Palm Sunday, 2015
3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,[a] 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,[b] being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Dear Friends in Christ,
Growing Up By Staying Low - 45 years ago, I played football for the Wyndmere Warriors. My coach was Ken Bakkegard, who was even shorter than I am, but fiery. If you didn’t do it right, he had a habit of grabbing the front of your helmet and looking you right in the eyes and chewing you out. For whatever reason, he decided that I should play center on offense. Which isn’t a very glamorous position, by the way. The only time people note who you are is when you miss your block or snap the ball over the punter’s head. And one of the worst mistakes you can make is to not stay low. If the opposing nose guard got lower than you and stood you up, that play wasn’t going to go very well. To this very day coaches are training players to succeed by staying low.
Here is one coach’s quote, “Football is a dangerous sport, but playing smart and safe is the key to making sure you're not being hauled of the football field on a stretcher or in a neck brace. It's not one-hundred percent preventable, but how do you minimize the risk of potential deadly injuries to young football players? This video will show coaches a few drills to teach their young athletes to minimize catastrophic neck injuries. And the key is staying low at the line.
The shared vision here at Trinity Lutheran Church and School is that we mature as disciples for Jesus Christ. That all 1700 plus of our members would not only be following Christ but be actively engaged in His mission to seek and save the lost. That our newly confirmed members wouldn’t just be surviving confirmation class and public examination, but in fact would be signing up for a life-long journey of taking on the form of servants and spending your days and nights having the mind of Christ. Getting down on your knees, growing up by staying low, growing up by washing feet, cleaning toilets, and you fill in the blank. Two parts to our sermon today, “Joining Jesus On His Mission.” The first is getting into position every week to have the mind of Christ, and the second is practicing what we preach with clear purpose each week.
Part I: Getting Into Position Every Week. Seven habits of maturing disciples we have identified here at Trinity. Three habits focus on receiving what God is wanting to give us and four habits focus on giving away to others what we have received.
Our first stated goal of Confirmation Class this year has been to engage young people in the rhythm and significance of God’s mission. The rhythm of creation was that God created light, land, sea, fish, birds, land animals, and humanity in 6 days and rested on the seventh day. The rhythm of Old Testament life was that they would work on the first six days and then rest on the seventh. The rhythm of New Testament life is that we hear God’s Word on the first day of the week and treasure it and keep it and live it out for the glory of God and the benefit of others Monday through Saturday. (Compare to rhythm of dancing – a few have it and many of us do not). The first habit of disciples who are growing up by staying low / getting into correct position is that we receive gratefully God’s good gifts in Divine Service.
Question #1 - What truths did I learn in this week’s sermon, and how are they (setting me free)? The bad news is that if you will not listen to a sermon, the truths of God’s Word presented in that sermon will have no way of setting you free. The good news is that every time you remember the truths you learned from your parents or grandparents or confirmation class pastors, they will bless and keep you. Nationwide research suggests that in all of the churches, about 70% of young people who have grown up in the church will fall away by age 25 or so. And yet Zechariah reminds us today that as often as you return to your stronghold, the blood of the covenant sets you free. As often as you eat and drink at the Holy Supper, that often your sins are forgiven. That often your faith is strengthened. That often you are reconnected to a God whose passion is to have mercy on you.
The second habit of disciples who are growing up by staying low / getting into the correct position is to search eagerly Holy Scriptures. Question #2 - What is my passion, and where is it (leading me)? (My mom would have been 90 this past week. Her passion each day was to read her Bible and say her prayers). Our Lord’s passion, His great desire, of course, was to get to the cross and die for the sins of the people. It was for the joy set before Him that He did not count equality with God something to be snatched and held onto. So that He would welcome your sorry souls into paradise, He emptied himself. He took on the form of a slave and lowered himself and was obedient as far as death would take him, even death on a cross.
What is your passion these days, and where is it leading you? Perhaps your greatest desire in life is to eat, drink, and have fun. How’s that working out for you? Perhaps it is to make a boatload of money and buy all the happiness that money can buy. How’s that working out for you? Perhaps your passion is just to survive life and mind your own business. How’s that working out for you? Today we learn of Jesus in the temple at age 12 was getting Himself in a position to be about His Father’s business. He did that by spending quality time with the Bible scholars of His day. By doing so with a mind that was curious, a heart that was on fire, and ears that were tilted.
The third habit of disciples who are growing up by staying low/ getting into the correct position is to humbly confess sin to God and others. Our third question is What is heaviest on my heart today, and where am I (taking my brokenness). Every day and every day, your Savior invites you to follow Him. To follow Him closely. Come unto me, He invites, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. A broken and a contrite heart, I will not despise, our God promises. Is there a more beautiful promise than that? Which of your bad habits are hurting and harming you the most? Take them on bended knee to your God and cry out for mercy. Which of your weaknesses are getting the best of you? Take them to your King who is humble and mounted on a donkey and cry out hosanna. Which corners of your life are broken and which of your dreams are shattered? Take them to your Christian friends and to your Lord’s Supper and ask for a second chance.
Part II: Practicing What We Preach With (Clear Purpose) Each Week
Could it be that one good question is worth a thousand answers? Four questions to help us think about practicing what we preach with purpose. The first is What’s my next step in terms of (laying down my life) for my neighbors? (Story told by Army Veteran Mr. Johanson at Friday’s Veteran’s Roundtable – Chaplain Rooney praying for and sending out 15 members of their battalion through enemy fire, each sent with a portion of Psalm 23, The Lord is my shepherd – GO.. I shall not want – GO. He makes me lie down in green pastures – GO. He leadeth me by the still waters –GO., etc) Here were soldiers laying down their lives for millions of people they would never know, many of them who never be grateful, much less say thank you. Husbands, ask yourselves, “which train should I jump in front of on behalf of my bride today?” Wives, ask yourselves, “which horrible habit of my husband should I cover up today?” Teachers, ask “which student really needs me to listen to their story today?” Students, ask “which classmate of mine needs me to hang out with him or her today?” Imagine on the last day, Jesus looking you in the eyes and saying, “When I needed someone to be available to me, you were!
The second of four habits of disciples who are practicing what their church is preaching with clear purpose is to prayerfully endure life’s crosses. Could it be true that one good question is worth a thousand answers? Which five people will I (pray for) and suffer with this week? Our younger generation is uniquely positioned to know who needs a prayer partner. Just go on Facebook, and within seconds you will know which of your friends is having a bad day, which one is stuck in traffic, which one is angry about snow falling on the first day of spring, which friend has a father who is dying, which one has a child that is sick or naughty, which family member needs you to walk alongside. Imagine on the last day our Lord looking you in the eyes and saying, “When I needed a friend to pray for and suffer with me, you did!”
Could it be that one good question is worth a thousand answers? Is my joy in the Lord a (contagious) joy? Medical experts tell us that smallpox and Bubonic Plage and influenza and rabies and ebola and HIV and a host of other diseases are contagious. Human experience tells us that crabbiness and unthankfulness and orneriness and stubbornness and hopelessness and sadness and even stupidity can be contagious. But the Spirit of God would remind us today that every fruit of the Holy Spirit, including joy, can be contagious. (Story of Ed Cutler / Florence Kyle who taught me how to knock on doors and tell people about Jesus). Their joy in the Lord was both with purpose and almost impossible to resist! Imagine on the last day our Lord looking you in the eyes and saying, “When I drifting toward the darkness and needed a ray of sunshine, you gave it to me!
Could it be that one good question could be worth a thousand answers? How will I season my conversations with (Good News) this week? There is a time to ask questions, of course, and there is a time to listen, and then there is in fact a time to give a reason for the hope that is within you. Paul writes to the Colossians, Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
In his book, “Joining Jesus on His Mission”, author Pastor Greg Finke has this to say about talking to people, “Survey after survey shows that Americans are among the most lonely and isolated people on earth…The truth is that God has wired some of us to be introverts and some of us to be extroverts….God intends that we interact with people at the relational pace with which he has wired us….The truth is extroverts and introverts bring both strengths and weakness to the practice (of talking to people). Extroverts are good at initiating and talking, but they are not as good at listening and asking the next question. On the other hand, introverts are good at noticing and watching people, but struggle to initiate conversation…” Imagine that on the last day, Jesus looks you directly in the eyes, and says, “When I needed you to initiate and carry the conversation, you did…..And when I needed you to watch my face and ask good questions and listen at length, you did.”
Following Well – The kingdom of God is like a young man who confirmed his faith at this altar in April of 2000, about the time this year’s confirmands were growing in their mother’s wombs. Our Confirmation Class picture display shows that his hair was long, he wore tennis shoes, and he stood to the left of a short fat face preacher. Since then, he has drifted away from the Church but praise be to God not his Lord. He’s messed up his life in such a way that he has landed in Blue Earth County Jail and that the St. Cloud Prison and now Moose Lake Prison. And from his prison cell, this young man who’s about the age of Pastor Muther and probably wore one of the robes one of you is wearing writes us a letter and thanks us for sending him Bible Studys and sermons and indicates that they truly help him to get through hard times, “I truly believe God has put me in here to help me change not only my life but the lives of others around me. I know I’ve made mistakes and will never be perfect but our God is a loving and forgiving God and not a day goes by that I don’t call on Him to give me the strength to make it through the day….inhere I help people learn every day and there are days that I teach about the Lord and Savior and there is a true sense of joy….Not a day goes by that I’m not in my Bible the Word comforts my soul.”
Charles would no doubt agree with Chris Tomlin, who sings, it this way “The one who reigns forever / He is a Friend of Mine / The God of angel armies / Is always by my side.
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