follow his example and lead in this life. Yet, Jesus told them his mission was accomplished. The Son of God came to do all the things he would do. He would suffer. The world witnessed that with his death on the cross. He would rise again. He burst forth from the grave to show his triumph on Easter Sunday. Jesus’ mission was accomplished.

The Son of God would now return to his Father. There was no more to accomplish here upon the earth. Jesus’ work for now was finished. So Jesus and his disciples were out by Bethany. He raised his hands to bless them. As he did this, he ascended to heaven. They were left all alone. However, the disciples were no longer afraid. They would not lock themselves in a room wondering what to do next. They received God given bravery. They worshiped God, even doing so publicly in the temple awaiting the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Does this mean all of Jesus’ work is done? His mission upon the earth was accomplished, but he still works in heaven. He rules from his throne of glory for the benefit of the church. He continues to send his Holy Spirit to create and strengthen faith in the hearts of men and women.

Jesus also awaits his final mission. He will return again on the last day. All the dead will be raised. The eyes of both believers and unbelievers will look to the skies to see the Lord of lords coming as judge. Jesus will separate the believers from the unbelievers. The unbelievers will go to hell. The believers will be welcomed to heaven. Then all will be accomplished.

Until that time comes we will be his witnesses. Like those disciples we can tell others about the mission our Lord accomplished. Share that story with all so that they will be welcomed into the glories of heaven for all eternity. This mission will never be finished until the last day.

Until that day, we can thank God that Jesus accomplished his mission upon earth. Amen.

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“This Is the Creed of Victory” Sermon on 1 Peter 3:15-22 Easter 6, May 18 & 21, 2017

  1. Where did the Apostles’ Creed come from? The Apostles’ Creed is the first written confession of faith outside of Scripture. The oldest written copy that has ever been found dates from around the year A. D. 150—but it may be older than that. It was first used as a baptismal confession of faith. During first and second centuries, more adults were being brought into the church, and so baptism and adult confirmation happened at the same time. The candidate for baptism would be asked, “Do you believe in God the Father?” and he or she would answer, “I believe in God the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth.” And the pastor or elder would pour water and say “I baptize you in the name of the Father.” Then he or she would be asked, “Do you believe in Jesus Christ?” and the answer would be “I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord…” and so on. The Apostles’ Creed begins with the words “I believe” because it was a personal confession of faith. The Nicene Creed was written almost 200 years later as a confession of the whole church, and so it begins “We believe…” The Apostles’ Creed wasn’t written by the apostles, even though it bears that name. Instead, it draws heavily from the writings of the apostles—especially from the gospels and the letters of Peter and Paul. That’s what a confession of faith should be—our response and our proclamation of what Scripture says.
  2. Today’s lesson from 1 Peter is the source of much of the second article, the part about “Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord. Peter writes: “Christ also suffered once for sins in our place, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in flesh but was made alive in spirit, in which he also went and made an announcement to the spirits in prison. … He went to heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him.”  This Is the Creed of Victory.

I. A Victory Attained by Christ.

  1. The Emmaus disciples had a problem with “optics,” with the way things looked on Good Friday—so much that they lost all hope. But Jesus taught them that he had to suffer to bring his work to completion and then enter his glory. It was for our glory, too. That’s what Peter says here. “Christ suffered once for sins in our place, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.” This is the dark and gritty side of John 3:16. “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son…” to suffering and death. But as awful and tragic as Jesus betrayal, suffering and death were, it all had a purpose. You. “…To bring you to God.” The Nicene Creed picks up on this when it says “for us and for our salvation he came down from heaven.” He is the one who brings us to God. There is no ladder we can climb, no deeds we can do to earn God’s favor or balance out the evil with good and earn our own forgiveness. Jesus lived a holy life and died an innocent death to bring us to God. On Good Friday Jesus said, “It is finished” (John 19:30). Jesus resurrection is very much God’s way of saying “It is finished indeed!” It all counts! “He was raised for our justification” (Romans 4:25). And so, Easter is not just an assurance of life in heaven and resurrection on the last day—it certainly is that. But it is an assurance of life with God, life in God—forgiveness and favor from God day by day—our daily victory, given us through our Lord Jesus Christ.
  2. Something I do not understand is that I have been taught “Grace alone” and “Christ alone” as long as I can remember. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Deep down, I still think I have to do something. Either that, or sometimes I feel like I’ve really failed beyond all recovery. Both are devilish lies—lies because who do these thoughts point me to? Myself! Who does Scripture point me to? Jesus! Jesus suffered to bring you to God, Peter says. It’s the gift of God, Paul says (Ephesians 2:8-9). “Come to me.. and I will give you rest!” Jesus says (Matthew 11:28). “Let not your hearts be troubled. I prepare a place for you!” Jesus says (John 14:1-3). He is the one we must trust. He is our confidence. He is our joy. He gives us his victory over Satan, sin and death.

II. A Victory Proclaimed by Christ.

  1. The most mysterious line of the Apostles’ Creed is “He descended into hell.” You can do a YouVersion or BibleGateway search for it and not find that exact phrase. But it is biblical. It’s what Peter said here, “[Jesus] was put to death in the flesh but was made alive in the spirit, in which he also went and made an announcement to the spirits in prison.” I imagine it this way.[1] At 5:59 Easter morning, Satan is still enjoying all his successes from the past week. Between Palm Sunday and Good Friday he got the crowds to change their shout from “Hosanna!” to “Crucify him!” He got Judas so consumed with greed that thirty pieces of silver were more important to him and became his master, and his true Master he sold to his enemies. He turned bold-talking disciples into chickens, cooped up behind locked doors. So he sits in his easy chair, puts his feet up, lights a victory cigar and says, “Ah! What a week!” Then at 6:00 Easter morning, Jesus walks out of an empty tomb. At 6:01, Jesus pokes his head into the gates of hell and says “Satan! Put your feet down. Put out that cigar! I’m back. You lost. And despite your worst efforts, I accomplished my goal—which involved suffering, which you had a part in.” That’s the descent into hell. St. Paul wrote about it this way: “Having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross” (Colossians 2:15). The hardest sentence for the devil to hear must be that phrase Paul repeats in his letters: “Thanks be to God… through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Christ’s victory is the devil’s defeat. His victory is also our victory.
  2. The Devil does indeed have his small victories. He has small victories in your life and mine all the time.
    • He has a small victory when we’re down because we have momentarily forgotten our victory in Christ and that we’ve been brought near to God.
    • He has a small victory when we forget the guidance of God’s commandments and live for ourselves instead of for God’s glory and our neighbors’ good.
    • He has a small victory when we decide to satisfy our desires our own way with lust and gluttony and excess, rather than being content with the gifts God gives in his time.
    • He has a small victory when we forget the joy of living as children of God—and when we forget our duty as children of God. Hallowing his name. Doing his will.

The Devil does have victories with individuals when they lose faith or when they plunge into temptations instead of struggling against sin—and when sin is a continual thing, God tells us, then no sacrifice for sins is left (Hebrews 10:26), only judgment. Despite those small victories, the devil does not have the big victory. He can’t put Jesus back in the grave. He can’t lead all humanity to destruction. Follow him in victory. Enjoy his freedom.

III.       A Victory that Remains with Christ.

  1. Peter would not have done well in English class[2] because has a long run-on sentence here. He’s so excited about the victory we share in Christ that he goes from Jesus’ suffering and death to his resurrection to the descent into hell to Noah’s ark and finishes with baptism. Just as Noah’s family was lifted in the ark above a dying world, so in baptism we are saved and lifted above a dying world. St. Paul describes it this way, “[God] rasied us up with [Christ] and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6). That’s our status, as if we already are seated with Christ in heaven.  We are “Not the removal of dirt from the body but the guarantee of a good conscience before God through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” Baptism is not a symbol. By themselves, symbols don’t do anything. But baptism is an application of God’s promise. In it he declares us to be his own. In baptism, God declares us justified, innocent because of the victory of Christ. When our consciences trouble us—we rely on Jesus. Yes, I have failed many times, but I know someone who hasn’t failed. Jesus Christ, the righteous one. His holiness covers my sin. His suffering took my guilt. His victory is yours because he gave it to you. His sufferings brought us to God. This is the victory that was shouted through the gates of hell. This is the victory that resounds in heaven. This is the victory we proclaim. Alleluia!

Amen.

[1] I don’t intend this to be any kind of a timetable or even an apocryphal account, but just an illustration of what it all means.

[2] That’s meant to be a joke. As far as we know, Peter would have spoken Aramaic with a Galilean accent (Matthew 26:73). He would have known enough Greek to write his letters. English as we know it now was not spoken in the first century. In the Greek, vv. 18-22 are one sentence.

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“God Equips Us for Life”–A Sermon on Hebrews 13:20-21 for the 4th Sunday after Easter (Confirmation Sunday), May 4/7, 2017

Equipment is very important. In sports a person cannot come onto a basketball court wearing a helmet, shoulder pads, knee pads, thigh pads, and hip pads. They are ready to play a sport, but they are not ready for the right sport. Dribbling and shooting will prove difficult while wearing all those pads. This person is not prepared. Any home remodeling project needs the proper equipment. If someone wants to paint a room, they will need the right color paint, paint brushes, and coverings for the furniture and floor. A hammer and drill will not paint a room. Once again they are unprepared for the task.

In our life we need to make sure we have the right equipment. The wrong equipment, although useful in another situation, will not help us with the task at hand. God equips us for our life. He gives us what we need for each and every situation. We need to make sure we remember that and use the proper equipment for our life.

 The author of the book of Hebrews soon would bring his book to a close. In the midst of his closing thoughts he spoke a prayer for all of the believers reading this letter. This prayer will serve as a good basis for us to take a look at on this special day for our confirmands and as a good review for all of us.

The prayer is addressed to the God of peace. So many people desire peace in their life. We hear about it all the time. Nations desire to live in peace with each other. We want peace in the family. People even desire an inner peace in their own life. Even though so many seek peace, peace seems so elusive. Nations wage war against one another. Families fall apart. Our own life bears the scars of sin.

In the midst of all the unrest we wonder if peace will ever come. However, we worship a God of peace. This peace comes between us and God because of a special covenant. That term of “covenant” might not be something we are familiar with. We talk more of contracts. We sign a contract with a certain cell phone company. We sign a contract to pay off our mortgage over a certain amount of time.

A covenant is much like a contract. Two parties agree to certain terms. Usually it is done for two kingdoms to come together to live peaceably. As long as both sides abide by the terms of the covenant, they will enjoy peace. Once one side breaks the covenant, well the friendly terms are no longer there.

God once made a covenant with us. We did not abide by that covenant at all. God listed all his commands for us to follow, and we failed. We could not even come close to following God’s commands. Because of our disobedience we deserved eternal punishment. However, God brings peace to us.

How did we get this peace? A new covenant was made. This one was not signed in ink on a piece of paper. Jesus signed this covenant with his blood. This cleansing blood wiped away all of our sins. This was the only way we could have peace. God no longer looks with anger upon our sins. God sees Christ’s robe of perfection wrapped around us.

All of this would be for nothing though if Jesus remained in the tomb. The author emphasized that fact with the resurrection of Jesus. We have not come down from that high of Easter just yet. The Easter joy still burns on our hearts.

He lives! Our Great Shepherd lives! The picture of a shepherd provides great comfort for our life. All throughout Scripture God often portrays Jesus as our Shepherd. Never ever ever forget that fact. We are not sending you out to fend for yourselves. Your shepherd travels with you. He will always be there. Through all the triumphs you accomplish in life, give thanks to the good Shepherd. For all the sorrows that come in life, turn to the promises of the Good Shepherd. When your eyes are about to close in death, remember the cross of the Good Shepherd.

God equips us for life through his covenant, his covenant of peace. It is all done for us. We do not have to lift a finger when it comes to our salvation. We proudly proclaim this fact. God equips us for the forgiveness of sins. God doesn’t leave us all alone in this world God also equips us through his continuing to work in us.

The author closes his prayer asking for two things. The first thing is that he wants God to equip us for this life. The right equipment is very important. Many people might say that for life we need the basic three things: food, shelter, and clothing. Many might add that we need all the things money can buy. Is all this equipment necessary for life? Is it the one thing that is needful?

God equips us with the one thing needful for this life. We need his Word. In baptism that faith started in your hearts. God equipped you. Parents nurtured that faith bringing you to church so that faith might continue to grow and increase. God continued to equip you at this school the Word was constantly applied in every subject as God equipped you for life. In catechism classes God continued to equip you with his Word. Next week in the sacrament your faith will continue to be equipped and strengthened.

The point is that we need to recognize the one thing needful in our life. It comes to us in the form of God’s Word. Yet, it does not stop just because we think we know enough. I emphasized this at the very beginning of the catechism year. It will be easy to think that we know it all. We answered all the tough questions on Friday. We will soon make our promises. We can enjoy a party with family and friends. We know it all.

God will continue to work in you. Confirmation does not equal a graduation. We cannot think that God stops working in us. It is sad when many confirmands think of this as the end. They stop coming to church. They stop growing in the Word. They fail to take the equipment with them in life.

God will continue to work in you what is pleasing to him and his will. This is a lifelong process. We will never stop growing. God will never stop working on us. We need to stay close to him all our days. We need to make the Bible, our vital piece of equipment, something we use.

This pleases Jesus. Our entire life will be one of giving all honor and glory to him. We need to make sure that we take the equipment God has given to us and use it. We need it all the time. May we never neglect it. God equips us for life.

The equipment is right there. It is so important that we remember it. God has placed it right before you. Never neglect it. The Great Shepherd has died for your sins. He will lead you in all of life’s adventures. Use the equipment. God will continue to work in you. God Equips Us for Life. Amen.

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“Jesus Wraps Himself in His Word,” Sermon on Luke 24:13-35, Easter 3, April 27 & 30, 2017

  1. Why do we wrap presents? I suppose there are many reasons why we wrap presents. Shiny paper tells you that what’s in this box is something special. It keeps a sense of mystery about what’s in the box. A large box could be a Cuisinart food processor, it could be a vase, a sculpture, it could be anything. A wrapped present also says “hands off.” “Hands off until the proper time.”
  2. On the Road to Emmaus, it seems that Jesus wrapped himself up. On Easter evening the Emmaus disciples were walking back home from Jerusalem, and Luke tells us “Their eyes were kept from recognizing Jesus.” The same thing happened on Easter morning when Mary Magdalene didn’t recognize Jesus and mistook him for the gardener (John 20:15) It seems like Jesus wanted to do things the hard way. He could have told Mary Magdalene and the Emmaus disciples, “Hey, it’s me. Here I am.” It would have saved a lot of time and a lot of tears, but he delayed. Even though he knew they had wrong ideas, he listened. Jesus wasn’t the gardener, but he listened, and when the time was right he said, “Mary” and opened her eyes. With the Emmaus disciples, he let them go on and on. Through it all, I wonder if Jesus was working hard to restrain a smile, or maybe to restrain tears. They said, “Are you only a visitor in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” and Jesus plays it like he doesn’t know. “’What things?’ he asked them.” Oh, yes. He knows. He could say, “Hey, it’s me. Here I am.” But he lets them talk. It’s as if Jesus is keeping himself as a present wrapped for just the right time.
  3. Jesus has another purpose for hiding himself. He wants to show himself, but not to their eyes. He wants to show himself to their hearts, souls and minds in the Word. You remember the trouble when Thomas doubted and said that he had to see and touch Jesus before he believed. Jesus appeared and then said to Thomas, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29). Jesus is working with those Emmaus disciples to build up their faith in what the Word said about Jesus before he showed himself. St. Paul said, “Hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?” (Romans 8:24). And he also said “We walk by faith and not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7) and “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). If Jesus would have said, “Hey, it’s me. Here I am,” he would have been doing nothing for their faith. Instead he lets them tell what they heard from Mary Magdalene and the other disciples that his tomb was empty and that the women at the tomb saw him alive. He wants them to say it and wants them to hear it from their own lips. That’s the first element of our Catechism definition of faith. They knew the facts. They knew what Mary Magdalene and Peter and John had told them. They didn’t accept it as true and they didn’t trust Their faith was lacking. If Jesus would say “Hey, it’s me. Here I am,” it might knock them over like it did Thomas who fell down and said, “My Lord and my God!” It seems that Thomas was somewhat shamed into faith. That’s a complicated thought, isn’t it? Instead of a gracious gospel Jesus brings Thomas to faith by saying “See. Look at my hands and my feet. [I told you so.] Stop doubting and believe.”
  4. With these Emmaus disciples, Jesus is gentle. Even when he tells them how stupid they are, he’s gentle. “How foolish you are and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and to enter his glory?” 27Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” Jesus shows the Emmaus disciples that he is risen, not by saying “Hey, it’s me. Here I am.” He shows them he is risen by unwrapping the Word—the words of Moses and all the prophets. Luke doesn’t give us all the specific words Jesus said or the specific passages he used. Our Synod’s video The Road to Emmaus brought together the passages and Scriptures he must have used. The writings of Moses would include Genesis 3, “He will crush the devil’s head, and the devil will strike his heel.” Something about the promised Savior’s struggle with sin will not be an absolute end for him. For the devil it will be, but not for the Savior. The prophecies of the Psalms would have included Psalm 16, “You will not let your holy one see decay.” Even Psalm 22 with its horrid vision of the suffering Savior, forsaken by God, his hands and feet pierced, laid in the dust of death, at the end says, “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you… even to a generation yet unborn.” And Isaiah, the greatest of the prophets, describes the Savior as being despised and rejected by the people, “stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted” (Isaiah 53), and that’s not the end. “when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see [the light of life] and be satisfied” (Isaiah 53). Did Jesus also talk about Job? “I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth” (Job 19:25). He doesn’t show them with their eyes. He shows them in their ears and in their hearts, souls and minds. He shows them by restoring their faith in the words of promise from the Old Testament—helping them make a connection with what they had heard and seen themselves, and what they heard from the disciples and the women. He was leading them to accept the facts of his own resurrection, and ultimately to trust it. Before, they were faithless. They were dragging their feet and hanging their heads, even though they knew. “How foolish you are and how slow of heart to believe!” Now, for the Emmaus disciples, the little light is beginning to shine again.
  5. Think of the dark times. Your dark times when you are dragging your feet and hanging your head. When you are frustrated with something—sometimes it truly is a big thing, but often our dark times are caused by some stupid little thing—perhaps some little thing that has become big because you’re trying to deal with it all by yourself—not with faith. You’ve made the small thing big by not casting your care on the one who cares for you, but by bearing the burden yourself, because you think you’re so smart—you know just how to fix it—but the darkness deepens. You’re not dealing with the problem in faith. You’re forgetting what Jesus told you and what his friends have been telling you for years. The darkness deepens. Don’t you and I need to hear Jesus tell us, “How foolish you are and how slow of heart to believe all the Scriptures have spoken?” The problem in front of you now doesn’t change the fact that Christ is risen. It doesn’t change the central line in the twenty-third psalm, “I will fear no evil for you are with me” (Psalm 23:4). It doesn’t change Jesus parting words at the end of the Gospel of Matthew, “I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). For you and me, hearing what we’ve been hearing in the gospel of the living Jesus is what makes the little light shine again.
  6. The light is beginning to shine again for the Emmaus disciples—and their faith is hungering for more, like newborn babies hungering for spiritual milk (1 Peter 2:2). So they ask Jesus, “Stay with us, since it is almost evening, and the day is almost over.” The day was getting dark, but they were craving the light that was shining inside—they wanted to hear more from Jesus. Without knowing it, they were saying, “Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest.” But when he sits at their table, he acts like the host. He takes the bread, blesses it and breaks it. Had they seen Jesus do this before? We are told that Jesus “reclined at the table with the twelve” (Matthew 26:20) at the last supper—could others have been there too? Perhaps Cleopas and his friend? We don’t know that for certain. We do know for certain the two times when Jesus fed the thousands he blessed the bread that way (Matthew 14:19, 15:36). And as soon as they saw this, they both thought, “Hey, it’s him…” he was gone. Jesus had given himself to them in the teaching of the Word—so they really didn’t need him there physically. The Emmaus disciples weren’t the only ones who were slow of heart to believe. The Emmaus disciples were so full of faith, they had to run back to Jerusalem and tell the ten disciples. Then they saw Jesus again when he appeared to give the ten disciples an “I told you so” call to faith.
  7. “Abide with us.” “Stay with us.” He does—that was his parting promise, “I am with you always to the end of the age” He remains with us in his Word. In the history of the church, people have referred the supper as the “breaking of bread.” This is where we find Jesus—in Word and Sacrament. If we look for him in our feelings, we’ll either be disappointed that we’re not always on a spiritual high, or we’ll be led astray by our own feelings that have nothing to do with Jesus at all. Here he is in the Word read, spoken and proclaimed. Here he is, with his servants, putting bread and wine in your mouth and putting his promise in your ears—“Hey, it’s me! Here I am, with my body and blood, and you have no need to doubt that your sins are forgiven.” Jesus has wrapped himself in the Word, and he unwraps himself every time you read it or hear it. He has wrapped himself and his gifts in water, bread and wine, and he unwraps himself in that Word and promise of his forgiveness and his presence.

Amen.

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“God Raises Us Up!”–A Sermon on Jonah 2:2-9 for Easter Sunday (Communion Service), April 16, 2017

Imagine for a moment a fun day at a beach. A family decides to escape the heat of the day by spending some time in the water. All is going well. The kids build a sand castle. They jump up and over some waves. Finally you decide to go for a little swim. The refreshing splashes of water cool you down. After a few moments of swimming, all of a sudden something goes wrong. The waves crash down over you. You become disoriented not knowing which way to go. Panic sets in. All of a sudden a lifeguard reaches for you. He hands you a flotation device and pulls you back to shore. You thank that lifeguard over and over again for helping you in your time of need.

Drowning can make someone feel helpless. No matter how hard we work, we go nowhere. We need someone to raise us up from this helpless state. In life we might feel like we are drowning amid life’s problems. Who will come to our help?

God Raises Us Up!

  1. In our life
  2. To our eternal life

 Jonah spoke these words from inside the belly of the fish that swallowed him. God told Jonah to go to Nineveh and preach a message of destruction for their sin. Jonah got in a ship and headed in the other direction. He wanted nothing to do with this mission. Jonah thought his plans could be placed above God’s plans. He thought, quite foolishly, God would not be able to find him.

Jonah could not escape that easily. God sent a violent storm threatening to crush the ship to pieces. Jonah told the crew to throw him overboard. Once they did, the storm stopped. God would also rescue Jonah. A great fish swallowed Jonah. He remained there in the belly of the fish for three days.

Jonah had nothing to do with his time but think. He had no idea what would happen. He prayed, “You hurled me into the deep, into the very heart of the seas, and the currents swirled about me; all your waves and breakers swept over me” (Jonah 2:3). Death surrounded Jonah. He might have thought that this would have been it. He felt banished by God.

Jonah could only do one thing, “In my distress I called to the LORD, and he answered me. From the depths of the grave I called for help, and you listened to my cry” (Jonah 2:2). Jonah, who once tried to escape God, now turned toward God for help. God humbled Jonah, so that he would rely on God to raise him up. Jonah knew God was the only one to help, “to the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever. But you brought my life up from the pit, O LORD my God” (Jonah 2:6).

 Jonah turned towards God when he felt like he was drowning. He knew that God would be the only one who could raise him up at a time like this. God did exactly this. He restored Jonah by having the fish spit him up upon dry land again. Jonah’s life has been restored to him. It could only be done by God and no one else. “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs. But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. Salvation comes from the Lord” (Jonah 2:8-9).

 We might never have tried to run and hide from God. However, we do feel like we are drowning. Life’s troubles and trials easily rise above our heads. The torrents of strained relationships drag us down. The waves of financial trouble crash down upon us. The current of health problems drag out to the depths of despair.

We can easily turn to worthless idols with all of this. We turn to ourselves. We turn to self-help books. We turn to pop culture. They will be unable to help. They might give us short term answers, but they will be unable to hold us up for the long term.

We turn to the one that can truly help, our Lord and Savior. The mighty seas are no power for him. He reaches down and raises us up to safety. He restores us when we go through the trials of this life. He raises us over the waves of frustration and conflict in our life. There is no problem that can give us trouble where Jesus cannot raise us up.

Easter gives us this joyous hope. Christ has overcome sin, death, and the devil for us, so he will raise us up over life’s troubles. More importantly Easter reminds us that Christ will raise us up to eternal life.

Jonah prayed, “To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever. But you brought my life up from the pit, O LORD my God” (Jonah 2:6). Jonah felt like he was sinking into the grave. He wondered if the belly of this fish would be his final resting place. God brought him up from the pit. God restored Jonah. Jonah did have a resurrection on that day. God saved his life.

God allowed Jonah to look upon his face once more. Jonah’s sin of rebellion and deceit would be forgiven. God raised Jonah up with his sins forgiven to life a new live. No longer would he be banished from his sight, but he would stand in the presence of his Savior.

Easter morning gives us confidence and joy. Easter means our sins have been forgiven. Our sins keep us separate from God. Our sins rightfully banish us from our Savior’s kingdom. There is nothing we could do. We would sink down to the grave only to remain there for all eternity.

God raised up his Son from the grave. Death could not keep it grasp on our Savior. On Good Friday it might have looked like the devil won, but our Savior won. He yelled out it is finished from the tree. He gave his life only to take it back again in three short days. God raised his Son up from the grave to show the sacrifice had been accepted.

God will raise us up to eternal life. The grave will not hold us. God will bring our life up from the pit. This is the entire message of Easter. This is the entire joy of Easter. This is what makes Easter such a highlight for us to celebrate.

Our salvation comes from the Lord. When we face death, we can be certain that God will raise us up. He will not set us in another dangerous situation. God will raise us up only to land us in the joys of heaven. God will raise us up to stand in his presence forever.

A life line has been thrown in our direction. God comes to our aid. He lifts us up when troubles come. He raises us to eternal life. Amen.

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