Third in a Series of Seven Sermons
40 “But if they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their fathers in their treachery that they committed against me, and also in walking contrary to me, 41 so that I walked contrary to them and brought them into the land of their enemies—if then their uncircumcised heart is humbled and they make amends for their iniquity, 42 then I will remember my covenant with Jacob, and I will remember my covenant with Isaac and my covenant with Abraham, and I will remember the land. 43 But the land shall be abandoned by them and enjoy its Sabbaths while it lies desolate without them, and they shall make amends for their iniquity, because they spurned my rules and their soul abhorred my statutes. 44 Yet for all that, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not spurn them, neither will I abhor them so as to destroy them utterly and break my covenant with them, for I am the LORD their God. 45 But I will for their sake remember the covenant with their forefathers, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations, that I might be their God: I am the LORD.”
Dear Friends in Christ,
• Two weeks ago – receiving gratefully God’s good gifts, receiving ungratefully, or not receiving them at all
• Last week – searching eagerly Holy Scripture, searching not so eagerly, or not searching at all
• Tonight – confessing humbly your sins to God and others, confessing sort of, kind of, with a few conditions, or confessing not at all
• Two parts to confession 1)acknowledge our sins, and 2)receive absolution
• To be repentant is to be 1)sorry and 2)to believe in Jesus as Savior
• Necessary result of repentance – amend sinful ways / change in behavior (tell story of older brother beating up younger brother / saying he is sorry, but he keeps beating him up)
• Story of Jake in our Release Class Time video /Christian boy making a one time mistake, posting nude photos of girl friend on website / called into principal’s office, at first denying, then confessing, then getting expelled. His youth pastor helped him to believe that his sins were forgiven, and at the same time he suffered consequences. Saint and sinner. Temporary but not eternal suffering. 1)run to God for mercy, 2)learn from mistakes, 3)teach others.
• Story of Israel was one of sin, suffer, supplication, savior cycle / messing up, suffering miserably, drawing near to their holy God for forgiveness, learning from their mistakes, teaching their children and others.
• The first 16 chapters of Leviticus told Israel how God was to come near to God with a)blood sacrifices, b)through the priesthood, c)by avoiding defilement.
• The last 11 chapters of Leviticus show how Israel was to live out their relationship with God in terms of personal holiness, holiness with regard to sexual behavior, holiness in society, holiness for the priests, holy festivals, holiness of the land, and tonight we turn in chapter 26 to God’s rewards for obedience and punishment for disobedience.
• Rewards for obedience required 11 verses to enumerate / if they listened and were careful to walk humbly before the Lord as a nation included rain in its season, ground yielding its crops, and trees bearing fruit. Additional rewards include all the food they could possibly want to eat, the ability to live in safety, and peace in the land. They would be able to lie down in peace at night, they would not have to sorry about savage beasts, and enemy armies would not bother them. If they listened as a nation and obeyed their covenant God, five of their good men could handle a hundred of their enemies and a hundred of their soldiers could chase down a thousand. No problem. They would still be eating last year’s harvest and would have to make room for the new one. That’s how abundant their lives would be.
• On the other hand, the punishment for disobedience took 27 verses to list. Five different paragraphs.
1) If they didn’t listen and obey as a nation, if they rejected his statues and hated his commandments, God threatened them with panic attacks, infection diseases, and high fevers. They would sow but not reap, and their enemies would rule over them.
2) A second time God said if after all that they would not listen, he would punish them seven times over. He would break down their stubbornness, the rain wouldn’t fall, the ground would be dry and hard, no crops and no fruit.
3) A third time God repeated that if they would not be corrected, he would be hostile towards them, he would get out the big sword, they would be given over to the enemy, ten women would have to share one oven, they would eat but always be hungry.
4) A fourth time God said he would punish their obstinate ways with wild animals destroying their children and their animals.
5) A fifth, as if they had not already gotten the message, God would punish them with neighboring bands of raiders,their armies would be defeated, there would be cannibalism, wholesale slaughter, cities destroyed, captivity. Not just a streak of bad luck, but it would seem as though God had cancelled out the promises He made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Finally, we get to our text for tonight, with Good News that is even sweeter than the bad news is sour. If they would confess their sins, God’s grace would cover them. If they would admit the sins of their fathers and if they would come clean with their record of treachery and hostility and stubbornness, the mercies of God would be fresh like the morning dew. When they were ready to cry out as the publican in the temple, God be merciful to me a sinner, and when they were ready to suffer the temporary consequences of their sins, as a nation they would be declared forgiven. As a nation, God would remember the sacred promises He had made to their patriarchs. As a nation they would be saved and their sins would be sent away as far as Egypt is the east is from the west. As a nation they would be blessed and kept by the God who had brought them out of slavery and across the Red Sea on dry land. As a nation, they would once again see the Lord making his face shine on them and being gracious unto them, and as a nation, they would know once again what it would be like to have the favor of their God upon them and to be at peace.
The kingdom of God is like a man I know in a distant city who was happily married with children, but not any more. Over the years their good habits were overcome with their bad ones, and their good intentions gave way to all kinds of fussing and fighting. They did eat and drink with believing hearts at their Lord’s Table, but their own supper tables were a disaster.
They did listen to the preaching of God’s Word with attentive hearts, but more often than not, they couldn’t practice what had been preached. The good that they would do they did not and the bad that they would not, that’s what they ended up doing. As the marriage comes to an end, this man throws himself on the mercy of his wife, but it’s too late. Not too late for her to forgive him, but too late for the marriage to be rescued. Not too late for God to wash him clean, but too late for the damage to be undone. Not too late for grace to rule, but too late for lifelong consequences to be avoided.
The kingdom of God is like a large nation more blessed than any in the history of the world, but some days you wonder where it’s all going to end. Over the years their good habits have given way to not so good. Their thankfulness has dwindled into discontentment. They struggle even to define what a marriage is, much less live them out in God honoring fashion. They have a hard time deciding if they would rejoice in babies born or perhaps terminate them long before they have the chance. The bad news is nasty in so many ways, but every day the Good News remains sweet. It may be too late for this nation to recover its glory years, but it’s not too late to confess their sins. It may be too late to avoid the consequences of their immorality, but it’s not too late to cry out for mercy.
The kingdom of God is like a large church in a small town learning more time that as often as they cry out for mercy, mercy is theirs. That in every one of their days, confession will be good for their souls. That no matter how conflicted their relationships, Jesus Christ is the way through and beyond. That every one of their stories which takes them to the cross is a story that has a good ending. That all is well that ends well.
Dear Friends in Christ,
• Port-au-Prince – Charlene, two room house with baby, five siblings and two unemployed parents, cookies made of dirt, salt and vegetable shortening. Dirt gets trucked in, rocks and clumps are strained out, mixed left to dry under scorching sun. 80% of people live on $2 a day, two cups of rice sell for 60 cents, 100 cookies made for $5, and sold for 5 cents.
I asked our 5th and 6th grade students this past week to raise their hands if they came from a rich family. Two raised their hands, and when I asked a second time a couple more put their hands up half way and began to shake them as if to say maybe, kind of, sort of.
I won’t ask for a show of hands today, but I will say that I am a rich not so young man and that my premise is that I am speaking to mostly rich people this morning. At least, according to globalrichlist.com, when I plug our family net income into their calculations, I find that I am richer than 99.92% of world population. To help you see where you fit in, if you make $50,000, you’re richer than 99.69% of world citizens, and if you make $30,000, you’re richer than 98.77% of people, and if you make $20,000, you’re richer than 96.35% of people.
Last week’s sermon was Jesus Loving Rich People and today’s sermon is Rich People Loving Jesus. (See bulletin insert for sermon notes). Last week we saw a snapshot of a rich young ruler kind of a man who ran towards Jesus, he knelt down in before Jesus, he complimented Jesus as a Good Teacher and asked quite sincerely what he needed to do to inherit eternal life. We saw Jesus looking him squarely in the eyes, we saw Jesus loving him with a great love and inviting him to leave behind all of his wealth and follow Him to the cross. At the end of last week’s Gospel lesson, we saw this rich man going away with a gloomy face and a (struggling) heart
Did this man go away to do what Jesus said, his sadness merely indicating that he realizes now just how difficult genuine discipleship is? Or does his downcast demeanor indicate a refusal on his part to pursue the path Jesus laid out? We don’t really know. What we do know is that in today’s text, Jesus turns to his disciples and comments how difficult it is for rich people to enter heaven. We learn again today that while it’s not wrong to be rich, it’s very dangerous to be rich. In fact, the Holy Spirit has worked in each of us a new heart that desires to seek first the kingdom of God, but the old Adam keeps on nudging us towards loving all of these other things in life. We do fear, love, and trust in God above all things, but at the same time we love all of the comfort and all of the fun and all of the good times money can buy. By God’s grace we are declared saints, but at the same time sinners. We are generous one hour, and stumbling into stinginess the next. Two lessons we want to learn today, as think about what it means for rich people to love Jesus Christ, in response to Him loving us first.
Lesson #1 is this. To spend our days loving Jesus is to understand how slippery is the slope towards (leftover) giving. When Jesus told the rich young ruler to go on, sell all that you have, and give it to poor people, He was laying His Divine finger on the chief sin in this man’s heart, the love of his earthly possessions. Last Sunday Pastor Muther described this him as a “man beset by the monster of comfort….as the beast on his back.” And then he looked us in the eyes and asked, “What is the beast on your back?”
For many years, I did a Free Press paper route here in town, and for the most part it was an easy 30 minute walk or so and not particularly difficult. But once in a while in winter time, the papers would be as heavy on my back as I tried to climb a slippery hill or two to make delivery. Once in a while, I would slowly climb the hill, only to slide backwards.
In much the same way, Debi and I have found it pretty easy to give ten percent of our income back to this church in most of our years. We’ve always been richly blessed, and other than going for many years without an automatic garage door opener, we really haven’t gone without much! But you know how life can be. There have been periods of time where the college tuition and the expensive vacations and daughters’ weddings have combined to tempt us back into giving what was left over instead of off the top. In fact, having fun and being comfortable have been beasts on our back and with red faces, we admit that we have fallen far short of sacrificial giving, in response to that great once and for all sacrifice offered up by our Savior on a little hill outside of Jerusalem.
How tempting it is to love ourselves more than (Jesus and the Gospel). Jesus said it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God. He meant that it is impossible for a rich man who is trusting in His riches to go into the kingdom. His false trust in riches will most certainly keep out the true trust in God’s grace. The disciples were beyond measure shocked by this statement and wondered if it was possible for anybody to be saved. Jesus answered that with human effort, no, it was not possible to be saved, but with God’s effort, even rich people could be saved.
One of Yogi Berra’s more famous statements was that “you can observe a lot by watching.” In that spirit, we want to observe today How easy it is to develop bad habits that render impossible our (good intentions) I’ve been watching this congregation for over 25 years now, and I don’t think I would get very much disagreement when I offer these 3 observations.
1) There are a lot of blessed people in this place who love their Lord, they love this Church, and the love this school.
2) Springing out of that love for Jesus and Trinity Lutheran is a desire to support God’s mission in this place. A desire to pay the bills, and to do more than that, to help us move forward and do more and more for the sake of Jesus and His Gospel.
3) We have developed bad habits that render impossible our good intentions. Personal finances in many of our families are a mess. Many of us have spent more than we have earned. Left-over giving is the collective beast on our back, and so our holy desires and good intentions keep on having to take a back seat to reality.
And so like the rich young man in Mark 10, we do well to run to our Savior this morning, to kneel down before Him, and to ask, “How can we break these bad habits into which we have fallen? Is the vision we have in this place Your vision? And if so, how can we make these good intentions of ours come true? We do love you, Jesus Christ, do show us the way!
To which Jesus answers,: Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the sake of the Gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.” The commentator Lenski explains these verses in this way, “The generosity and the magnanimity of Jesus are so great that he would and could accept nothing from us without rewarding it beyond all computation. The vast disproportion between our work and God’s reward of it already displays his boundless grace, to say nothing of the gift of salvation which is made before we have even begun to do any work. Not one shall miss his due reward.”
In closing today, to spend our days loving Jesus is to enjoy His (generosity). Jesus didn’t say that He came to make sure that we could survive life here and now, He said, “I came that you might have life and that you might have it abundantly.” The great philosopher Forest Gump said that his “mama always said life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get.” St. Paul said otherwise, “The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.”
Two points we want to make about what it means to spend our days enjoying God’s generosity. Receiving rewards we have in no way (earned). Assignment #1 each day is to receive the forgiveness of sins, even though we have sinned much and indeed deserved nothing but punishment. It is to revel in the fact that our souls have been saved, through no merit on our part. It is to receive our daily bread and so much more with hearts that are grateful, spirits that are content, and minds focused on all that is excellent, praiseworthy, of good report, true, commendable, and noble.
Finally the Spirit of God invites us not only to receive and to revel and to be still in knowing God as the extravagant lover that He is, but also to be moving forward in our response to that love. Moving forward by (remembering).
Generosity ladder isn’t a ladder to reach up to God, it’s a ladder to reach out to neighbors with the Gospel of Jesus Christ in a stronger way. God has already come down the ladder to sit in the slums of Haiti with Charlene and with us in the dirt and the dust of a Minnesota fall harvest.
Compelled by our God’s generosity, we get motivated... Motivated to pay our own bills and the churches bills as well…….More than that…...motivated because we know how richly we have been blessed………more than that………motivated simply by the amazing generosity of our God who spared not His only Son / generosity we receive in waters of Baptism / words of absolution / bread and wine of Supper
This morning, I invite you to be going away from this house of worship with puzzled faces and (cheerful) hearts. Puzzled as you think about whether you are a rich person or not, and cheerful as you determine what your life would look like if you moved a step forward on what Authors Chris Villard and Jim Sheppard call The Generosity Ladder. Puzzled as you wonder why God has been so good to us here in this great country, and cheerful as give what you have decided to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion. Puzzled as you think about your responsibilities as people in the top 1 or 2 or 3 percent of world population, and cheerful as you figure out how much of your treasure to keep for yourself.
Occasional givers puzzled at what life would look like if they stepped forward to intentional / percentage giving / folks giving 2% puzzled at how they could move forward to 5 or 10 percent / tithers puzzled
The kingdom of God is like a man who starting to figure out what he has been told from his mother’s knees, in one way or another…..that naked came he into this world, and naked he will leave…..that God is, was, and ever shall be the owner of everything in his life……..that to whom much is given, much is required…….that no matter what Jesus is the great lover of His soul. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
Even to Old Age and Gray Hairs
Psalm 71:17-18 – O God from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds. So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come. Your righteousness, O God, reaches the high heavens. You who have done great things, O God, who is like you? You who have made me see many troubles and calamities will revive me again; from the depths of the earth, you will bring me up again.
Isaiah 46:3-4 – Listen to me, O House of Jacob, all the remnant of the house of Israel, who have been borne by me from before your birth, carried from the womb; even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save.
Dear Friends in Christ,
There are at least two views one can take regarding living life, growing older, and approaching death. View #1 is to think that bad things happen, and then you die. View #2 is to believe that to live is Christ, and to die is gain. View #1 says that one should eat and drink and be merry when you’re young and in your prime, because the day is coming when it’s all downhill. View # 2 is to believe that every stage of life is to be lived for the glory of God and for the encouragement of others along the road to paradise. View #1 is to live according to what you can see, and View #2 is to live by faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. View #1 is sort of the common sense approach to life, that it is what it is, and you have to plough your way through life on your own, and View #2 is to see that Jesus Christ has gone the way of the cross on your behalf, that He has lived the perfect life that Carol and you and I could not even get close to living, that Christ has suffered all that Carol and you and I should have suffered, that Jesus Christ died the death we should have died on a Friday and rose up again on a Sunday morning, and because He is risen, we can be sure that every word of Scripture is absolutely true, without exception. Because Jesus Christ is risen, the sins of Carol Bollman and your sins and my sins are washed away, sent away as far as the east is from the west, never to be held against us, in the courtroom of Almighty God, which is the only courtroom that matters. Because Jesus Christ is risen, there is a mansion in heaven prepared for all who have been baptized into the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost and have found a way to remain in that Baptism faith. Because Christ is risen, the body you must lay into the ground this afternoon will be raised up again on the last day, to be reunited with her soul / her spirit, and because Christ is risen, Carol Bollman will live body and soul face to face with her Savior into eternity.
View #1 is to think that the good old days have passed us by, but View #2 is to know that the really good days are yet to come. My parents are both passed away, as are yours now, but while they were still living, my two sisters and I all lived at a distance. Once in awhile, we would plan out a surprise visit on them, and we’d all appear at their house unannounced. My parents were delighted, but Mom was a bit frustrated that she had not prepared for our visit with her usual baking and cooking and cleaning. We eventually figured out that if we were to tell her ahead of time that we were coming, she could enjoy the visit even before we showed up. She could spend her days not only getting ready, but her heart would be absolutely delighted in anticipation of that visit.
I tell you all of that to tell you this. Our Scripture lessons for today invite you to live the rest of your days being absolutely delighted as you anticipate that great day when our Lord Jesus Christ will visit this world the second and final time. To be living every one of your days with View #2, which is the view of the cross and the empty tomb.
Two lessons I share with you about what it means to live with a distinctively Christian view of life, according to the Psalmist and the prophet Isaiah.
Lesson #1 is to know that in all the stages of life, even to old age and gray hair, your God is willing to do the heavy lifting. When Isaiah wrote his words of comfort, the house of Jacob wasn’t at all what it had been. The ten tribes of the Northern Kingdom of Israel had been swallowed up in the Assyrian advance. Samaria, its capital, lay in ruins. God had checked the Assyrian advance by destroying 185,000 soldiers and had preserved Jerusalem from destruction. The Jewish countryside ahd nevertheless been ravaged by the Assyrians.
Into that context, God promises, “Even to your old age and gray hairs, indeed, I am he, I myself will bear you as a burden. I have made you myself, and I myself will carry you. I myself will bear you, and I myself bring you to safety. All these promises depend on the action of the Lord. Only his gracious action has sustained his people in the past, and only his action will sustain them in the future.
One pastor described old age this way. “You think of old age and you think the time when your knees buckle and your belt won’t. Old age is when you turn out the lights for economic rather than romantic reasons. Old age is when you have too much room in the house and not enough in the medicine cabinet…If you want to know what it feels like to be old, smear dirt on your glasses, stuff cotton in your ears, put on heavy shoes that are too big and wear gloves, and then try to spend the day in a normal way.
Believe me, there’s a lot of truth in those words, but lesson #1 today once again is this, in all the stages of life, your God is with you, He loves you, He spared not His only Son on your behalf, what is there He wouldn’t do for you? Even into her old age and gray hair, He had every one of Carol’s hairs on her head numbered, and His promises stand for you as well.
Lesson #2 is as important as Lesson #1, maybe even more. It is that in even in the later stages of life, God has a great purpose for His people. The Psalmist said it this way, O God from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds. So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come.
It’s clear to me that this dear Christian woman, this mom, this grandma, this great grandma has been the glue holding together this family. It looks to me as if she has been appreciated and even adored by kids, grandkids, and great grandkids alike. The other day, when Tim and Jodi came into my office asking for a funeral service in this house of God, the message was message was clear. This was and is to be a funeral service and burial where Jesus Christ would be honored and proclaimed.
To you sons and daughters and grandchildren, I say this – it’s your turn. The baton of Christian faith has been handed to you, and it’s your turn to make sure the next generations know how great is their God. To make sure they know the simple truths that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever, that God loves them, always has, and always will. To make sure they know God the Father almighty as creator of heaven and earth, to make sure they know Jesus as Savior and Lord, to make sure they know the Holy Spirit as Sanctifier and Teacher and Comforter. Make sure they know the Ten Commandments as the very word of the Lord, make sure they know the difference between right and wrong, make sure they know that in all the stages of life, their God is more thanwilling to do the heavy lifting, that in fact He has already done the heavy lifting, make sure they know that even in the later stages of life, God has great purpose for His people, and finally make sure they know that Grandma Carol is resting in peace and they will be able to see her again some day soon. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
First in a Series of Seven Sermons on Shared Vision
• Titus 3:5-6 – He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior.
• Romans 10:17 – So then faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.
• Take eat, this is My body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me…..Drink of it, all of you; this cup is the new testament in My blood, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.
Dear Friends in Christ,
It is our vision here at Trinity Lutheran to mature in the Christian faith. That is to say, to grow up into Jesus Christ by receiving His good gifts of grace and mercy, to enjoy those good gifts of grace and mercy, and to help others to recognize and acknowledge and accept and enjoy those same good gifts of grace and mercy.
We have identified seven habits of Christians who are first of all being transformed by the Gospel, and secondly as they live out their faith are actually transforming, having an impact on the world around them. The first three habits are on the receiving side of what it means to be a Christian, and the next four habits are on the living out and giving away side of what it means to follow Christ.
Tonight we focus on the first habit of a maturing disciple, which is to receive gratefully the good gifts of God in Divine Service. That’s a fancy way of saying, Go to Church and receive what God has this great desire to give you! Three good reasons to go to church are 1) God says so, 2) it will be good for you, and 3) it will be good for people around you.
First of all, you should go to Church because God says so! That’s a law statement for those of you who are doing sermon summaries. Most of you have probably had this kind of a conversation with a parent, as I did with my dad. Dad would say, “It’s time to go to bed, son.” I would say, “I don’t want to go to bed.” He would say, “Go to bed anyway.” I would say, “Why do I have to go to bed now?” Dad would say, “Because I said so.” I was never really afraid that my dad would hurt me, but I was very hesitant to cross the line whenever Dad had drawn it in the sand.
Our God has drawn ten lines in the sand. We call them the Ten Commandments. The Third Commandment says it this way, “Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy.” The Psalmist said this way about the man of God whose delight is in the law of the Lord on his law he meditates day and night, he is like a tree that is planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither, in all that he does he prospers….The writer to the Hebrews said it this way, “Do not forsake the assembling of yourselves together.” Jesus said it this way, “Blessed are they who hear the Word of God and keep it.” Again Jesus says Paul said it this way, “Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” Luther explained it this way, “We should fear and love God that we may not despise preaching and the Word of God but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.”
Reason #1 to receive gratefully the good gifts of God in Divine Service is because God says so and that should settle it. Reason # 2 is that it’s going to be good for your heart and it’s going to be good for your mind and it’s going to be good for your soul and it’s going to be good for your life as often as you put yourself in a position to be hearing that your sins have been washed away (Gospel statement for you 7th and 8th graders), to be hearing that God loves you and isn’t angry with you, in spite of how badly you have messed up!
Story of preaching at a recent wedding that the groom should be all about paying attention to his bride and meeting her needs / I proceeded to take Debi to their wedding reception where I paid attention to just about everybody else except Debi / didn’t practice what I preached / the next morning in Divine Service, as Pastor Muther spoke words of absolution and as he waved the bread in front of my eyes and forgave my sins, it was absolutely good for my soul / heart / mind / emotional well-being. Oh how grateful I was in that moment to be reassured that God wasn’t about to give up on me. And oh how grateful I can be that Debi was and is and ever shall be willing to be gracious to this little short fat preacher man!
My invitation to you tonight is that you would cultivate gratefulness as your basic attitude toward life. Gratefulness is one of the most powerful forces in this world. It makes the difference between just going through the motion and really being alive. Gratefulness is the difference between having a heart of stone and receiving a heart of flesh from the Lord.
A Lutheran Pastor Bonhoeffer who was imprisoned and executed for his Christian faith said that it is only through gratitude that life becomes rich. The sign outside our church has this saying on it, “Get rich quick, count your blessings!” Being grateful does not protect us from rejection or pain or sorrow. But it has a way of grounding us, it gives us another way of responding to what is taking place. The grateful spirit can help us to know that when those painful or sad feelings are happening, that’s not all that’s happening. Counting our blessings does not mean that we no longer feel the grief that we feel, or the confusion, or the sorrow. It means we are feeling all of that, and we are also feeling a sense of warmth, peace, and connection.
Reason #3 is that as we cultivate and hang onto this attitude of thankfulness, it will be good for the people around us. Just about everything that we feel or think or say or do can be contagious, both that which is positive and negative.
For example, if I stood up here tonight and complained about young people these days, how they didn’t sit up straight in my classes, how they didn’t laugh at my jokes, how they didn’t always get their assignments done, how so many of them were out there drinking beer and using meth, and what’s this world coming to anyway, and on and on I went, no doubt a few if not many of you would nod your heads and mentally join in the moaning and groaning session.
On the other hand, if I stood up here tonight and told you five or six things I appreciated about your young folks, how they come to confirmation class and they do sermon summaries and they are here in church tonight and they’re going to go home and do their homework and clean up their bedrooms and tell their parents how awesome they are, you would catch that kind of fever, as well………
The kingdom of God is like a family that shows up in church on a Wednesday night mainly because their kids were scheduled to sing, and they went home that night saying to themselves, “well that wasn’t as boring as I thought it was going to be!” They often show up in church as a matter of habit, but more often than not, they sense that the Spirit of God is doing something inside of them. They show up in church feeling stressed out and busy and feeling like they have been falling short and more than a bit guilty, but they go home that night reassured that their failures have been forgiven, their stained records have been washed clean, and their status as sons and daughters of their Father in heaven is secure. That night, they lay their heads down and the very last prayer they pray goes something like this, “Gracious God, thank you for forgiving all that I did wrong and thank you for not holding it against me the good that I failed to do, and Lord, could you please bless and multiply anything I may have done well today.
In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
Genesis 2 - So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23Then the man said,
“This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” 24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. 25And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.
Dear Friends in Christ,
April of 1916 and May of 1962 are red letter dates at (Trinity Lutheran). About ten years ago, we started a men’s Bible Study at ExpressWay and we called ourselves Men of Integrity. The purpose of that study was to encourage one to be better men, better husbands, and better fathers. Only about five or six men showed up for the class, and then we began to hear that one of the excuses for not coming to this class was that they didn’t have enough integrity to be part of the class. So we changed the name of the class to Men Who Need Help. Ten years later, we’re still meeting twice a month, in the same place, with the same purposes, and instead of five or six men of integrity showing up, we now have four or five men who need help showing up.
Men have always needed help here at Trinity Lutheran, and on this LWML Sunday, that’s why I say that April of 1916 is a red letter date – that’s when the Ladies’ Aid began to meet mainly for the purpose of serving their Lord with gladness, and when I say that May of 1962 is a red letter date here at Trinity, I say so because that’s when the Dorcas Society began to meet and to do so mainly for the purpose of serving their Lord with glad hearts. Our history booklets in this place indicate that going way back, the purpose of our LWML groups has been to foster Christian fellowship, to support the work of the church at home and at large, and to help the needy with works of charity. The motto of our ladies groups has always been and is to this very day simply to serve the Lord with gladness, and today we give thanks to God for all of that serving and all of that gladness which has been to the glory of God and for the building up of His saints in this place.
Of course, the idea that men need help goes back a lot further than 1916 or 1942. It goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden, where everything, absolutely everything that God had created was very good, except for one thing. It was not good that the man should be alone. It had never been the Creator’s intent to have Adam live alone, and so He designed a helper suitable for him. Our text makes it clear that God did not force this companion on the man. He had created animals of all kinds and now brought them to Adam to have him name them. One reason for God’s doing this was to provide Adam an opportunity to share God’s thoughts about his loneliness and to develop a longing for the special gift God was about to give him.
As Adam selected appropriate names for each of the animals and birds, he noted that each of them had a mate. Even though people like to say that dogs are a man’s best friend, Adam already then recognized that no animal was suited for intimate companionship with him. Adam had no one with whom he could share the joy of living in paradise. And so it came to be that God established the institution of marriage. An institution clearly defined as between one man and one woman where both of them pledge themselves unconditionally to each other and where they give evidence of this by breaking off a close family bond in order to establish a new one.
People have all kinds of ideas of what true love and marriage look like. When asked, “What is falling in love like? John, age 9- It’s like an avalanche, and you ought to run for your life. When asked, “Why do married people hold hands? Gavin, age 8 – They want to make sure their rings don’t fall off, because they paid good money for them. When asked, “How do you tell if two adults eating at a restaurant are really in love?” a child answered, “Lovers will be just staring at each other and their food will get cold. Married people will just be eating.”
In today’s sermon, I invite you to learn again three Biblical purposes of marriage. First, God intended marriage on earth as a cure for (loneliness). The order for Holy Matrimony we use in this Church says it this way, “The union of husband and wife in heart, body, and mind is intended by God for the mutual companionship, help, and support that each person ought to receive from the other, both in prosperity and adversity.”
Socrates said, “There is no possession more valuable than a good and faithful friend.” Francis Back suggested that “friendship doubles joys and cuts in half griefs.” Through Solomon, the Holy Spirit said it this way, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: if one falls down his friend can help him back up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also if 2 lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?
Recently I officiated at a marriage ceremony where the couple had chosen a Unity Cross ceremony. The suggested words in that ceremony say it well, The Groom places the outer Cross in the beautiful wood base as the Pastor explains how God created man- Bold, Strong, the Defender of the Family yet how he is empty and incomplete without the woman. The Bride then places the more delicate cross inside of the Grooms cross as the Pastor explains how God created Woman- Delicate, multi-faceted, taking care of all of the little things that completes the man, and the -Two become One. The Bride and Groom then use the 3 golden pegs to lock the union(cross) together in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit as the pastor exclaims that: What God has brought together let no man take apart.”
We don’t mean to give the impression that everybody has to be married. St. Paul was single and glad that he was single. He said he wished everybody could be single, but then he added, “It is better to marry than to burn with passion.” Which brings us to a second purpose for marriage
Secondly, our Order of Service declares, God ordained marriage so that man and woman may find (delight) in one another. Therefore, all persons who marry shall take a spouse in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust, for God has not called us to impurity but in holiness. Research suggests couples are waiting longer and longer to get married, that fewer and fewer are holding to the traditional values, but that there is still this desire to be connected to Christ and His Church. With that in mind, we schedule between 15 and 25 weddings each year here at Trinity. Our strong desire is to help young couples to stay connected to their Savior, to see the beauty of keeping their promises to each other, and to delight in honoring and cherishing each other in all the stages of life.
Third God established marriage as a place where the (baton) of Christian faith may be handed from one generation to the other. The Order for Holy Matrimony in our Agenda says it this way, “God also established marriage for the procreation of children who are to be brought up in the fear and instruction of the Lord so that they may offer Him their praise.”
For some of us, the kingdom of God is like a relay race where our parents handed to us the very baton their parents had handed to them. For others of us, a pastor or a youth counselor or a teacher were very much involved in the handing of the baton. For still others of us, marriage was the manner in which the Holy Spirit got ahold of us and started turning us around. For many of us, it is a combination of all of the above.
The prayer we offer in the Order of Matrimony includes this prayer, “O God, our dwelling place in all generations, look with favor upon the homes of our land. Embrace husbands and wives, parents and children, in the arms of Your love, and grant that each, in reverence for Christ, fulfill the duties You have given. Bless our homes that they may ever be a shelter for the defenseless, a fortress for the tempted, a resting place for the weary, and a foretaste of our eternal home with You.
If it’s true that a picture is worth a (thousand) words, then you just saw four pictures worth 4000 words. That our homes would be a 1)shelter for the defenseless, 2) a fortress for the tempted, 3)a resting place for the weary, and 4)a foretaste of our eternal home with You.
Dear friends in Christ, every time you see a husband be kind and patient to his wife, let it be a picture of Jesus Christ loving you with a tenderness unmatched. Every time you see a wife forgiving her husband for coming up short on his promises, let it be a picture of Jesus Christ sending away your sins as far as the east is from the west. Every time you see a single parent sacrificing so that her daughter can attend a Christian school, let it be a picture of your Savior slowly and prayerfully making his way to the cross for the joys of resurrection set before Him. Every time you see a child apologizing to his grandpa for being naughty, let it be a picture of the angels and archangels of heaven rejoicing over one sinner that repents. Every time you see in your church or in your community a couple getting married, why not get down on your knees and pray that their marriage would be a picture of Jesus Christ’s unwavering commitment to His Bride, the Church. Amen.
Worship Sermons & Letters
Pastor Paul Muther