Sacrament of Altar Part II
August 30, 2017
· Last week, we considered the nature and the benefits of our Lord’s Supper, tonight we consider the power of our Lord’s Supper and who is worthy to receive it.
· Here at Trinity 1/3 of our 1200 plus communicant members receive the Supper regularly, 1/3 occasionally, and 1/3 not at all.
· The first half of the catechism, Luther said, was to be brought to mind again and again, that you could never truly master it, but you repeated and remembered and inwardly digested it because – and I quote – “without it, our souls become rusty, as it were, and we lose ourselves.” Here, as we finish our catechism, we reflect on another Luther quote… If a person stays away from the sacrament, day by day he will become more and more callous and cold, and eventually spurn it altogether. To avoid this, we must examine our heart and conscience and act like a person who really desire to be right with God. The more we do this, the more will our heart be warmed and kindled, and it will not grow entirely cold.
The longer I stay alive – and I’ve made a good go at thirty years running now – the longer I stay alive, the more I realize that experience can do one of two things: sometimes it makes us numb, and other times, it deepens our understanding. Sometimes, if you are a social worker, you see sad, sad lives of people day in and day out and the sheer amount of terrible makes you numb to the real and human plight before you. Other times, the experience helps our words and our actions mean more, in the way that the phrase “I love you” cannot help but mean more when said after 50 years of marriage, when faced with surgery and brain tumors and a painful end, it cannot help but mean more than it did on your wedding day.
I don’t know precisely why it works out this way, but I do have one thought as we turn to our catechism today. But I’ll share that at the end.
· First question tonight – How can bodily eating and drinking do such great things? Read together. This is basically the same answer that Luther gives in the section on baptism. Certainly not just the water, but the water combined with the word does these great things. Certainly not just eating and drinking but these words
· Second question: Who receives this sacrament worthily? Read together.
Notice Luther’s first thought – it’s good to fast. It’s good to have bodily discipline, but it’s not everything. (Fasting).
Here we hear the same words that St. Paul writes in Romans 8, the same words that the Psalmist uses in Psalm 27… If God is for us, then who can be against us? If he has placed inestimable worth upon us, then what could man do to us? If he has taken away the sting of death, then, as Luther penned in A Mighty Fortress, “And take they (he’s talking about the devils) our life // goods, fame, child or wife // he can harm us none // he’s judged the deed is done // one little word can fell him.”
The one who receives the sacrament worthily is the one that believes those two little words: for you. This is done for you. It is strength for you. It is life for you. It is love for you. It is forgiveness for you. For you, because God promised to deliver those things through these things, for you.
· Apply- Three thoughts in conclusion.
First, it seems as though the difference between mindless repetition and meaningful reflection is one’s intention. Are we being intentional when we come to the Lord’s Supper? Do we look at our watches to see how quick Pastor Muther can get through that proper preface, or do we take care to listen to it? Do we take the bread and the wine remembering that they are body and blood and that eating and drinking them grant forgiveness of all our failures and faults?
Second, A story… Cindy… having a life threatening kind of a surgery… asked for communion… said, “Pastor, don’t get me wrong, I like your preaching ok. But when I take communion, there is something special there that I can’t explain.”
Third, a quote from a man named John Chrysostom, called John Golden Tongue, a wonderful preacher from the 400’s A.D. "Let us then return from [the Communion] table like lions breathing fire, having become terrible to the devil; thinking on our head [Christ] and on the love that He has shown for us..."
Amen and amen.
August 26 and 27, 2017
Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost
Matthew 16: 13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock[b] I will build my church, and the gates of hell[c] shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed[d] in heaven.” 20 Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.
Dear Friends in Christ,
This summer, we have fixed our eyes for four weeks on Jesus the Missionary, for three weeks on Jesus the Story Teller, and now for four weeks on Jesus the Miracle Worker. Three weeks ago, we heard the miracle of feeding thousands of people with just a little bit of food, two weeks ago we heard the miracle of Jesus walking on water, and last week, we heard the miracle of Jesus driving out a demon just by the power of his word. This morning our focus is on the miracle of the forgiveness of sins, and how Jesus would be building His kingdom on that very miracle.
You may remember the story where friends of a paralyzed man went to great effort to get that man into the presence of Jesus so that He could heal his paralyzed body. Jesus did tell the man to get up and walk, but not before he told the man to take heart, his sins were forgiven. When criticized for claiming to have the authority to forgive sins, Jesus asked, which is easier to say, to say your sins are forgiven or to say, “rise and walk”. The point Jesus was making, “That you may know the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.”
This morning, we find Jesus handing over that authority on earth to work this same miracle of forgiveness. We find him handing over the keys of the kingdom to all who would confess with Peter, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
The context of this promise to hand over the keys was that Jesus seems to have taken His disciples to a retreat location in order to prep them for what was coming next. What was coming next was an intense time of ministry in Jerusalem followed by Jesus suffering, dying, and rising again on the third day. In today’s sermon, part one is to think about how Jesus builds his church, part two is to think about what it means to possess the keys of the kingdom, and part three is a true story that illustrates the miracle of forgiveness.
Part one is to think about how Jesus builds his church. And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock[b] I will build my church, and the gates of hell[c] shall not prevail against it.
Four truths Jesus makes in his response to Peter’s confession of faith.
Part two is to think about what it means to possess the keys of the kingdom. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed[d] in heaven.”
Three truths we learn again about what it means to possess a key. First, keys means that you have rights to a house, either because you built the house and earned the rights to it or because the owner decided to trust you with his house and gave you the rights to it. Second, keys mean that you live in the house, you can let yourself in with the keys and lock the door behind you. Third, keys mean that you control who comes in and out of the house. You let in your friends and guests, you keep the robbers out, that’s what it means to have the authority of a house key.
Now we apply these three principles of house keys to possessing the keys of the kingdom. First, we have all the rights and privileges of being in the family of God. What a privilege it is to wake up in the morning, to make the sign of the cross, to remember that the soiled records of yesterday are washed clean, and set out one more time to try and get life right. What a privilege to look ourselves in the mirror night after night with clean consciences. Our consciences are clean not because we have lived such dandy and decent lives, but because the miracle of forgiveness has swept our souls clean one more time.
Secondly, possessing the keys of the kingdom means that Christ and His Spirit have taken up residence inside of us. Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in us. Paul declares that by faith we have access to this grace in which we now stand. As often as we cry out for mercy, that often the whole company of heaven rejoices. As often as we admit that we have messed up and offended our God, that often what Christ earned at the cross is delivered into our inner beings. As often as we go looking for our God, we find that He has been looking for us all the time!
Third, possessing the keys of the kingdom means that we have the authority to forgive the sins of those who are repenting and to not forgive those who are not repenting. One key unlocks and the other locks the very gates of heaven. One key is comes with great privilege and the other with serious responsibility. We use the Gospel key when we assure fellow sinners again and again that God loves them, their sins have been paid for, the promises of their God are certain. We use the tough love key when we speak hard truths to friends and family caught up in sinful habits that are threatening to shipwreck their faith. We use the Gospel key as often as we forgive as we have been forgiven. We use the tough love key when we deal with each other according to their outward actions – realizing that only God can see into their hearts. We use the Gospel key best when we see ourselves as beggars telling other beggars where to find some bread. We use the tough love key best when we make sure we have gotten the logs out of our own eyes before we go looking for specks in our brother’s eyes. Both keys serve the mission of God, which is for sinners near and far to receive the forgiveness of sins into their souls and then to give it away as fast as they can, as best they can, as completely as they can.
Part three is a true story that illustrates the miracle of forgiveness. Outreach Magazine tells of Linda who has lived with a nightmare for over 30 years now. Back in 1986,her daughter Cathy, was a twenty six year old mother pregnant with her second child. Cathy stopped to offer help to two fifteen year old boys whose car had quit on them. The boys accepted her offer of a ride. They raped her, shot her dead, and left in in a field near a dirt road.
It took a long time for Linda to even think about forgiving her daughter’s murderers. She joined victim support groups, but found little comfort there. Everyone there seemed to be stuck in their bitterness. She finally asked for and received permission to meet with one of her daughter’s murderers named Gary Brown. In their meeting, Linda learned that Gary had been abused and neglected early in life. He expressed total remorse, he offered no excuses. He was released from prison after serving 23 years of a fifty four year sentence and is trying to make atonement by living a better life.
Linda has become an advocate of what is called restorative justice, which helps victims to find peace and gives offenders a chance to try to make things right. The outward appearance is that the miracle of forgiveness is changing the hearts of both perpetrator and victim.
The kingdom of God is like a large church in a small town full of folks who are possessing the keys of the kingdom these days. On the one hand, they spend their days doing privately what their pastors do publicly, they turn the Gospel key they have been given, they assure fellow travelers their sins are forgiven, their debts have been cancelled, in the courtroom of their God, the verdict is not guilty. On the other hand, they wonder what they can do and what they could possibly say to so many folks in their lives who are going their own ways, doing their own things, creating their own messes in life. This very day, they take a few deep breaths, they pray like they haven’t prayed in a long time, and they set out to turn the tough love key, they set out to speak truth in love, they think about what it means to be stewards of the riches and the wisdom and the knowledge of God. In Jesus’ Name.
Funeral Sermon for Doris Trahms
August 26, 2017
John 8 31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
I John 5:4 For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. 5 Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
Dear Friends in Christ,
A story is told about an unbelieving soldier who was making fun of his friend one day, a friend who happened to be a Christian. The scoffer said, “The trouble with you Christians is that you think you are better than the rest of us.”
To which the Christian soldier replied, “No, we’re not better than the rest of you, just better off! Just better off. That may describe not only Christians compared to non-Christians, but also Christians who have died compared to those still living here on earth. Not better, just better off.
St. Paul said it best when he wrote that he desired to depart and be with Christ, which was far better. And again he wrote that to live is Christ and to die is gain. Like many elderly Christians, Doris agreed with St. Paul, more than that – in her final weeks and months, she no doubt yearned and prayed for that hour when the angels would whisk her soul into the presence of Jesus Christ, and she could join the multitudes of departed saints yearning for and looking forward to the resurrection of the dead.
Karen tells me that Doris loved to recite John 8:31-32, she called it her Bible verse, it meant the world to her. “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”With that in mind, the sermon theme today is “The truth will set you free.”
In these days, in this family, there are all kinds of tears and all kinds of melancholy, but these tears and melancholy by no means have the final word. Death is in fact the final enemy that every family faces, this family faced it together and there’s no way of getting around the fact that death hurts. Death is ugly, it’s nasty and it separates us from our loved ones. At so many funerals in this sanctuary, including this one, you can hear a pin drop. Urns and caskets have a way of getting us to be still and to know there is a God. Nursing homes and cemeteries have a way of getting us to think through what matters most in life and what doesn’t matter so much.
What matters this morning are the truths that set Doris Trahms free as a daughter of her Father in heaven. It matters that in the waters of Baptism, she was marked with the sign of the cross both upon her forehead and upon her heart, setting her free to live with a clear conscience in all of her days. It matters that as a little child, she learned again and again that Jesus loved her. It matters that Jesus Christ lived a perfect life for her, He suffered, He died, and He rose up again for her, It matters that these truths set her free to live out her vocations in life with the steady and quiet faith worked inside of her by the Holy Spirit. It matters that as she traveled with Robert through all the ups and downs of life, as often as she was still and knew that God was God, as often as she paid attention to the preaching and teaching of God’s Word, as often as she confessed her sins, as often as she cried out for mercy, as often as she received the very body and blood of her Savior at His Supper, that often the forgiveness of sins would sweep over her soul, as sheets of rain sweep over a dry prairie.
Today we stare in the face the wages of sin, which is death, but we celebrate the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Or as John said it, “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.
To the casual observers, funerals may not look or sound or feel much like a victory, but you who are gathered here this morning are not casual observers. You came here, no doubt, not only to pay final respect to a dear Christian woman, not only to grieve with family and friends, but also to be reminded of the victory all baptized and believing Christians are promised. The readings and the music selected by this family lead us to fix our eyes on Jesus Christ, who is the author and the finisher of our faith.
This family would invite you to fix your eyes on Christ who has already run and finished the perfect race, at the cross, he has already done battle with and defeated all the enemies of our faith, including death. No matter what you might be going through in life these days, fix your eyes on Him who has already risen up again on the third day, he ascended into heaven on the 40th day, he poured out His Spirit in superabundant fashion on his church on the 50th day. No matter where the roller coaster of life may be taking you these days, fix your eyes on Him who fixed His eyes on Doris Trahms before she was ever born, He in fact has been following her around with goodness and mercy in all the chapters of her life.
Understand that the crown of life Doris received late this past week is hers because Jesus Christ wore a crown of thorns in her stead. The white robe of righteousness she will wear into eternity is hers because Jesus Christ hung naked in her place on the cross. The palm branch that she will wave in victory in paradise is hers to wave because her Savior was whipped and beaten and slapped and spit at and tortured in her stead.
Kevin, Kurt, and Karen shared with me one of their favorite memories of Doris, it was simply the habit she had developed of listening well to people. So also, as one of her pastors for these past 27 years, a favorite memory of her was her desire to listen to God’s Word, her desire to hear that her sins were forgiven, her desire to receive Holy Communion.
Dear Friends in Christ, today is a good day to examine the competing desires in our own hearts and to see which ones are coming out on top. What is it you and I are seeking first in life? Where are your passions leading you? Is the Holy Spirit of God having his way with you in a regular kind of a way, or not so much?
The Holy Spirit is like a well respected coach who would gather his players in a huddle towards the end of a close game and say, “we can beat these guys. Do this and we will win.” He’s like a dear mother who holds close her frightened child in the middle of a storm and sings and reassures, “we’re safe in this house and we’re going to be just fine. The Holy Spirit is like a master teacher who says to a student preparing for an important test, “study these items well and you will do well on the test. I promise.”
So also did the Holy Spirit say to Doris in the waters of Baptism, “You are mine today and forever. Your name is written in the book of life and your mansions in heaven are on reserve.” So also did He say to her in her confirmation classes and in sermons and in daily devotions throughout the years, “trust in me, Stay close to me and I’ll bring you through thick and thin, smooth sailing and stormy seas, no exceptions to this rule.”
In closing I pray that God would send his holy angels to be with all of in all the chapters of life, that the wicked foe may have no power over you. We pray for the truths of God’s Word to keep on setting you free, for the Holy Spirit to be your counselor and your teacher in all the circumstances of your life. We pray for the forgiveness of sins to sweep over your souls and rule in your hearts in contagious fashion, we pray for Jesus Christ to hold you close in days of trouble, we praise God for blessing so many of us with the life and the times of Doris Trahms, and we pray for her remains to rest in peace until that great day of resurrection. In Jesus Name.
Sacrament of Altar Part I
August 23, 2017
I Corinthians 11:23-24 – I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when He was betrayed took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it, and said, “This is My body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.
The kingdom of God is like a family where three and sometimes four generations attend their Lord’s Supper together. As they do so, they say to anybody who is watching that Jesus Christ died for them, He rose up again for them, and they believe He is coming back again for them. Again and again their sins are forgiven, their faults are forgotten, and their failures are erased. It has become the high point of their family circle, and their joy in the Lord just keeps on getting deeper and deeper.
Worship Sermons & Letters
Pastor Paul Muther