Fifth in a Series of Seven “O Antiphons”
Malachi 3:16 – 4:3, 2 Corinthians 4:1-6, Luke1:67-79
O Dayspring, splendor of light everlasting: Come and enlighten those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.
Dear Friends in Christ,
In this Advent season, we are fixing our eyes on Jesus Christ, the very author and finisher of our faith. We have worshiped Him as Wisdom from on high and pleaded with Him to come again and teach us the way of prudence. We have worshiped Him as Adonai, as Lord of lords and cried out for Him to come again redeem us with an outstretched arm. We have worshiped Him as the Root of Jesse, before Whom we are speechless and asked Him to come again and to come quickly to deliver us. This past Wednesday evening we worshiped Him as the Key of David who remits the sins of the penitent and retains the sins of the impenitent, and we begged Him to come again and rescued prisoners yet sitting in darkness and the shadow of death. This weekend we hone in on Jesus as Dayspring from on high, as the splendor of light everlasting, and we petition Him to come again to enlighten those sitting in that same darkness.
(Sunny spring days on the farm) The readings for today are those appointed for December 21, the shortest day of the year, the day of Winter Solstice. On the day of deepest darkness, we would recognize Jesus Christ as God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God. Back on the North Dakota farm where I grew up, winters seemed long, cold, windy, snowy, and dark. They seemed that way because they were long, cold, windy, snowy, and dark. My dad raised white faced Hereford cattle, and the cows would give birth in March and into April. More than occasionally, the calves would be born in the midst of a spring snowstorm, and mother cows and calves would end up in our little red barn for days and even a couple of weeks if the calves needed special attention. When the first sunny days of spring did arrive, the calves and mother cows would be released, and they were a sight to behold. They ran, and they kicked, and they leaped as if this was the best day ever! The prophet Malachi pictures the people of God who are understanding and appreciating that Christ has set them free as calves leaping from their stalls on a sunny spring day. In our sermon today, we invite you to consider the great and epic battle between darkness and light. Lesson #1 is to recognize how life is when darkness has its way, and Lesson #2 is to rejoice in how life is when the Dayspring from on high enlightens.
Three truths we want to recognize about how life is when darkness has its way. First, when darkness has its way, the cold barnyards have no frolicking. We Midwestern types know well the signs of winter. Trees lose their leaves, lawns go brown, storm doors and windows appear, fuel assistance requests skyrocket, and years ago at least, vehicles refuse to start. In the devotional book from Lutheran Indian Ministries, one author writes from Alaska that they are seeing less and less daylight every day; that they lose about seven minutes a day until there are 22 hours of night. Now that’s what you call darkness. Precious little frolicking, to be sure.
When the spiritual forces of darkness have their way, the nations have no peace. In Malachi’s day, the nation of Judah had gone so far astray that God was threatening to leave them and take the Gentiles as His people. Their priests were teaching false doctrine and leading many astray. Their men were divorcing their Israelite wives and marrying foreigners. Instead of honoring God with their tithes and free will offering, they were making Him weary with left-overs and blemished animal sacrifices. Malachi asked no fewer than 22 rhetorical questions in 55 verses to call this nation to repentance and to fix their eyes on the sun of righteousness who would be rising with healing in its wings for those who would fear the Name of the Triune God.
In our day, apart from Jesus Christ, the nations still don’t have peace. From sea to shining sea, there are wars and rumors of war. Christians are at odds with Muslims, Muslims are at odds with the Jews, gun control advocates are at war with the NRA, Democrats are against the Republicans and the establishment republicans are against the anti-establishment republicans, pro-abortion supporters are against the pro-lifers, traditional values folks are at odds with the not so traditional value folks, the baby boomers have their differences with the millennials and the elderly are asking the same questions they asked 50 years ago, “what’s the matter with young people these days?” The most basic of differences is till darkness vs. light. Unbelief vs. faith in Jesus Christ as Savior. Sinful nature vs. new life in Christ. Culture vs. church. Bad angels vs. good angels. And still it is true what Jesus said to Nicodemus that “a great light has come into the world, but people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.” When darkness has its way, first of all there is no frolicking in the barnyards, and secondly there is no peace in the nations.
And third, the minds of unbelievers have no good (eyesight). Paul said it this way to the Corinthians …the gospel is veiled only to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. Dear friends in Christ, we’re not wrestling against flesh and blood in these end times, we’re wrestling against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. And so we cry out again and again for Jesus Christ to come into our hearts and souls and minds in the preaching of His Word, in the teaching of His Word, in the remembering of His Word. For the Holy Spirit to keep on calling us by the Gospel and gathering us into the assembly and enlightening us with His gifts and sanctifying us with His truth!
O Dayspring, splendor of light everlasting: Come and enlighten those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death. Zechariah sang it this way, that as often as the sunrise shall visit us from on high, He gives light to those who are sitting in darkness and guides our feet into the way of peace. Three truths we learn about with the light of this world has His way.
First, When the Dayspring from on high enlightens, Christians have a hard time containing their (joy). As often as the Word of God is a lamp unto our feet, we are no longer like little white faced Hereford calves cooped up, penned up in foul air and packed down manure, we let loose with a running and a leaping and a frolicking kind of joy obvious to all. As often as the Word of God is a light unto our path, no longer do we sit in our corners swallowed up in darkness, paralyzed by the politicians, terrified by the terrorists, worried about what is to come, and yearning for the good old days which we think have passed us by. Now that the Dayspring has arisen, we can get up and walk, we walk about in freedom, we move forward on the pathway to peace. As often as we taste in our Lord’s Supper that our God is good, as often as we make the sign of the cross and remember that we are the baptized and believing people of God, as often as we get refreshed with the forgiveness of our sins, as often as we bring an offering and come into the house of our God, that often we want to shout it from the mountaintops that a Savior is born, that often we desire to direct those with whom we disagree to Joseph and Mary and their baby lying in a manger, that often we find it easy to forgive those who have harmed us, that often we just feel like singing like we’ve never sung before!
Secondly, As often as the Dayspring from on high visits us, nations get called to (repentance) In Malachi’s words, the day was coming when unbelievers will get what they have coming. The day was coming when the Lord of hosts will judge the living and the dead, the day was coming when all the arrogant would be burning as in an oven and evildoers would be stubble. In John the Baptist’s day, the message was the same. Repent, or you will die. Or to say it with a more positive spin, repent, and you will live. No matter what our culture says this December is about, the Church in fact knows what it is about. Advent is about throwing ourselves on the mercy of God, that the forgiveness of sins might sweep over our souls, as the sunrise sweeps over the horizon. It’s about Jesus Christ coming near, that we might be safe. It’s about this church and churches across the globe being little cities of light, set on a hill announcing judgment on the same old sins that keep on ruining our lives and Good News to sinners of all stripes and sizes.
Whenever the Light of the world has His way, new days keep (dawning). It’s as if we are living in the pre-dawn. It’s still dark outside, but we can see the first glow of the new day peeking over the horizon. We know that very soon the full light of day will be here. Christ, our day spring gives us hope. When you know the long dark night is about to end, you begin to get excited about the dawning of a new and more glorious day. There’s already enough light shining to give us light, to give us sight, so we can see where we’re going. Right now our eyes are getting adjusted to walking in the light. We’ve been sitting in the darkness long enough, this morning brings with it mercies that are new, and tomorrow will be the same.
The kingdom of God is like a large congregation of believers in a small town who can see clearly now. They agree with Johnny Nash, who sang it years ago, “I can see clearly now the rain is gone, I can see all obstacles in my way. Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind. It’s gonna be a bright bright bright sunshin’ day.” Their days will be bright and sunny not because their lives are any easier or smoother than those who are living apart from their Savior, but because the God who said in the first place, “Let light shine out of darkness” has in the second place found a way to shine in their hearts in a regular sort of a way. They still have dark corners in their lives, but as often as they pray to be enlightened, they are. As often as they cry out for mercy, mercy is theirs. As often as they ask for their Father in heaven to hold their hand, He does. As often as they seek the face of Jesus Christ, they find it. And as often as they look for the light at the end of their tunnels, they can’t miss it, there it is. Amen.
Grace, mercy and peace to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
We’ve been walking our way through the verses of this ancient advent hymn, O Come, O Come Emmanuel, and the Antiphons (antiphon means responsive verse) that serve as their basis. So far we looked at O Wisdom from on high, O Adonai, and this last Sunday at O Root of Jesse’s tree. Our text for tonight begins with a strange little story from Isaiah and with the O Antiphon that we begin to study – O Key of David’s house and Scepter of the house of Israel, you open and no one can close, you close and no one can open: Come. And rescue the prisoners, who are in darkness, and in the shadow of death. I used to work in the A/V Department of Concordia University where we would set up all kinds of technology in pretty much every classroom on campus, and because of that we would need we had a big old key ring that we needed to use. It took a lot of time and you had to remember which key did what, which punch-codes for which doors, until I got to the point when they trusted me enough to let me use… the A key… it was a key that could open any door on the campus. You could go into any classroom.
There were only a few of them on campus. It had a $1,000,000 (or more) insurance policy on it, because if you lost it, they would have to replace every single lock on campus. Our O Antiphon for today is talking about the keys to the kingdom of God. This is the power to unlock the riches of heaven itself. It’s the power to open every single piece of your life to your God. It’s how God opened up the kingdom of heaven to all believers. It is forgiveness. Tonight, our elders handed a little half-sheet of paper out to each of you with a little outline of the sermon and three lines. I want you during this sermon to think of the three people who have hurt you the most, or who are most difficult to forgive. I want them front and center in your mind.
Our first meditation for tonight is that forgiveness is the key to God’s house and the Scepter of God’s house. Just like Eliakim was given the keys to the house of David, and then he had every privilege and responsibility that came along with it, so we, when we recognize our Christianity, we see that our first impulse is to be quick to confess our own sins and quick to forgive others. That’s what Jesus is saying in Matthew 16. The M.O. of the Christian is to forgive. Now, let me tell you what forgiveness is not.
Forgiveness is not a feeling. It isn’t that warm, at peace feeling that you think you need to have before you can let go of what someone did. That will come and go. But you don’t have to feel forgiving to forgive. Forgiveness is not ignoring. Forgiveness is not saying “it’s ok.” Or “don’t worry about it.” Our schluffing it off under the rug. No. You don’t have to pretend like it didn’t hurt, or like it doesn’t matter. Forgiveness is when you look another person in the eyes, and you tell them, yes, you did hurt me. But I choose not to hold that hurt against you. Forgiveness is a choice, and it’s a discipline. It’s a choice when I choose to be kind and merciful even when I don’t feel like it. It’s a discipline when I choose to be merciful consistently, day after day. It’s a choice when you see others choosing to be cruel and vengeful.
It’s a discipline when you are called to do it to others who are being cruel and vengeful to you. Can you see how incredible a gift and how incredible a responsibility this is? Or, as I say to my premarital counseling couples, after forgiving your spouse of the same thing for the thousandth time, can you see why the work of being merciful is hard? It is the key to the kingdom and it is the kingdom’s power. If our first place of meditation was on the key and the Scepter, then the second is the phrase that follows: Forgiveness sets prisoners free. Physically and Spiritually. There are many physical benefits to forgiving. Studies show that those who forgive often have lower stress levels. They have healthy hearts, lower pain, lower blood pressure, and they tend to live longer lives. And those are true, and those things are good things. But. We don’t practice forgiveness because it lengthens our life or even because it keeps us from feeling our consequences. No, we forgive because we want to be doing what Jesus does. We forgive because Christ forgave us.
That is the truth that many of our members serving jailtime would know. The love of Christ set Charles Stanke free before even when he was still in jail. The love of Christ set Angie Bluhm free even as she still serves her sentence. The love of Christ set St. Paul free even as he lived out the last of his days under house arrest. The love of Christ, the forgiveness that opens the door to heaven, sets you free to eternal life whatever place you are in, whatever sins burden your back, whatever hurts you hold in your heart, whatever armor you’ve been lugging around all these years. Our Savior says, I know who you are. I know what you’ve been through. I know every struggle, every burden, every pain, and I love you with an everlasting love that will never go away.
This Advent time, I ask you, I beg you, to remember again that a forgiving heart begins by remembering how much God has forgiven you. By remembering how when we were an enemy and hostile to God, he still had sent his son to forgive us all our sins. By remembering how beautiful the love of God that he wouldn’t stop seeking us even after we wander off. By remembering how deep the love of God that he would reveal to us the most amazing, most incredible use of our humanity and then he would tell us to just go around and do it! He is a forgiving savior, and he will come again. Amen and Amen.
First in a Series of Seven Sermons on The Great “O” Antiphons
Proverbs 8:1-3, 22-26 and I Corinthians 1:25 – 30
O Wisdom, proceeding from the mouth of the Most High, pervading and permeating all creation, mightily ordering all things; Come and teach us the way of prudence.
Dear Friends in Christ,
The Advent hymn, “O Come O Come Emmanuel” has ancient roots. Since the 8th century A.D. Christians have traditionally sung these 7 great antiphons. The word antiphon means response, and they were sung to readings for the seven days before Christmas. They mine the riches of the Old Testament to portray the many facets of our Savior, as tender wisdom, as mighty Warrior, as rightful Heir, as forgiving Savior, as unparalleled Light, as Regal King, as God with us.
Perhaps you have heard the saying that Wisdom and age don’t always come together, sometimes age comes alone. Actually the exact quote from a comedian named Tom Wilson is, “Wisdom doesn’t necessarily come with age. Sometimes age just shows up by itself.”
Here at Trinity it seems as if wisdom is coming with age. Now the world defines wisdom pretty much as good common sense, but the central theme of Israelite wisdom is that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” With that in mind, I would remind you that we are in the second year of a three year shared vision statement, which is simply this, “Our Shared Vision is to mature as disciples for Jesus Christ.” And the first habit of a Christian whose life is being transformed by the Gospel is “to receive gratefully God’s good gifts in Divine Service.” Recently Donita printed out for me a list of all 1778 members of this congregation according to age, starting with Ardis Erdman at age 100 all the way down to our newborn infants. I did a little analysis of a few different age groups here at Trinity, and here is what I found. 100% of members age 90 – 100, 15 of them, regularly hear the Word of God and receive Holy Communion. 100% of members age 80 – 89, all 58 of them, regularly hear the Word of God and receive Holy Communion. 95% of members in their 70’s, and there are over 100 of them, regularly hear the word of God and receive Holy Communion. When I went to those age 20-29, I found that at the most 25% of the 225 20 somethings are finding time to regularly hear God’s Word and receive their Lord’s Supper. You can spin that however you want to spin it.
Here’s my first takeaway, and it’s a positive one. At least here at Trinity, it seems as though old age isn’t just showing up by itself, wisdom in virtually all cases, is coming with it.
James reminds us that true wisdom is from above and that it is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. Our sermon for today has two parts. The first is that wisdom is the beloved daughter, and the second is that wisdom is the firstborn son.
Wisdom is the beloved (daughter). The Book of Proverbs is a result of God giving Solomon that which he asked for – wisdom and understanding with which to govern the people. Solomon frequently describes wisdom as a dear mother or beloved bride.Like most languages, the Hebrew word for wisdom is grammatically feminine. By characterizing wisdom as a woman, Solomon uses this grammar for a play onwords, which is a common feature in his writing style. In our text for today, in chapter 8, wisdom is personified as a good woman, in stark contrast to the adulterous woman of chapter 7. The good woman’s purpose is to enlighten and give life, in contrast to the harlot, who aims to deceive and destroy. The good woman encourages in the right direction, in contrast to the prostitute who leads astray. Wisdom is from on high, in contrast to the foolishness of the demons below. Three truths Solomon would teach us about this good woman – what she was, what she is, and how she spends her days.
First, She (was) before the beginning. Solomon writes, The Lord possessed me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of old. Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth.” Here wisdom does more than take on godly characteristics. Here wisdom takes on the nature of God himself and plays a role in the creation of the world.
Secondly, She (is) stationed at the crossroads to be heard. Unlike the harlot who lurks at every street corner, wisdom stations herself to be heard in the midst of life. Wisdom makes an appeal for everyone. All the descendants of Adam need wisdom, for we are all part of a fallen race. It is in our sinful nature to be fools and to say that there is no God. No man can say that Jesus is Lord, except by the Holy Spirit. The only way to be in the Christian faith and to be growing in that faith is for the Holy Spirit to be working inside of us. Paul writes that faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. Often Jesus would tell a parable and follow it up by raising his voice and calling out, “He who has ears let him hear.”
A third lesson we learn about wisdom in Proverbs 8 is that She spends her days calling out to the (vulnerable). In the previous chapter Solomon compared young men who were being led astray by the persuasive words of the adulterous woman to oxen going to the slaughter, to deer stepping into a noose and having an arrow pierce his liver, to a bird darting into a snare, little knowing it will cost him his life.
Just a couple of days ago, a young lady who has gone through drug addiction and all the nasty troubles that so often come along with it, came back to our church office for a visit. She had attended our Lutheran School for a time, and was a member of one of our Confirmation Classes years ago. She has told me on several occasions that our sanctuary and our school had been a safe place for her, a place where she found refuge and strength. She took her boyfriend into this sanctuary and wrote how she was proud of this church and the serenity she felt here. She said this for all her friends to read on Facebook, “ I always feel like home here, it's insane how some kids come back home and it's just another day, I stop by and get emotional because this place was where I was happy, surrounded by love, childhood memories and will always have a piece of me. I may have been born in Owatonna, moved around a bit, but I will have always been raised in Janesville. Pastor thank you for never turning your back on me and keeping me close with our savior and I'm proud to say, in 4 days, I will have 11 months clean. Sitting in the church with the same scribble cards and same look, I did the same thing that I used to do, just be at one and look up at the son, Christ our lord and felt safe and not alone.” Just be at one and look up at the son, Christ our lord and felt safe and not alone. It seems as though wisdom from on high is slowly but surely chasing away the demons of foolishness.
It seems as though the seeds of wisdom planted in her heart at ages 10-14 are bearing fruit some 15 years later, which would remind us to never give up on our young people as they travel through years of getting tossed to and fro by the temptations and the trials of life, especially in their 20’s. Robert Gary Lee wrote that “wisdom is nothing more than healed pain,” which would remind us that the only way to have a tested and tried Christian faith is to be tested and tried. St. Augustine wrote that “Patience is the companion of wisdom, which would remind us to stick with people through thick and thin, for better and for worse, in sickness and in good health.
James wrote that when we meet trials of various kinds, we should count it all joy, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. And let perseverance have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.”
Asking for wisdom from on high is simply asking for Jesus to come more and more into our hearts. Asking Jesus to be Who He is and has promised to be, the best friend we’ll ever have, the faithful brother who absolutely sticks with usin every chapter of life. Which is our second and final lesson for this morning - Wisdom is the firstborn (Son) of God. Jesus Christ is wisdom incarnate, wisdom in the flesh.
Proverbs 8, verses 23 ff declares, “I was appointed from eternity, from the beginning, before the world began, When there were no oceans, I was given birth, when there were no springs abounding with water, before the mountains were settled in place, before the hills, I was given birth….I was there when he set the heavens in place, when he marked out the horizon on the face of the deep….then I was the craftsman at his side The first of three points we would make about Wisdom as the first born Son is that Jesus is begotten, not (made) No one writes more eloquently that John, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.
Secondly, we are reminded in this first antiphon that He holds the universe together in strong, yet (gentle) manner. Jesus is the creator of all that is invisible and visible. On the one hand, He rules the nations with omnipotence, and on the other hand He sends His Church out to preach the sweetest and kindest story ever told. At the same time He rules with power and with grace. On the one hand, His throne is in the heavens and on the other hand His kingdom comes every time a little bit of water is poured over the head of a little one, every time sorry sinners eat an unimpressive bit of bread and taste an ounce or two of ordinary wine. On the one hand, with irresistible power all things exist and move according to His will, and on the other hand, His grace moves in our tired and weary souls, drawing us closer and closer and teaching us slowly but surely to say no to ungodliness and yes to that which is excellent and worthy of praise.
I invite you to spend this season of Advent worshiping, trusting, and boasting. We would worship Christ as the only begotten Son of God, begotten of His Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten not made. We would trust Him as the One Who even now sits at the right hand of His Father, ruling all of heaven and earth with authority. And third, we go back into our little corners of His Kingdom and spend our days boasting in the One Who saves by way of (foolishness). Not with gold and silver did our Savior purchase us, but with holy precious blood, with divine sweat, and with innocent tears. We have been called and gathered into this sanctuary today not as people with worldly wisdom nor power nor prestige, but as hungry beggars looking for a little bit of bread, as thirsty travelers crying out for just a little bit of water, as wanderers looking for a little bit of direction, as unimpressive people in awe of a perfectly impressive God.
Come, teach us the way of (prudence) Prudence comes from a Latin word which means to look ahead, to see into the future. To be prudent is to be wise in practical affairs, and to provide for your future. The kingdom of God is like a large church in a small town saved by way of foolishness, traveling their way through Advent, spending their days living with purpose. Saved by way of the cross, worshiping at a manger, and crying out for prudence. They know that without the virtue of prudence, courage becomes foolhardiness, mercy encourages laziness, and weakness turns into spinelessness. And so they cry out for that wisdom which will enable them to look beyond this life which is short and full of trouble. That wisdom which will actually increase as they attend the school of hard knocks and climax as they walk through the valley of the shadow of death. They spend their December not so much rushing around faster and faster, but being still, going slow, and rejoicing in the lover of their souls, the forgiver of their sins.
Less and less are they confused by the noisiness and the loudness of the culture, but more and more comforted by the clarity of the church. Less and less do they worry and are they anxious about what is to come, but more and more they cry out to Emmanuel to come back again, and to come quickly. Amen.
Seventh in a Series of Seven on Shared Vision
Habits of Faithful Christians
1) Lives transformed by the Gospel
• Receiving gratefully God’s gifts / drifting away from means of grace
• Searching eagerly Holy Scripture / not finding time
• Confessing humbly sins / as opposed to defending & excusing
2) Culture around us transformed
• Faithfully managing vocations
• Prayerfully enduring crosses
• Joyfully gathering / crying and laughing together
• Today confidently sharing the faith
5 I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well. 6 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, 7 for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
Lesson #1 is to keep on fanning into flame your Christian faith.
• Story of fanning campfires in Boundary Waters….the campfire wouldn’t do anybody any good unless campers gave it attention in a timely way.
• Timothy had a sincere faith, handed down by Grandma Lois and Mom Eunice. “Sincere” could be translated unhypocritical. Faith that is not just for show, but genuine, piety that isn’t evident just when people are looking, but when nobody is watching. Timothy would need a heart burning with strong faith when days of persecution came, when Caesar would declare Christianity unlawful, when friends and mentors began to be martyred. It wouldn’t be enough to just be a mama’s boy, or grandma’s good little boy when the days of suffering and great trial came. He would need the Holy Spirit to keep on breathing on Him, for the Scriptures to keep on speaking, to keep on confessing sins….Not a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power and love and self control
• My story of Grandma Selma and Mom Dorothy handing down faith, gentle and mild, which is good and fine, life is smooth, how strong will my faith be when bad health forces retirement, how strong will the fire of my faith be when death is approaching. In all the stages of life, I will need to have the Spirit of God breathing on me………….not a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of grace and prayer, of power and strength, of sanctification and the fear of God.
• Confirmands, your parents and pastors and teachers are handing down the faith to you these days, easy to have faith while surrounded by Christians and life is going reasonably well, but what about when tough times come, when you have to decide whether you will follow the crowd or Christ, have to decide whether to the Ten Commandments and having fun. Keep fanning the flame, letting the Holy Spirit breathe on you in means of grace….
Lesson #1 was to keep on fanning the flame of faith, to keep on staying close to Jesus Christ, and now Lesson #2 is confidently share the faith you have been handed, to let the Gospel light shine.
15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, 16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God's will, than for doing evil.
• Words that matter and words that don’t matter so much.
• In my case, weekend sermon has 2000 words or so, and I would prepare 4-6 hours so that the words make sense and are truly words of God. In contrast to shooting the breeze with the elders tonight after service.
• In the case of young people, there are the words you text each other back and forth all day, and then there the words of the Rite of Confirmation, where you indicate that you will stand with Jesus Christ and suffer death rather than fall away from Him and His Church.
• Words of the Marriage Ceremony / Noah / Pastor Muther
• 7th habit of faithful Christian is to confidently share the faith.
• Learn tonight to live our lives in such a way that people will notice our hopefulness and ask us why. Anybody ask you lately why you are so cheerful? So patient? So contented? So at peace? If not, why not?
• If I were to lose five pounds by next week, nobody would ask me about it. No big deal. If I were to go on that diet and over the next 30 days lose 30 pounds, many of you would comment. Many of you would ask how I did it.
• So also with the fruits of the Spirit. Show them patience and gentleness only occasionally and nobody will comment. No one will notice. But make a habit of patiently enduring hardship and responding to people with a gentle spirit, and folks will wonder why.
• If you were to be cheerful only when the sun is shining and the day is smooth, no big deal. No Nobel Peace prizes for you! But find a way to be cheerful in a consistent way, rain or shine, smooth sailing or rough, and eventually, people will be interested in your story. And once people are interested in what makes you tick, you can direct them to a God who has loved you, blessed you, forgiven all kinds of sins, and is following you around with goodness and mercy.
• Story of David Hughes, Baptist Seminary, Ft. Wayne, loved to get in people’s faces and ask, “brother are you saved?”
• Lifestyle evangelism instead of confrontational evangelism
• Tips for confidently sharing the faith – Joining Jesus on His Mission
1) Getting into position – realizing Jesus is already messing with people and that wherever you go, there is opportunity
2) Seeking the kingdom – Stop seeing interruptions as interruptions and rather as God appointments (story of beautiful gal in my office today. Wherever you go, there you are, and wherever you are, there Jesus is. Habit of watching for what God is showing us every day in daily routines.
3) Hearing from Jesus – what is Jesus teaching you in His word today?
4) Talking with people – Jesus can do more with two people who are talking with each other than he can with two people successfully ignoring each other. Extroverts are better at talking and introverts at listening? What kind of conversations are you having? Welcome Center.
5) Doing good- Ephesians 2:8-10 / saved by grace, good works prepared in advance for us to do. Random acts of kindness / Donita providing me with cheese sticks, Kay and Gary in Food Shelf, Julie cleaning up Welcome Center,
6) Praying with people – Pray in morning devotions for neighbors, pray Lord’s Prayer in intentional and thoughtful way, take hand of spouse and pray out loud, take family on a prayer walk through neighborhood, may I pray for you……..Fincke says you’ll only be nervous about praying out loud once…………
The kingdom of God is like a woman who is suffering the ravages of cancer without complaining, quietly, with such strength and dignity that you just want to go up to her and say, “how can you be so calm?”
It’s like a student who is getting teased at school in a merciless kind of a way, but he just keeps on brushing the bullies off like flies and doesn’t let it bother him in the least. So much so that you just want to ask him how he can keep that smile on his face?
It’s like a family facing unemployment and all kinds of money problems and questions about their future. Yet the Spirit of God keeps on breathing on them, their flame keeps on burning, and people all around them are wondering what is their secret. In Jesus Name. Amen.
Worship Sermons & Letters
Pastor Paul Muther